After more than a decade of building, shaping and sometimes rebuilding programs, Cougar athletics have gained respectability. The teams of the 80s and 90s have come a long way from those early days of playing in the recently converted dairy barn or a rented facility off campus. But while coaches strive to win and work to bring out the best in their athletes, the overriding theme of Cougar athletics is the development of the individual. Coaches and players develop not just a sense of teamwork and camaraderie on the court, but friendships to last a lifetime.
Chet Foraker, first men’s basketball coach, and the college’s first athletic director, got the Cougars headed in the right direction in 1970. Dr. Lora Donoho broke new ground as she became athletic director and professor of physical education in 1975. She was the first woman in the United States to direct a collegiate athletic program for both men and women. Following are some highlights of Cougars athletics through the years.
The Cougar basketball team reportedly recorded its first victory in 1970 with an 80-68 win over Mount Vernon Bible College. Catcher Jerry Carter recorded the Cougars’ first home run in a doubleheader victory over Ohio Valley College in May of 1971.
In his first year at the helm of the baseball squad, Sam Riggleman’s Cougars posted a 10-4 record and won a share of the Mid-Ohio Conference crown. Riggleman was NAIA District 22 coach of the year.
Athletic director Dr. Lora Donoho was elected to the executive committee of the NAIA, the first woman ever to serve in that capacity. The volleyball team aced and spiked its way to an NAIA District 22 championship, and Coach Debbie Lore was named District 22 coach of the year. The Cougar baseball team again captured the Mid-Ohio Conference crown.
The women’s volleyball team accumulated the most wins of any team in school history a 29-7 record. Soccer players Joel Taylor and Alan Shaffer were named Academic All-Americans, two of 22 players nationwide.
Seating was at a premium at Cougar baseball games as nearly 50 professional baseball scouts attended every time Tim Belcher was on the mound. Sporting a sizzling fastball, the Sparta native was drafted first in the nation by the Minnesota Twins in the amateur draft. The first Cougar athlete to be drafted by a professional sports team, Belcher broke into the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers near the end of the 1987 season.
Soccer placed five players on the first and second All-MOC teams and Eric Forseth was named co-coach of the year. Later that school year, Barb Mollica was chosen all-conference and all-district for her basketball play. Mel Severns was the first MVNC baseball player to be named to the NAIA All-American first team. Gary Wetherell was drafted by the Detroit Tigers.
Athletic Director Lora Donoho was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame, while Cougar basketball star and student-athlete Tom Clark were awarded the Emil S. Liston award for the NAIA’s top college junior in both academics and athletics. Baseball coach Sam Riggleman was named NAIA Area VI coach of the year, and Paul Swanson the Greater Ohio Athletic Conference coach of the year in volleyball.
Both baseball and softball had stellar seasons in 1988 as the men’s team captured the NAIA District 22 championship, placed five players on the All-MOC team and three on the NAIA All-District squad.
On senior honors night, Feb. 22, the Cougars honored Ron Holmes by making him the first MVNC player in school history to have his jersey retired. The Lady Cougar softball team recorded its best records in school history, rolling through the regular season placing second in MOC, NAIA District 22 and NCCAA national play and Coach Jeana Howald earned co-coach of the year honors in the district. Senior Mark Voisard led Cougar pitchers with a 6-1 record, 59 strikeouts, and a 1.18 ERA in 45.2 innings. Voisard attracted pro scouts in both his junior and senior seasons, and was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays. Opting to finish his collegiate career, he bypassed the Blue Jays and was drafted the following year by the Colorado Rockies.
The volleyball Cougars put together a 29-9 season. Tiffany Jones and Trista McNeal were named NCCAA All-Americans.
Shawn Alazaus, a junior transfer from Marietta College, led Cougar pitchers with a 5-4 record and a 3.41 ERA. He was drafted in the 13th round of the June 3 amateur draftand signed with the New York Yankees. There are a total of 10 baseball Cougars drafted or signed by professional teams, however, only Alazaus, Mark Voisard, and Tim Belcher remained active in the highly competitive arena of professional baseball.
Reprinted from The Mount Vernon Nazarene College Communicator, Fall Issue, 1993