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The Murray State News

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Junior outfielder Dan Tauken hits the ball.
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Preview: Fall sports get rolling

Racer teams look forward to season
Photo+courtesy+of+Racer+Athletics.
Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics.

There’s never a break in action when it comes to sports at Murray State. With the fall semester starting up, many students and fans have turned their eyes towards the fall sports starting soon.

Whether it’s volleyball, soccer and cross country, or the start of golf and rifle, sports fans can find joy in knowing there’s plenty of events to attend.

Football: New conference, new challenge, same goal

The big sport for many fans in the fall is football. This season, the Racers are headed to the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC), taking on talent that tops the NCAA FCS every season.

After a 2-9 finish to an injury riddled 2022 season, the Racers will have to compete at a much higher standard in 2023. In preseason polls, Murray State was picked to finish second-to-last in the new conference. With five players earning Phil Steele Preseason All-MVFC nods and two players receiving honorable mentions in the official MVFC polls, the Racers look to flip the script.

On the offensive side, junior offensive lineman DJ Jones was named to the Preseason All-MVFC second team, while senior offensive lineman Jacob Frye was picked for the All-MVFC fourth team. Junior wide receiver Taylor Shields rounds out the offense, also getting fourth-team honors.

For the defense, linebacker duo junior Cade Shupperd and sophomore Cody Goatley were both picked for All-MVFC honors, with Shupperd being named to the second team and Goatley being named to the third team.

In the polls for coaches, directors and media, Frye and Shields each earned honorable mentions for the All-MVFC team.

Murray State kicks off the 2023 season at home in Roy Stewart Stadium with a celebration for one thousand games played. The Racers host the Presbyterian College Blue Hose on Saturday, Sept. 2, for the first game of the season, with kickoff set for 6 p.m. 

For week two, the Racers travel east on Thursday, Sept. 7, to take on the University of Louisville Cardinals at 6:30 p.m. 

Conference play officially begins on Saturday, Sept. 30, as the Racers host Indiana State for Family Weekend. Kickoff against the Sycamores is set for 6 p.m.

Homecoming falls on Saturday, Oct. 14, this season. Murray State hosts Southern Illinois for the big day, with the game commencing at 2 p.m. To close out the season, Murray State hosts Youngstown State for Senior Day. Kickoff for the game will be at 1 p.m.

With big competitors like North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota State and others being in the same conference now, Murray State has a large mountain to climb, but with a good amount of returning players, a fresh group of recruits and five players getting All-MVFC nods, the chance to make some noise is always there for the Blue and Gold.

 

Volleyball: Flipping the MVC script

After an 8-10 conference finish in 2022, the Murray State Racers volleyball team now understands what MVC competition looks like. 

The Racers went 12-17 last year and their season ended in the first round of the MVC Tournament as they fell 3-0 to Valparaiso. Head Coach David Schwepker and his team will look to improve from last year’s seventh place conference finish. 

Murray State will also look to improve how the start of its season goes this year. Last year, they lost five of their first seven conference matches. With a better start to the year, the Racers’ fortunes could look different this time around. 

The Racers will host the first game of the season as they play the Evansville Aces at 6 p.m., Friday, Sep. 22. Murray State and Evansville played twice last year, splitting the season series 1-1.

Murray State will travel to Carbondale, Illinois on Friday, Oct. 6 to play the SIU Salukis at 6 p.m. The Salukis beat the Racers both of the times they played and finished in fourth place in conference standings last year.

The Drake Bulldogs will travel to Murray at 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20. The Bulldogs had the best overall record in the conference as they went 30-8, but finished second in the standings as they had the second best conference record. The Racers fell to the Bulldogs 3-0 last year in the one game played between the two teams.

The Racers will then host the Northern Iowa Panthers at 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 21. The Panthers finished in first place in the conference standings with a 17-1 record and defeated the Racers 3-1 last year. 

The final home game of the season will be at at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 15, against Belmont University. Murray State and Belmont split the series last year 1-1. The MVC Tournament will be held from Sunday, Nov. 19 through Wednesday, Nov. 22.

Murray State’s season officially starts on Friday, Aug. 25 where they face Cleveland State and Tennessee State in the Leatherneck Classic. The Racers go on to play the host of the tournament, Western Illinois University, on Saturday, Aug. 26.

 

Soccer: Repeat surprise success

Despite finishing in eighth place in the conference last year, the Murray State soccer team had a postseason surge that landed them all the way into the finals of the MVC Tournament in 2022. 

Led by Head Coach Matt Lodge, the 2022 Murray State soccer team played its first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, achieving a record of 7-12-3 with a conference record of 3-5-2. 

The Racers sneaked into the tournament as the bottom seed. After defeating Drake 1-0 and SIU 2-1, the Racers were in the semifinals to face off against Valparaiso University. The Racers advanced, defeating Valparaiso University 1-0 thanks to sophomore midfielder Mary Hardy’s goal that was assisted by graduate defender Saraya Young. 

Murray State lost to Missouri State in the finals 1-0 to end their season, but there was plenty to be proud of to keep their heads held high.

Young led the Racers in points with 16 total points, the second most in the MVC. She will be returning in 2023, alongside Hardy. Hardy had 12 points last season, the second most on her team and tied for fifth most in the conference. 

There were eight freshmen added to the roster this year to help make up for the five departing Racers from last year’s team. Although there has been some turnover roster wise, most of last year’s team that went on the tournament run is still intact. This creates higher expectations for 2023. 

The first game of the season will be on Cutchin Field on Friday, Aug. 18 against Grambling State. The Racers will travel to play the University of Kentucky in their #FillTheHill game on Thursday, Aug. 24. Murray State will travel to play their rival UT Martin on Sunday, Sep. 3. 

The Racers will play their first conference game at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17. It will be a meeting between the two teams that made the tournament finals last year when the Racers host the Missouri State Bears for Pups at the Pitch. The Racers defeated the Bears in the regular season last year 2-1 in Springfield.

Senior day will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 15, against SIU. The last home game of the season is against Drake University on Thursday, Oct. 19 at a time TBD. The Racers will travel to play Indiana State at 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 22, in their last game of the regular season.

The Racers made it all the way to the MVC Tournament finals in their first year in the conference, creating more excitement and expectations for this year.

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics.

 

Golf: Teeing off with new faces

The men’s golf team had a very encouraging end to their season this past year, as junior Trey Lewis finished third at the Missouri Valley Conference Championship. As a whole, the team placed fifth in their very first try at the MVC championship, and they are only hoping to place higher as they gain more experience in the conference.

As for the 2023-24 roster, seven of the ten players on last year’s team are returning, including two seniors: Walker Beck and Tyler Powell. There are three newcomers to the Murray State family, one of whom is the third and final senior on the team. Brady Haake comes as a transfer from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and was a two-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection before transferring.

On the other side of the program with the women’s golf team, they are in the same boat as the men’s team, as they finished fourth in their very first year in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship. The women’s team also had a golfer who impressed in the championship, and that player was senior Payton Carter. She was part of a three-way playoff to win the MVC championship, but she came up a bit short to Evansville’s Kate Petrova. Despite that, Carter was named the MVC Golfer of the Year in her first year in the conference, and she looks to continue that success as one of the seniors on this year’s roster.

The women’s roster for this year has nine players from last year returning, and three newcomers to the program. These players include five seniors: Payton Carter, Lauren Gilchrist, Eliza Mae Kho, Emma Payne and Emily Shimkus.

The men’s team will open their season on Sept. 10th, where they will visit Marshall University as they compete in the Joe Feaganes Marshall Invitational.The women’s season will open at Paducah Country Club on Sept. 18th, where they will compete in “The Velvet,” a tournament held to honor Coach Velvet Milkman and her career. Both teams will be looking to improve on their already impressive performances from their first year in the Missouri Valley Conference, and the seniors will be looking to lead their teams to the MVC championship, where the Racers can once again make waves in the conference.

 

Cross Country:  Making strides toward conference success

The men’s Murray State cross country is coming off of a season that might not have been exactly what they were hoping for as far as the team as a whole goes, but with that said, that does not mean the season was without its upsides as well. For instance, at NCAA Regionals, juniors Jorge Ruiz, Vicente Correia and Jarrod Willis all improved their times and their finishing places from the year prior.

“The culture of the men’s team has made this season rewarding… Everyone is bought in and working hard for each other and I am happy with the season with everything that they’ve accomplished,” cross country Coach Jordan Johnston said.

The women’s team had a similar end to the year as the men’s team, but one good thing that the women’s team has going for them is that there were no seniors on the roster. This means that most will be back, including their top finishers from this past year’s NCAA regionals, those being junior Ruth Kimutai as well as sophomores Samantha Tucci and  Jocelyn Host. Based on the fact that this is a young team and that they can learn from this past season, they have the potential to make the necessary changes to improve going into next season.

“The women’s team is young and they have a unique opportunity to make the culture into what they want.. There were some positive things about this race and some things that we know we need to work on for next year. I see us walking away from this experience hungry to do better,” said Johnston.

Both the men’s and women’s Cross Country teams have the opportunity to do just that this season as they take what they learned from their first year in the new MVC and learn from it going into this season. Both teams will open their season on September 1st in Nashville against the rival Belmont Bruins.

 

Rifle: Shooting for the NCAAs

The Murray State Rifle team has had much success in the past, as evident by winning their 17th OVC championship in February. Also, for the eighth time in the past nine seasons, The Racers were chosen as one of eight teams to compete for the NCAA championship, alongside the top-seeded TCU and two-time defending champions Kentucky.

Although the team ultimately came up short in the end, Murray State Rifle Team Head Coach Alan Lollar said in an article by Racer Athletics in March: “the margin for error at the NCAA Championships is so small. It’s the difference of a couple of points here and there and it all adds up… We had a good year. We grew up a lot. I think we learned things about ourselves and what it takes to compete against the best that will be useful next year.”

This year, the team will be looking to carry over that success and growth, and translate it into even further improvement in order to add yet another conference championship to the already expansive trophy case that the program has.

The Racers have most of the team coming back for this season, as well as an important newcomer. That newcomer is Emma Lawrence, from Shelbyville, Kentucky, where she had a decorated career from 2019 to 2023. She and the rest of the Murray State Rifle team open their season on Oct. 1st against the Skyhawks of UT Martin at Pat Spurgin Rifle Range in Murray.

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics.
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About the Contributors
Jakob Milani
Jakob Milani, Sports Editor
Jakob Milani is all about sports. He joined the staff of The Murray State News in 2020 as a sports writer, assigned to women's basketball, and by fall 2021 was named Sports Editor. He is a dedicated lover of all things Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears related, and loves to talk about all things sports. He is a co-host of "The Iron Grid" podcast with fellow sports writer Ronan Summers, and only ever watches ESPN in his down time. Aside from sports, Jakob also has a passion for music and baking. His favorite artists include Nirvana, Travis Scott, and Queen. His favorite item to bake is cheesecake.
Ronan Summers, Sports writer
Jonah Morgan
Jonah Morgan, Sports writer
Jonah Morgan is a journalism major at Murray State. Morgan joined the Murray State News because he loves talking about sports, and just watching them in general. He grew up playing every sport you can imagine, so being able to take pictures and write stories about those sports has always been a dream of his.

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