Mustangs bid farewell to seniors

There was a different atmosphere across Mustangs athletics this weekend. The crowds were as raucous as ever but there was a rare emotion present as well — sadness.

Between Thursday, Nov. 7 and Saturday, Nov. 9, the home crowds of Stang Park and Memorial Stadium said goodbye to the seniors who have entertained them during the fall season for years.

Men’s soccer treated the Mustangs’ faithful to a hard-fought 1-0 win over St. Edwards’ University Thursday night. That’s the result many in the crowd have come to expect as the men’s team lost just one home game over the course of the season.

Winning has not been uncommon for the seniors on the men’s soccer team, and they’ve amassed a 67-9-7 cumulative record over the last four seasons. Several of this year’s seniors have been key to the program’s success.

Ross Fitzpatrick (No. 8), midfielder and kinesiology senior, was team captain this season and has been awarded all-conference honors twice, Rory O’Keeffe (No. 6), defender and criminal justice senior, was a D2CCA All-American and the Heartland Conference defensive player of the year a season ago, and Dylan Burke (No. 5), defender and sports and leisure studies senior, was named to the all-conference team in 2018 after transferring over from Daytona State College.

“I didn’t know what it felt like, coming here from a junior college,” Burke said. “They give every player the opportunity [to succeed]. If you look at the sidelines, you see every player standing, wanting you to do well.”

For the women’s soccer team’s seniors, its senior day game versus U.T. Tyler was their last game to don the maroon and gold. They thrilled the crowd at Stang Park with a 1-1 double-overtime defensive battle.

The team contains just three seniors: Sarah Stewart (No. 17), defender and chemistry senior, Imani Morlock (No. 21), defender and kinesiology senior, and Michaelann Greenfield (No. 24), midfielder and biology senior. Stewart was second-team all-conference her sophomore year, Morlock earned first-team all-conference honors three years in a row and was the Lone Star Conference  Freshman of the Year in 2015.

“Imani’s been the heart of this team, Sarah’s the mom of this team, and [Michaelann] is one of the hardest working players [on the team],” Ryan Spence, head women’s soccer coach, said.

This senior class oversaw a major shift in the team when Spence replaced Damian Clarke as head coach of the women’s soccer team in 2018. It was up to the three seniors to guide the team of underclassmen during this time, and the women were up to the task.

“[We] brought great leadership,” Greenfield said, “and the underclassmen could really look up to [us].”

The football team brought its record up to .500 on Saturday with a 28-13 win over Western New Mexico University. This senior class has never once had a season with a losing record, and they can keep that record with a win in their final game next Saturday, Nov. 16. For the seniors that have been here for at least four years, this will be just their second time not competing in the postseason.

“Wish we could’ve gone to playoffs [with the seniors],” Mathew Roach (No. 32), defensive lineman and management sophomore, said. “But, you know, everything happens for a reason.”

Some of the team’s most decorated upperclassmen include DaMarcus Wilson (No. 7), cornerback and kinesiology senior, who made all-conference honors the past two seasons, Jaydon Cunigan (No. 8), defensive back and criminal justice senior, who has twice been an honorable mention all-conference selection, and Austan Davis (No 57), offensive lineman and sports and leisure studies senior, who was second-team all-conference last season. Xavier Land (No. 13), wide receiver and criminal justice senior, made second-team all-conference last season and is ranked third in the school record books for both receptions (141) and receiving yards (1,794).

“We’re gonna miss them,” Roach said. “That was a special group.”

While women’s soccer has officially hung up their cleats, the football team still has one more game left in their season, and the men’s soccer seniors will be gearing up for what looks to be a long playoff run.