Marquette Club Sports: Men’s club sports looking for another solid year

While the season may have already begun for the Marquette volleyball and soccer teams, hundreds of athletes are anticipating the start of club sports this fall.

On the men’s side, eight teams will give non-Division 1 talents their chance at playing the sports they love. Several of those teams arguably had their best seasons ever last year and their success has led to a big opportunity for growth.

The Marquette men’s hockey team had a dominating regular season under new coach Joe Cockind.

While the team struggled in its first six games last season, the Golden Eagles ended up winning 17 of their last 18 regular season matchups to take the No. 1 seed in the Silver Division-North of the Mid-America Collegiate Hockey Association.

After ousting two other teams to make the MACHA Championship, Marquette dropped a close 3-1 loss in the final round against RMU Peoria.

This season, junior forward Kevin Dolan believes the team can make a lot of noise again despite losing goaltender RJ Bennett to graduation.

“The only guy we really lost is RJ Bennett, but he built this team to where it is now by taking over as a sophomore and getting us to a point where we got our own jerseys and buses for fans to and from the games,” Dolan said. “The best thing our program has experienced with its success is a lot of growth. We have 30 or 40 kids showing up from the Chicago area and all over the place.”

The team will get a chance to play different competition this year, as it dropped out of MACHA to play as an independent, which Dolan says will allow Marquette to take on tougher teams.

The opening puck drop of the 2012-13 season is slated for this Friday at the Ponds of Brookfield as the Golden Eagles face Augustana.

From the rink to the diamond, the men’s baseball team will look to follow up on a second place-finish in Great Lakes West Conference last year.

Three members of last spring’s All Great Lakes Region team return to the roster as outfielder Dave Riedel, relief pitcher Brian Collins and designated hitter Jordan Torres will look to lead the Golden Eagles to new heights.

Riedel finished last spring with a .395 average in 48 plate appearances, Collins posted an astounding 1.23 ERA in 21 1/3 innings pitched and Torres batted .361 with three doubles and 16 total bases.

“Riedel’s hopefully going to carry us offensively from the fourth or third spot,” team president Dan Walker said. “We’re expecting to win the conference this year. We’ve got a lot of good returning players and some young guys looking to step up. We’re even hoping to play a game at Miller Park this spring against either Wisconsin-Madison or Wisconsin-Milwaukee.”

The men’s volleyball team is also returning a lot of solid players from a squad that finished ninth in the nation at the 2012 NCVF Collegiate Club Volleyball Championships in Kansas City, Mo.

Team president and 2012 All American selection Thomas Niswonger said he’s expecting another strong showing this season.

“Our expectations are pretty high since we didn’t lose many players,” Niswonger said. “We’re looking to place pretty high in nationals again. As the leader of the team, I’m just looking to do a little better than last year individually and help the team grow a bit more from a club standpoint.”

“Last season, a lot of people didn’t even know we were a club,” Niswonger added. “We’re looking to change that.”

Each club is hoping to increase not only in size but in game attendance this season.

With sports like lacrosse, soccer and rugby also slated to start soon, the campus will be abuzz with enough sports action to satisfy any Marquette sports fan.

Check Thursday’s Tribune for a preview of this year’s women’s club sports.

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