What safely could have been labeled “Championship Weekend” went something like this:
9 p.m., Friday: The Master’s University women’s volleyball team earns a share of the program’s first-ever Golden State Athletic Conference title with a hard-fought win over Vanguard University at TMU.
9 a.m., Saturday: TMU’s Mikala Tockstein (formerly Fairchild) wins the GSAC women’s cross country individual title at Central Park.
10 a.m., Saturday: TMU men’s cross country wins its ninth straight GSAC title – also at Central Park.
8 p.m., Saturday: Women’s volleyball secures the GSAC title outright with a 3-0 win over Life Pacific at TMU.
It was a whirlwind win-win-win.
Some of the success was a long time coming.
Women’s volleyball has been in the driver’s seat for most of the GSAC season. Master’s beat No. 7 Westmont on Sept. 15 and No. 15 Vanguard two weeks later. The path from there was clear and appeared relatively obstacle free.
However, the Mustangs lost their rematch with Westmont on Oct. 12 and fell to Menlo College in the regular season’s penultimate week.
It set up what could have been a tense final weekend at TMU – for all the marbles.
The Mustangs dispersed the drama Friday night by coming on strong against Vanguard, dropping set one before winning the final three.
Master’s won the deciding fourth set, 25-9, to earn at least a share of the program’s first-ever GSAC regular season title. Students spilled out of the stands and formed a human tunnel leading to the locker room. TMU’s 6-foot-7 coach Allan Vince, who played at UCLA and professionally overseas, had the hardest time of the group, hunching over to pass under the outstretched arms.
The Mustangs returned Saturday against Life Pacific and made it an outright title, finishing one match ahead of two-time defending champion Westmont College.
It was TMU’s 27th win of the season, matching the program’s most victories since 1996.
The Mustangs also won 27 matches in 2012 when they advanced to the NAIA national tournament and went 1-3 on the big stage.
TMU has not yet secured an automatic bid to nationals, but it can do so by winning the GSAC tournament this weekend at Hope International University in Fullerton.
The Mustangs received a bye to the semifinals and will play the winner of Arizona Christian and Menlo on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Still, even if they fell short in the conference tournament, the Mustangs, ranked No. 13 nationally, are a good bet to advance as an at-large. It would be the program’s first national tournament appearance since 2013.
As for Tockstein, a Hart High grad whose name changed from Fairchild when she got married late last month, she and teammate Arianna Ghiorso will represent TMU at the NAIA cross country national championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Nov. 16.
Tockstein won the GSAC Championships individual title Saturday with a 5K time of 17 minutes, 34 seconds. It was a collegiate record for TMU’s course at Central Park.
“Mik ran lights out,” Ghiorso said.
Ghiorso was far from bad herself. The freshman finished in 18:16.5 to finish third.
“Oh my goodness, I think Arianna is going to be one of the most talented female athletes that Master’s has seen,” said Tockstein.
The Mustang men’s cross country team entered Saturday in unfamiliar territory. The Mustangs had won eight straight conference titles but had already lost head-to-head to Westmont twice this season.
It didn’t matter.
Stephen Pacheco and Wesley Methum finished No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, and the team’s next three runners came through with clutch performances to secure the title.
Hart High grad Josh Nunez finished seventh, Davis Boggess came in 12th and Justin Harris 15th.
Coach Zach Schroeder was named the GSAC’s men’s cross country Coach of the Year for the ninth straight time. And his team earned an automatic bid to NAIA nationals – also in Cedar Rapids on Nov. 16.
Men’s basketball splits marquee matchups
The No. 1 ranked Mustang men’s basketball team traveled to Texas for a high-profile tournament last week and came home with a win over No. 7 LSU Shreveport.
Master’s opened the tournament in Fort Worth on Thursday with a 94-87 loss to No. 2 LSU Alexandria but rebounded with an 86-76 win over Shreveport the following day.
Santa Clarita Christian grad Jordan Starr recorded a triple-double in his college debut against Alexandria: 13 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
The Mustangs play at home on Nov. 13 against Bethesda University of California. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.