As the spring semester comes to an end, some of MSU Texas’ star players reflect on the highs and lows of a unique Mustangs season.
Caleb Brown (No. 63), offensive line criminal justice senior, was announced the league’s Male Performance Athlete of the Year.
“I was just told out of nowhere; I didn’t know I was going to get that award. I’ve never got that award before, so it felt good, I give a big shout out to Coach Pick, he’s the main reason why I was able to get that award by following his work outs and doing what I’m supposed to do, he’s really put me in the position to get stronger and better in the weight room. This award has definitely motivated me even more to do better,” Brown said.
Brown said this past season the team started strong but didn’t finish as strong as they would’ve liked.
“I think we just have to get better and focus on that during off-season and this summer; becoming more discipline and learning how to execute the game…our first scrimmage against South Eastern Oklahoma was very special to me and just be able to walk on the field again after a year. We are grateful to be back out on the field after missing a year, but it definitely took some time adjusting back to the flow of a game…that’s no excuse though because everyone else also had a year off so that’s when it goes back to learning how to execute the game better. Next year, the games really matter because we can get a ring, so the ring is on the line,” Brown said.
Jo Parkinson (No. 20), cornerback sports administration senior, said this season was a learning process not just for himself but for the team as a whole.
“We haven’t played in so much time, literally since like 2019 so we were a little rusty but, but’s nothing we can’t fix; it all starts with summer work outs and everyone being there together and working together, building chemistry with the team,” Parkinson said.
Parkinson said the by-week before playing Tarleton was filled with intense practices and the whole team was putting in their best efforts which made that one of his most memorable moments of the season.
“Individually, the game we played against Texas A&M Kingsville, I had my pick six, it felt really good, I worked really hard for that and studied a lot of film for that. Going into my last season here, it’s a little bittersweet even though I feel like I’ve been in college for some time now but I’m ready to have my full senior season. I’m going to really hit summer hard and get faster, stronger and more importantly, get healthy – that’s the main goal for me right now,” Parkinson said.
Trevor Amann (No. 9), forward mathematics senior, said, “As a team we had our ups and downs and lost a few games that we shouldn’t have, tied some we should’ve won…but individually I feel like I had a good season; my favorite moment of the season was the game on (insert date) against West Texas A&M because we were already playing down a man and so when Carlos scored in overtime, that was the best feeling,” Amann said.
Amann said that the biggest lesson of this season was knowing that hard work pays off.
“We had to grind for a couple of our games to win, especially against TAMU. The LSC conference is definitely a challenging conference too, if the team has a bad day then the other team has an opportunity to win. I’m just excited for the fall, I’m working on improving, and thankfully we are only losing a few guys, so I think we are in a good place to compete next fall and then go to the national championships,” Amann said.
Mere Escobar (No. 22), forward undecided freshman, was announced “Freshman of the Year” for the Mustangs and featured on the All-Freshman team, making him even more ready for the conference tournament.
“My first season here at Midwestern had a slow start losing against Oklahoma Christian and tying international but we picked it up toward the ends…I’ve had several good memories with my teammates both on and off the field, but I have to go with scoring with a hat trick against UTPB, things ended up working perfectly for me. I’m really excited for the fall and to play with all the experience I’ve gained from this first year, we are going to be very solid,” Escobar said.
Escobar said winning the award means a lot to him because he struggled adjusting to playing in college and finding his role for the team in the beginning.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned this year was to work hard and wait for the moment. I struggled a lot in the beginning and even felt like I wasn’t doing enough for the team. However, I never stopped working and my coaches supported and pushed me to be great and do whatever I could to help the team. These awards are just the beginning of what I want to do for the program,” Escobar said.
Carlos Flores (No. 17), midfield kinesiology senior, said this has been a successful season so far and is looking forward to winning the conference tournament on April 10. Flores has three goals and four assists but plans on getting those numbers up even more.
“This season has been good so far, even though we’ve had a few hiccups…there’s been a lot of great memories this season, but personally, my favorite one has been beating West Texas A&M on the last home game that was on April 6. It meant a lot for the team and the seniors that won’t get to play at Stang Park anymore,” Flores said.
Flores won LSC offensive player of the week on Wednesday April 7 after scoring in overtime against West Texas A&M the day prior.
“Winning the award is very special to me, my team and my family. Soccer is team sport so this would not have been possible without my teammates and coaches, they always believe in me and I have to make sure I always give them my all and never let them down. As a senior, I have to make sure I set a good example for all my teammates. Scoring the goal was a great feeling, West Texas A&M is a rival school and every time we play them both teams want to win…scoring the winning goal means so much and I’m glad I was able to give Midwestern state and the community a good feeling of satisfaction,” Flores said.
Tatum Sharp (No. 18), forward/midfield education senior, reflected on her last season playing soccer as a Mustang and said this season the team learned how to play together and for each other – she felt it the most on senior night.
“My favorite moment I would have to say was senior night, just walking into the locker room and feeling so loved, having the whole room decorated, everyone had so many nice things to say, and to just reminisce on all the pictures and memories that the team and I have made over the past four years. It even transcended onto the field and how we were with each other, we really were playing for each other, fighting for each other and coming closer together as a team,” Sharp said.
Despite the loving emotions both on and off the field, Sharp said her last game at Stang Park was bittersweet.
“I’ve been through a lot of injuries, my body hurts and it was just very sad, soccer has been a part of my life for the past 18 years, it was just a bittersweet feeling. So far, my plans post-grad is to finish my clinical teaching and focus on working out and staying healthy, I don’t have any plans on continuing to play soccer but if the opportunity presented itself, I would love to,” Sharp said.
Sharp said her advice to the incoming freshman is to not rush anything and to take in every moment as much as possible.
“Be as close as you can with your teammates, a lot of people don’t even get to have the opportunity to have a support system like that so just make the most of it and love your teammates with all your heart and play for each other,” Sharp said.
Reece Wildt (No. 3), defense nursing freshman, was one of the few freshman’s that had the opportunity to start in several games this season, said she did not expect to have such a big role on the team as she did.
“Playing for Midwestern as a freshman, this season was sort of what I was expecting. Because of COVID-19, our season was moved and so it was a little different, but I think it helped in the long run. We were able to get more training in fall than teams usually would. I honestly wasn’t expecting to play as much as I did or have a really big role on the team, all the other players understood that and helped me through it all. The season was a little tough for the team because we didn’t get all the outcomes, we wanted in the games, but we stuck through it together and I feel we had great leaders on the team that really pushed us and motivated us through the hard times,” Wildt said.
Despite the challenging season, Wildt said her favorite game of this season was beating UT Tyler on April 3 for the first round of the LSC Conference.
“We’ve struggled with scoring a lot this season so making two goals and winning the game has been one of my favorite moments… I am already so excited for fall and am ready to get back on the field. As a freshman playing in my first LSC Conference was super nerve racking, I was pretty nervous but since we got to train a lot and play in the fall, my nerves weren’t as bad and I was more excited to just get out there and prove that I deserve to play,” Wildt said.
Wildt said that this season has taught her to never give up and to always push yourself even if you think you are giving 100 percent.
Alex Martinez Roca, mechanical engineering senior, said he feels the team had a mature start to the season in comparison to the year before but struggled a little bit but put in a lot of work as a team every single day and got stronger.
“We started the first exhibition matches strong in singles and doubles and won the first matches. We had a few matches where we struggled a lot around February, but I think that just made us stronger and we came back better and now we are just playing every single match in LSC conference and have one most of them, which is pretty good. We are still not done with this season; we still have regionals then conference and are most likely going to make it to nationals. We are just going to do our best and try to make it to nationals and once we get there, then go for the championship,” Martinez Roca said.
Martinez Roca said this year was supposed to be his last year playing but due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, he has been given the opportunity to play for another year.
“For my last year, I have a lot of anticipation to give everything I have, to see how my last year playing will turn out, and how the team will progress. After four years, being a student-athlete, it’s a hard job. Balancing mechanical engineering with tennis, I’ve had to mature a lot and manage my time because of not, my performance in class wouldn’t be good or my performance in tennis wouldn’t be good. Being a student-athlete has matured me as a person more than anything,” Martinez Roca said.
Alberto Diaz, business management junior, said, the season started with a few defeats but since then the team has improved their doubles and are now physically stronger.
“We could’ve played better and win more in the beginning of the season, but at the time, we weren’t as fit as we needed to be. Now that the most important part of the season is coming up, I feel that we are now more than capable of making it far in nationals. In the beginning, I even feel that I wasn’t playing my best but little by little I started getting in better shape and finished doing good…a month ago I had a couple of injuries that kept me off track but now I am almost 100 percent recovered and am excited to finish the season at my best level and ability,” Diaz said.
Tiffany Holleback, sports administration transfer senior, said despite struggle with the pandemic, the team is new and fairly young which has given them the opportunity to grow in many ways.
“I’m one of the new ones on the team because I am a transfer graduate student. There’s a couple of years between me and some of the other girls, but it’s a cool experience because I get to help them through the experience, I’ve gained playing at other programs…I loved when we made it to indoor nationals because that was our first time traveling together and there’s no better way to bond with your teammates than being on the road,” Hollebeck said.
Hollebeck won both singles and doubles against San Angelo State on Saturday, April 10. Although winning both, Hollebeck said it was tough considering the team still lost.
“It was a great feeling, but it was still tough because we lost as a team and that’s what’s most important, to get to our team goal. However, I was proud of how I competed, but it was my team who helped me get there, as well as in the end to finish with the wins,” Hollebeck said.
Emilija Visic, exercise physiology sophomore, said this season has been special because her freshman year was cut short due to COVID-19.
“Being able to complete through a whole season is kind of “new” for me in a way, but it’s been a blast. Being able to play with my team and compete for each other every match has felt special. Individually, I love being on the court so having the whole season to learn and grow as an athlete has been important for me,” Visic said.
Visic said playing indoor nationals in February was a cool experience and was the first time she got to complete.
“It was the first time I got to compete against some tough teams, I’m looking forward to the fall to play some individual matches and just work on things that I haven’t been able to right now because of the busy spring season…as far as playing against UT Tyler next, I’m excited to have another opportunity to compete with my teammates and fight for each other, I think UT Tyler will be a good match for that,” Visic said.
Derrick Ogechi (No. 21), guard undecided transfer junior, said that it was his first season playing for the Mustangs and being able to meet and bond with the coaches and players was a great start.
“We won more games than the team did last year so I feel like we are moving in the right direction… I was at a junior college last year when coach Lesley and other coaches were recruiting me, but I picked Midwestern because I felt it was the best school for me, overall, in education and basketball,” Ogechi said.
Ogechi said the LSC Conference is one of the best in the country and the opportunity to play against better players was good competition.
“One of our teams made it to the national championship. In pre-season, we were voted 10th but made it to sixth when ending the season, we are in good standing and are only going to get better as time goes on…being consistent is a big goal of ours, sometimes we are up and down, not only in games but day to day, so being consistent will help us a lot,” Ogechi said.
Ogechi said he is ready for season to hopefully go back to normal in fall and be able to play more than he did this past season.
Jermane Carter, (No. 15), forward psychology transfer junior, said he has learned a lot from this year and is thankful to earn a year of eligibility play back.
“Playing for a university after playing at a junior college, it is a lot more organized structured. I learned how to play my hardest while at juco, and I’m glad I’ve been able to bring that energy to the court here at Midwestern. We are all a family here and got a long real quick, out of all the other teams I’ve been a part of, I get along really well with everyone here. It’s been really fun, especially doing activities with one another where we get to bond,” Carter said.
Carter said his favorite time of the year is off-season because he gets to improve on himself and reflect on the season that just ended.
“I get to see everything I did good but also what I did bad and or wrong. I get to correct those mistakes, learn from them then do better the next season. Looking back though, one of my favorite moments was playing against San Angelo State, while I was at the junior college, they recruited me but then decided they didn’t want me, so when we played against them, and won 84-75, I was glad I was able to show them what I was worth. Everything happens for a reason, I’m thankful I ended up here at Midwestern,” Carter said.
Frances King (No. 10), guard kinesiology sophomore, said this season is one to remember. Not only by making history and breaking records but also beating some of the top teams in the nation such as West Texas A&M and Commerce. King said this season showed what the team is capable of accomplishing as a whole.
“Against UT Tyler, we beat the school record for the most made 3’s in a game and had one of the best records by far in this program. My favorite game and memory by far was beating West Texas A&M in double overtime. That is a game I will never forget. Against all the odds, we still ended up on top. We had some of our key players hurt or fouled in trouble. But we still grinded in every single possession. We were trusting one another and really playing together. That game was really important to us and will always be a favorite memory of mine,” King said.
King said she is looking forward to playing in the fall and will work on not selling herself short.
“I feel like we all got a taste of what we can accomplish together, and I feel like that fueled a fire within all of us to comeback next year and take what is ours which is the conference championship then national championship…there’s always people praying on your downfall, I’ve learned to get things that you want, you have to truly invest time into them. In the end, the work you put in will always speak for itself. God has given me this opportunity to make the best time out of my college basketball career, so now I have to do my part to prove why God chose me to do that. Never take anything for granted and seize every single opportunity I have,” King said.
King was announced to All-Conference Teams on Wednesday, April 7.
“It felt good to be named to All LSC Conference team, but it also made me hungrier to reach for higher goals such as offensive MVP or defensive MVP. I’m not going to settle for less when I know what I am capable of getting. It was great receiving this award, but it has definitely made me a lot more focused and hungrier for more,” King said.
Sheridan Bostic (No. 2), guard criminal justice sophomore, said she feels the team accomplished a lot this year and is really proud how as a whole, they have overcome adversity throughout the entire season.
“As an individual, I always feel that I can do better and help my team anyway I can, but I am very proud of everyone and all that we have accomplished. My favorite memory of this past season was enjoying the moment for the time that we were in playoffs. Even though we didn’t make it as far as we wanted, it was still a joy to see my girls play and do extremely well. It’s been my second year playing on the court and I absolutely love it. When we execute, we are great and basketball is always just so fun to play,” Bostic said.
Raven Presley (No. 21), RS business senior, said this season was the most successful in her four years at Midwestern.
“We were able to reach our goals and reach new highs for the program. Despite the adversity thrown our ways, we were able to accomplish great things. I’m content with how I did this season, of course there were times where I feel I could’ve done better, but ultimately, my main goal this season was to be the best leader I could’ve been both on and off the court. Coming back this year off of an injury, I wasn’t sure what to expect or even if I would play the same, I made it a priority to focus on the things I could control like my attitude and leadership,” Presley said.
Presley was announced Female Athletic Performance Athlete of the Year. Presley, graduating this year, said that it has been an eventful four years full of ups and downs.
“I’m grateful that I’m able to look back and see how much I’ve grown as a player and as a woman. All the things volleyball has taught me has made me a better person, and I can use them well into my adult years. What I’m going to miss the most is being able to get better everyday with my teammates, I’ve always been a team-oriented player that thrives off the relationships with my teammates, so it’ll be tough not being able to do that anymore…I’d tell incoming freshman’s to not feel pressure that you have to have everything figured out. Life is extremely short, cherish the friendships and memories you make and trust God always, everything will work itself out,” Presley said.
Bailey Brenek (No. 16) , UT education sophomore, said that despite the season not being what she has expected, that she is still very thankful for the opportunity to have a season unlike last year due to COVID-19.
“Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic took our season away after only playing six games in conference; so, we were so excited to get back on the field. It’s been a challenging season though because we have not won as many games as we hoped. However, both my team and I are continuing to get better each day and find a way to make the most out of the fourteen games we have left to play,” Brenek said.
Despite the season being a challenge, Brenek said that her favorite memory was beating UTPB in the team’s first series of conference games.
“In game two we were down six runs and had to find a way to come back and win. We ended up coming back and winning the game on a walk-off. It’s my favorite memory because it showed that our team had the will to fight from behind and find a way to come out on top. It’s been the best team effort we’ve had all season and a great way to start the conference…something I’ve learned this season is to have fun playing the game while I still can, there’s only a few years left for me to play then that’s it. Nothing lasts forever so each time I take the field, I have the mentality like it could be my last game,” Brenek said.
Ashley Turner (No. 5), IF political science sophomore, said this season has had its ups and downs, but is still able to enjoy the time the team gets to play on the field with one another.
“Individually, I feel that I have been having a good season, especially after not getting to play for almost a year due to the pandemic. I feel that COVID-19 has impacted not only myself but my team as well, but we have still managed to find a way to stay healthy and continue to play,” Turner said.
Turner’s favorite memories of this season so far has been the times where the team was allowed to let loose and have fun bonding with one another.
“Just being able to dance at hotels with the team and bond with each other, it allowed us to just have fun… I’m mostly looking forward to fall season and getting to meet the new recruits and doing more bonding with the team since COVID-19 still restricted us this year,” Turner said.
Ilana Anderson, hammer dental hygiene freshman, born in the United Kingdom but raised in Canada, Anderson said it has been such an amazing experience being an international student and a member of the track team.
“Getting to experience meets as an NCAA athlete and through MSU has been really awesome. Every meet so far has been a good introduction, especially since it’s still COVD-19 season, we haven’t been able to have as big of a season as we normally would’ve. However, I think it’s been a good time, I think we’ve been able to grow together as a team, starting from the beginning of the year to where we are now, we are a lot closer and it’s made it a lot easier to compete,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the switch from Canada to the United States was big but also not too big at the same time. Anderson said her dream was always to attend college in the U.S.
“Even in junior high, my coaches always told me to try and strive for coming here and it makes tuition cheaper too. If I were to go away to school, I wanted to go somewhere warm, somewhere different from back home and not somewhere that is -40 Celsius; so, I always looked in the Midwest and the south, and that’s where MSU popped up geographically for me, and MSU just had everything I wanted a school to have,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that every meet the team has attended, it seems that someone is always breaking a new record, setting one or making a new personal best.
“It’s really nice to be around a team that is so driven and able to do that every single meet. I’ve made some really good friends on the team and I see them as lifelong relationships. Moving away from home has really taught me how to be independent, not just on the field but in the classroom as well and staying on top of my studies and my life, from my physical health to my mental health. I’m really excited for fall and hoping to see things more back to normal and classes fully in person,” Anderson said.
Lane Garcia, biology sophomore, said this season has been one of the most successful yet.
“This has been a great season. As a team, we have all gotten better both mentally and physically. Even though practice, weight room sessions and team meetings have been a little different due to COVID-19 we have all worked through the new adjustments together, as a team, and have made the most of the season. My favorite memory of this season so far was when we went to our last tournament in the fall semester of this season; our team ended up taking the first-place spot,” Garcia said.
Beatrice Perucchini, psychology sophomore, said this season was challenging, due to injuries the team had suffered from, but has high hopes for the coming fall season.
“I could’ve played better individually; we had a lot of injuries that didn’t help us score at some of our tournaments. For fall, I cannot wait to meet the new recruits that are coming and also to have a bigger team,” Perucchini said.