By: GCU Staff
New year. New Welcome Week. New classes. Three new club teams.
And plenty of new horizons.
With the first week of classes upon us, time for an education of what to expect from one of the top club sports programs in the country as GCU Club Sports embarks on the 2019-20 season. This three-part series begins today (and continues through Thursday) with several new beginnings for and expectations of Men’s Ice Hockey, Women’s Ice Hockey, the newly-built Canyon Activities Center, Club Swimming and Club Golf.
Men’s Ice Hockey
Two words: Division One.
GCU Men’s Ice Hockey officially moves up in 2019-20, and will play its first season at the Division I level of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). This will offer competitive matchups against the top opponents in the ACHA, including a showdown with 2019 DI national champion Minot State University from North Dakota. As well, the coaching staff is in the works of securing two feature games against both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University at Gila River Arena, the home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, later in the season.
The Lopes will still maintain their Division II team, who have made the ACHA DII West Regionals each of the past two years.
Women’s Ice Hockey
The Grand Canyon University Women’s Ice Hockey team skates into the 2019-20 season with recognition from the ACHA – both on and off the ice.
At the rink, the Lopes’ improvement on the ice earned Lopes’ Head Coach Natalie Rossi her first 2019 Western Women’s Collegiate Hockey League (WWCHL) Coach of the Year Award. Meanwhile, Rossi’s time and passion to growing ice hockey in Arizona – coupled with the Lopes’ continuing dedication to their community from volunteering at events such as Feed My Starving Children to Blue Line Buddies on the ice – brought the program its second straight ACHA Community Service Award.
Canyon Activity Center
We got a taste of it last spring. Now the CAC is in full swing.
The Canyon Activity Center, or CAC as it’s affectionately known to students, is a brand-new, 136,000-square-foot athletic facility that houses 10 full-size basketball and volleyball courts. Opening last February, the CAC will be a beacon for club sports this year, since it will be home to seven club sports teams: men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, spirit, wrestling, and mixed martial arts.
The CAC welcomes brand new attractions such as a full-sized rock climbing wall and a roller hockey rink.
Co-Ed Club Swimming
“Getting this pool means everything,” said Lopes’ Club Swimming Head Coach Jeremy Phung. “Knowing that the school sees the benefit of having a lap pool for our team is really encouraging. Having a facility like this will really open up our possibilities for training.”
The Lopes, who previously practiced at the Grove Pool, see this as a major advantage heading into the new year as they aim to improve upon their 39th place finish at nationals a season ago. The extra body of water will also spawn two fledgling club sports programs, since Phung is spearheading the formation of both a synchronized swimming and water polo team sometime this year. Their season kicks off in late 2019, with many of their events taking place during the spring semester in 2020.
Co-Ed Club Golf
Ever since its inception in 2016, GCU Club Golf has proved to be a national powerhouse, placing in the top seven in the country each of the past three seasons. The Lopes are thrilled to welcome back Head Coach John Wasson for his fourth season as they pursue their second national championship during his tenure.
The Lopes’ success has taken them all over the country, participating in tournaments in Las Vegas and all the way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. GCU’s season kicks off in early September as they navigate their way through local and in-house tournaments before they gear up for regional play within the next month, and national play at the end of both the fall and spring semesters.
All About Culture
There isn’t a team in club sports that doesn’t try to set a positive culture to succeed, but two teams in particular have made ‘culture’ their primary goal – and it’s working.
Any student-athlete that walks by Dr. Kim Weeldreyer (the former Kim Sims got married over the summer) realizes how important running and the GCU Running Club is to her. Her dedication to instilling the essence of how running can improve students’ lives before they try to enter a long-distance race or sprint has increased her numbers, and ultimately improved the times of her runners every year. This includes Jenna Miller, who placed first in her age group in the 9th Annual GCU Run to Fight Children’s Cancer last March; and Ryan McQuillan, who finishedfirst in his age group at December’s Hot Chocolate 15k/5k.
Meanwhile, Ed Prudhomme, head coach of GCU Club Tennis, has very quietly increased his roster numbers by 900% over the past four years by stressing a ‘team first and foremost’ concept in a sport that is sometimes maligned for its individualism. As a result, the Lopes have flirted with qualifying for the USTA Tennis On Campus National Championships each of the past two years, and are poised for another run this year.