New horizons for UCC sports teams

Published by Katie Gray on

This year UCC’s men’s basketball team went undefeated.
Photo provided by UCC Athletics

New horizons for UCC sports teams

Of all the opponents UCC athletes faced the last 12 months, COVID-19 may have been the most formidable. But, the RiverHawks quarantined and prepared. Then, they got busy competing and dominating. UCC has also welcomed new teams to its sports selection: ESPORTS and Women’s Soccer.  

The Men’s basketball team was undefeated this year. Baseball finally competed after existing in limbo for nearly three years. Women’s volleyball celebrated their tradition of sophomore night. The special esports computer lab was completed, and the eSports team competed for their first time. Finally, Women’s soccer is now building their team for their first season this fall.

In eSports’ inaugural season, athletes had a tough competition.

UCC’s eSports team play these games in competitions.
Photo provide by UCC Athletics

“We had some exciting wins, which make for obvious highlights. Our Rocket League team had the most progress, but we were in a surprisingly tough bracket. We finished 1-8, though we faced 4 of the 8 teams that qualified for the playoffs, out of 40 total teams.” RJ Mills, the eSports coach said.

Aaron Penniger, one of the athletes on the eSports team, said, “I enjoy being a part of the esports team, though it is frustrating to have our game selection heavily monitored by people of the community. There is a lot of teamwork involved. Knowing where you need to be (as well as where your teammates expect you to be) is a big learning process that comes with time, though it does take a fair amount of natural intuition as well.”

The eSports athletes compete in the NJCAAE league which has many member institutions, just like the NCAA. The league just sets the standards for playing and helps regulate the member schools and their participation.

Mills said, “Since eSports are so new, it took some time for enough schools to offer the programs to their students so there were enough teams to make competition viable. It’s also important for the school to maintain its principles and values when joining an association.”

The team is still looking for participants to play and for “experienced streamers/casters, so if anyone is interested in learning to cast and stream, they should definitely contact me as well; especially if anyone is interested in playing esports at a collegiate level, wants to work together with a team, plans to attend full time, and is committed to improving themselves, we can make a place for them. That being said we do have some tuition waivers available depending on player ability and ranking,” Mills said.

Whitney Pitalo is the new women’s soccer coach for UCC; her team is looking to start competing in the fall.

“I am to expand women’s soccer and become more connected with the local youth programs for Roseburg, Sutherlin, Myrtle creek, and surrounding areas,” Pitalo said.

August 1 is when coaches are allowed to begin contact with players for fall sports.

Not only has UCC welcomed new sports, but this year teams competed with some exciting things happening.

The Riverhawks team impressed the head coach at away games.
Photo provided by UCC Athletics

Baseball had an excellent first year that exceeded head coach Jeremiah Robbins’s expectations. A double header versus Lane at Lane Community College wins games one and two. Robbins says he is very proud of the team, and that they represented UCC very well.

Robbins says that with Roseburg’s passion of baseball, it is a great opportunity for the school to bring in more student athletes and bring back a sport that is so beloved. With a total of 41 team players, five of these athletes are sophomores this year.

UCC has not had a team since 1985, but Robbins was excited to step up to the plate and build something great after being away from Roseburg for 15 years coaching at other schools.

“It feels good to move players on after one year; I feel like we have a real good program that can help build life skills through baseball, and I am very excited for this program because it’s very bright” Robbins said.

The Women’s volleyball team said goodbye to their sophomore players in a tradition they thought they might have to forego.

Katelyn Crawford, a sophomore volleyball player, said, “Big highlights for us was when we won against Chemeketa and South Western Oregon Community College at home. It was also super fun to have a sophomore night on our last home game of the season (which was when we won against SWOCC) to celebrate the three sophomores that we had this year. It was great to be able to do something fun to celebrate especially during this unconventional season. Although it was an unconventional season due to COVID, we all had a great season together, and I’ll always remember it because of how close we got to one another.”

UCC’s women’s volleyball team had a celebration to honor the sophomore players as they move on.
Photo provided by UCC Athletics

For Crawford, moving on from UCC’s volleyball team is bittersweet: “I have played volleyball for so many years and it’s hard because that part of my live has ended. It’s even harder saying goodbye to my teammates/friends from this year and the ones that so have played with for so many years prior to playing at UCC. (I played with Breez Hansen and Morgan Johnson since middle school, and I think we all played on the same team one year in elementary school!) I learned so many great lessons at Umpqua and overall just grew as a person over these past two years. I am really grateful that I even got the opportunity to play volleyball in college, so I’ll always look back on it as a positive experience.”

The Men’s basketball team was declared undefeated this year after being so unsure if they were even going to be able to play. The matches started April 2 after athletes were practicing since October, and the season will not officially end until June 5.

Nate Webb, a basketball player, said, “The highlight of the year was winning the region champion. All our hard work for so many months finally paid off for us. It was worth it to wait. There’s no lying that it wasn’t tough. Some days it was super hard to keep going and it felt like at times there was not light at the end of the tunnel be is our season kept getting pushed back. Yet, we kept working hard and we were rewarded with a being able to play a season, celebrating with the team after a hard earned 14-1 season and a championship.” 

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