By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director; Maria Adams, Giovanni Hicks and Zach Melcher/GCU Club Sports Writing Staff
The extra zeal with which Welcome Week volunteers stepped up to get the new group of GCU students moved in all last week was no accident. Neither is the spring in the steps of those involved with GCU Club Sports on the first day of school today, since embarking on the ride that will be 2021-2022 already shows historic promise. This four-part season preview series begins today (and continues through Friday) with some new beginnings, unusual circumstances, increased horizons and amazing prospects for the program’s 30+ teams in the fold.
The Departing ‘Elephant in the Room’
It’s next-to-impossible this year to talk about the future without covering the immediate past. GCU Club Sports wasn’t any different than the various levels of collegiate athletics during the last 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantines, shutdowns, last-second postponements, and seasons that were drastically reduced and/or cancelled altogether became the norm.
The angst involved, though, gave coaches and staff a chance to get creative in how to keep the experience positive for the student-athletes. It obviously worked, since numerous club teams such as GCU Women’s Lacrosse, GCU Club Swimming, GCU Men’s Club Soccer and GCU Women’s Club Volleyball already have record numbers of registrants weeks before practice is set to start.
Meanwhile, several programs that had just embarked on new projects within the team when the COVID shutdown happened had to work much harder to keep those things going, but now have things back under control… and growing. GCU Men’s Hockey had just completed its first season of American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 1 play in March of 2020 after moving up divisions for both squads, but any thoughts of further expansion went dormant. Now, Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy has so many new players this year that they’re expanding to three different levels this year (Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3) for the first time.
Elsewhere, Lindsey Mahoney had only been on the job as GCU Women’s Rugby Head Coach for six months before the shutdown cancelled playoffs and threatened the young culture of the team. 18 months later, Mahoney and her core group are battle-tested and seeing the positive culture soar.
The GCU Bowling programs haven’t been able to call a season a completed one since 2018-19. That was when they qualified for ITC Nationals for the first time ever, and pondered whether that could become a regular occurrence. COVID-19 has taken that dream away from them since, but with 2019 nationals stalwart Matt Adragna back to lead the team, and Adragna and others astoundingly raking in a record number of postseason awards this past year for the squad, Lopes’ Head Coach Ben Canfield hasn’t found many reasons to doubt that a nationals run could be right back in the offing next spring.
Teams forced to completely eliminate a playing schedule and/or shut down in 2020-21, such as GCU Club Baseball, GCU Flag Football and GCU Men’s Club Basketball, saw their core group of players from two years ago fight through the adversity to return for a full season this year.
What Do You Mean, ‘Season Preview’?!
Two programs didn’t need a season preview since – while they are still signing new team members in droves – their seasons are already underway. GCU Powerlifting’s members not only worked out on their own all last year; they entered out-of-town tournaments elsewhere – many times with GCU teammates alongside them – with championship-level results, prompting the coaches to hold a meet just three weeks ago on campus, and schedule another for September 25.
GCU Esports Club never really had an off-season in the first place, revamping for a few weeks immediately after the initial shutdown 18 months ago, then consistently returning to their various games (even if they weren’t able to return to the GCU Esports Arena until this fall). They didn’t miss a beat, since they have over 100 rostered players across their 17 different teams already.