COLLEGE CONNECTIONS: WHAT ARE THEY UP TO?
Ink Free News / Sports on Wednesday, April 7, 2021
By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Dozens of area athletes have made the jump to the next level, as seen in our countless college signings that run throughout the year. While Spring Break is still in full gear, IFN is taking a look at several area athletes that not only made the jump to the next level, but are contributing to their teams.
Kyle Mangas, Indiana Wesleyan men’s basketball
Likely one of the highest profile athletes from the IFN coverage area, Mangas was a monster in his four years at IWU. Helping the team to a No. 1 ranking in the NAIA polls and a top overall seed at the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championships, Mangas was center stage through all of it.
Despite Bethel’s upset of IWU in this year’s NAIA tournament, Mangas did not go out without making a major name for himself and the Wildcats. The senior was a four-time Crossroads League Player of the Year, as the senior won the league’s player of the week 10 times, and was recently named the NAIA National Player of the Year for the second time in a row, scoring a national-best 29.5 points per game and is just the second player in league history to win the NAIA honor twice.
Also among the oodles of awards and honors Mangas, a proud Warsaw alumnus, achieved was crossing the 3,000-point plateau, just the second in Crossroads history, the late, great Steve Platt being the other.
Harrison Mevis, Missouri football
While Mangas had the most on-court success, Mevis can lay claim to the biggest stages. The freshman kicker for the Missouri Tigers had a rookie campaign to remember, hitting 17-20 field goal attempts and all 28 of his extra point attempts as the Tigers went 5-5 this season.
His career-long 52-yard field goal helped Mizzou knock off then-defending national champion LSU, 45-41, and his fifth field goal of the game was a game winner in a 50-48 victory over Arkansas. That game propelled the Warsaw grad to a SEC Special Teams Player of the Week award.
For the season, Mevis hit three field goals of 50 yards or longer, and was a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s top college football kicker. Also of note at the Mevis dinner table, older brother, Andrew, announced he is transferring to Iowa State as a grad transfer and will look to join on as the Cyclones’ everyday kicker this fall.
Sophie Bussard, Southeast Missouri women’s basketball
Bussard and the Redhawks were bound and determined to keep the pace it had as the pandemic wiped out its 2020 season. The Redhawks had just won the Ohio Valley Conference championship and were preparing for the NCAA tournament when the season was called off. Bussard stepped into the 2020-21 season as a sophomore and found herself starting all 26 games.
The Tippecanoe Valley grad would lead the team in minutes played per game (35.8) and also led the team in hitting 89 percent of her free throws. Over the course of its 15-11 season, Bussard scored 8.8 points per game and added four rebounds and two assists to her nightly column.
Alec Holcomb, Drake Gongwer, Matt Dutkowski, Drake Graham, Taylor baseball
A trio of former NorthWood Panthers and a Warsaw Tiger make up a very localized Taylor baseball roster in 2021.
Dutkowski, Holcomb and Gongwer, all high school teammates at NorthWood, have all seen relative amounts of contribution for the Trojans.
Dutkowski has compiled a 4-2 record in 10 appearances this spring, striking out 29 in 34 innings of work through Tuesday afternoon. At the plate, he has added six doubles among 18 hits and 17 RBI for the club.
Gongwer is 2-1 this season on the hill with a save in 24 innings of work. In all, he had fanned 38 in those innings of work and carries a 2.59 ERA.
Holcomb has made just one start this season, lasting just under two innings.
Graham, a Warsaw grad, hasn’t made an appearance yet this season after a solid pitching career with the Tigers in 2019.
In 37 games this season, Taylor is 28-9 overall and are one back of the lead in the Crossroads League with a 17-3 mark.
Page Desenberg, North Central College women’s basketball
It’s been an eventful four years for the former Warsaw Tiger forward. Battling a knee injury for years, Desenberg finally saw some results this past winter for the Cardinals, including a 5-10 shooting performance and a season-high 11 points against North Park, which included 25 minutes on the court, her high for the season.
Desenberg made three starts in the abbreviated season that saw the Cardinals go 2-11 overall, bowing out of its season in the first round of the CCIW tournament to Milliken.
Parker Stewart, Indiana Wesleyan men’s soccer
As is the case in the NAIA soccer seasons, Stewart and IWU played in the fall and are continuing on this spring. The Wildcats are a combined 7-4-4 overall in 2020-21, and Stewart, a freshman from Lakeland Christian Academy, is starting to gain confidence among the loaded schedule.
Stewart has made three starts, including a conference tilt against St. Francis, and has six shots and four on target in his appearances. His first career goal came in a 3-2 loss to West Virginia Tech on St. Patrick’s Day.
Delaney Wihebrink, Grand Valley State women’s swimming
It became a banner year for the GVSU sophomore. Wihebrink helped the Lakers to a fifth place finish at the NCAA Div. 2 National Championships. Her 11th place swim in the 200 breaststroke and contribution in the 12th place 400 free relay team helped the team to the mark, it’s best finish at nationals in years.
Closer to home, the Warsaw swim star was a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion in the 100 breaststroke, timing a 1:02.74, and helping both the 200 and 400 medley relays to GLIAC championships to boot. Wihebrink was also second in the 200 breast (2:17.87) and sixth in the individual medley (2:07.29) as Valley won the women’s team championship.
Vincent Miranda, Taylor men’s basketball
Miranda capped his senior season with a solid milestone, passing the 1,000-point plateau in the final regular season matchup for Taylor against St. Francis. Miranda was the third Trojan to reach 1,000 points this past season, joining Jason Hubbard and CJ Penha in the accomplishment, Miranda settling on 1,013 points to end his career. He also added 92 rebounds and 75 assists to his senior totals.
Miranda, a NorthWood graduate, averaged 10.6 points per game this season for the 11-14 Trojans, making all 25 starts at guard.
Maddy Payne, Caroline Mullet, Bethel volleyball
It was also a banner year for Bethel volleyball. The Pilots claimed the NCCAA Volleyball National Championship, in large part to the contributions to a pair of freshmen phenoms from NorthWood in Maddy Payne and Caroline Mullet.
The two were instrumental in Bethel piling up 20 wins and making a run through the national tournament, which it claimed in November. Payne emerged as the team leader in kills (305), blocks (162) and points (427.5) while Mullet had a team-leading 29 aces to go with 177 digs and 516 assists, serving as one of the team’s two primary setters. Payne’s block total led the Crossroads League.
Bethel, ranked No. 23 in the country in the latest poll, is carrying on this spring with aspirations of a run through the NAIA tournament, which is scheduled for later this month.
Anne Secrest, Meredith Brouyette, Dayton Groninger, Indiana Wesleyan women’s basketball
The Wildcats were oh, so close to playing for a national championship, falling in the Final Four of the NAIA tournament last month, losing 74-65 to Westmont (Calif.) in the national semi-finals. IWU finished the season 25-7 overall.
Two of its seniors, Anne Secrest and Dayton Groninger, were in the middle of the team’s success.
Secrest, a two-time IFN Player of the Year from Tippecanoe Valley, would lead the Wildcats this season with a 14.8 points per game average, but rather than settling into an inside role, the power forward morphed a three-point game, as well, hitting 46 percent of her three-point attempts. Secrest also give the team nearly seven rebounds per outing and had 44 assists while shooting 50 percent overall from the floor.
Groninger became very valuable for IWU this season, scoring 12.8 points per game, but added nearly five rebounds and 65 assists to the table, shooting 48 percent from the floor and 40 percent from outside the arc. Groninger, a Warsaw grad, led the team with 16 points in the national semi-final.
Finally working into some playing time as a senior, Meredith Brouyette overcame some nagging injuries to get time on the court. Classmates with Secrest at Tippecanoe Valley, Brouyette appeared in 16 games this season and showed flashes of her glory days at Valley by hitting 13-36 three-point attempts, accounting for 43 total points.
Nikki Parrett, Nicki Sechrist, Erin Peugh, Kacy Bragg, Taylor volleyball
More teammate connections at Taylor as three former Warsaw Tigers as well as a neighboring Triton Trojan were on the court often this season for Trojan volleyball.
Kacy Bragg continued to do what she’s always done well, setting up hitters, in leading the Trojans with 629 assists, third-best in the Crossroads League. The sophomore also had 13 aces.
Erin Peugh, also a sophomore at Taylor, stepped in and gave the team a reliable defensive specialist, leading the team with 198 digs on the backline. Peugh and Bragg, both teammates at Warsaw, joined Nikki Parrett, another Tiger turned Trojan, as the junior had 128 digs and 25 aces, her service status sitting fourth in the league.
Once a Trojan, always a Trojan for Sechrist, the Triton alum finished her junior season at Taylor with 98 kills as part of the attack line for a Taylor team that won eight matches in 2020.