If you were to walk into The Master’s University gymnasium, you would see a re-finished and smoothly polished playing surface with new logos and graphics only a couple months after the men’s basketball team went a perfect 14-0 on the home court.
Losing two games in the regular season almost three months apart, the men’s basketball team, coached by Kelvin Starr, deserved to be mentioned amongst the top NAIA programs in the country.
With scoring contributions from Lawrence Russell, Hansel Atencia, Timothy Soares and Brock Gardner, who between them averaged 58.9 points out of the 93.2 points per game that the team averaged, the Mustangs managed to defeat Menlo College 106-101 in the Golden State Athletic Conference semifinals and punch a ticket to the title game, where they defeated Westmont College 88-73 to repeat as GSAC Champions.
Earning the No.1 overall seed in the NAIA Division 1 National Championship tournament, the Mustangs lost 106-104 in overtime to Peru State College in the first round.
The women’s basketball team also earned a ticket to the NAIA Division 1 Women’s National Championship tournament as a No. 8 seed after going 19-10 overall and 7-7 in GSAC play.
Facing off against top-seeded Freed-Hardeman in the first-round the Mustangs fell 71-51, bowing out in the first-round.
The men’s cross country team finished 19th at the 2017 NAIA Cross Country National Championships, led by Skyler Mikesell who finished in 21st place with a time of 25 minutes, 18 seconds.
Winning its first-ever Golden State Athletic Conference championship, the 2017 women’s cross country had runners Abigail Frankian, Mikala Fairchild and Rachelle Nelson finish one-two-three atop the podium in the Mustang sweep.
The women’s soccer team made it to the NAIA Round 16 after shutting out Olivet Nazarene 1-0 in the opening round of play. Falling to Tennessee Wesleyan 3-0 in the following round, the Mustangs finished the season 15-6-1, the best finish since 2014.
Matching the success that The Master’s athletics programs have had this year will be quite a feat to take on, but just like their motto reads, they will continue to develop wisdom, establish convictions and produce leaders.
Five most memorable male athletes
Hansel Atencia (basketball) – The 5-foot-10 Bucaramanga, Colombia native served as the Mustangs’ point guard, ranking second on the team in scoring with 15.5 points per game, first on the team in assists with 4.3 per game and third on the team in steals with 1.2 per game. Playing in 30 games, Atencia scored a season-high 35 points against Vanguard University. Atencia walked away as an NAIA Division 1 honorable mention All-American.
Samuel Eisenhuth (golf) – Leading the men’s golf team to the NAIA Association of Independent Institutions Championship to a sixth-place finish, Eisenhuth tied for ninth with a total score of 224 (75,72,77).
Lawrence Russell (basketball) – Russell was a dominant force on both sides of the ball, leading the Mustangs in scoring with 16.7 points per game. He was third on the team in rebounding, pulling down 6.8 rebounds per game and first in steals with 64 on the year. Having his best games against Menlo College, Russell had a season-high in points (35) and rebounds (18). Russell was rewarded for his hard work throughout the season by being named as an NAIA Division 1 first-team All American.
Aaron Shackelford (baseball) – Being named to the 2018 Baseball All-GSAC Team, Shackelford finished the season with a batting average of .303 and a slugging percentage of .584 while hitting 11 home runs on 54 total hits on the year. Shackelford led the Mustangs with 44 RBIs on the year.
Preston White (baseball) – Getting the job done from the mound and at the plate, White was a dominant batter for the Mustangs leading the team in batting average with .326 on 62 hits, adding 25 RBIs. The right-handed pitcher finished the year going 4-8 with a 3.45 ERA in 26 appearances. In 44.1 innings of work, White allowed 17 earned runs, striking out 40 in the process. Rounding out the year, the San Francisco Giants selected White in the 24th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Five most memorable female athletes
Hannah Forrar (basketball) – Leading the Mustangs in scoring with an average of 12.9 points per game and in field goal percentage with .471, Forrar continues the TMU trend of having at least one player being named to the NAIA Division 1 Women’s Basketball All-American list per season. Her best game came at the expense of Vanguard University where she scored a season-high 34 points.
Abigail Frankian (cross country/track & field) – Finishing her career with NAIA All-American and All-Golden State Athletic Conference honors, Frankian won the GSAC individual title in cross country after winning the conference championship with a time of 17:44.9. The senior capped her final season leading the Mustangs to their first-ever team conference title.
Seanna Nalbandyan (track & field) – Setting TMU’s program record in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:01.66, Nalbandyan qualified for the NAIA national meet with the fourth-fastest time. Finishing seventh at finals, Nalbandyan became the first TMU freshman to earn an All-American award since 2013.
Jasmine Parada (soccer) – Earning the Golden State Athletic Conference co-Player of the Year award and being named to the second-team NAIA All-American honors, Parada led the conference in total points with 37 and in goals with 16. Parada’s best game came against Menlo in which she recorded a hat trick in the 3-3 tie.
Kayla Sims (volleyball) – A natural-born leader, Sims served as the Mustangs spark plug with her talent and unselfish style of play. Finishing with a team-high 910 assists on the year, Sims averaged 32.5 assists per game for the Mustangs.
Five most memorable teams
Men’s basketball – Repeating as GSAC tournament champs, the Mustangs finished the regular season 29-2 to become the first GSAC team to win the tournament in two consecutive years since the 2008-2009 season. Heading into the NAIA D1 Men’s Basketball National Championship as the No. 1 overall seed, the Mustangs fell in the first round to Peru State. Thanks to their performance on the year, head coach Kelvin Starr was named the GSAC Coach of the Year.
Women’s basketball – Finishing the season with a 19-11 record and in fifth-place in the GSAC, the Mustangs fell to the GSAC regular-season champion and No.4-ranked Westmont College in the GSAC semifinals. Earning an at-large bid to the NAIA Division 1 Women’s Basketball National Championship, the Mustangs fought valiantly but fell 71-51 to the nation’s No.2 squad, at the time, and eventual champions Freed-Hardeman University.
Men’s golf – Led by Samuel Eisenhuth, the Mustangs best finishes on the year were at the Firestorm Fall Invite and The Master’s University Spring Invite, finishing in second-place at both events. At the Association of Independent Institutions Championship, the team finished sixth overall with a three-round score of 925.
Men’s soccer – Finishing the season with an overall record of 12-6-2, the men’s soccer team defeated Menlo College 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament to advance to the semifinals, where they lost to Westmont 2-1.
Women’s soccer – Falling in the second round of the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship 3-0 to Tennessee Wesleyan, the Mustangs had three players pick up top honors as Jasmine Parada was named to the second team, while Kayla Peterson and Hailey Gomillion were named honorable mentions.
Men’s basketball – Lost in the first round of the NAIA D1 Men’s Basketball National Championship to Peru State 106-104.
Women’s basketball – Lost in the first round of the NAIA D1 Women’s Basketball National Championship to No.2 Freed-Hardeman University 71-57.
Men’s cross country – Placed 19th with 492 total points in NAIA National Championship.
Women’s cross country – Finished in 12th place with 391 total points at NAIA National Championship.
Men’s golf – Finished in sixth place with 925 total points in the Association of Independent Institutions Championship.
Men’s soccer – Lost in the Golden State Athletic Conference semifinals to Westmont 3-1.
Women’s soccer – Lost in the second round of NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship to Tennessee Wesleyan 3-0.
Women’s volleyball – Lost in the Golden State Athletic Conference quarterfinals to Menlo College 3-1.