Sunday, November 10, 2002

MSJ football finally growling

Coach Huber turns around losing program

By Ryan Ernst
Cincinnati Enquirer

Rod Huber talks fast. The third-year football coach at the College of Mount St. Joseph, a former Army man, talks with purpose. He doesn't talk in "coulds," "woulds" or "shoulds." Huber, known as "Hubey" to his players, doesn't talk about the past, including a 17-game losing streak the Lions snapped this season. Nor does he talk about his program's future. At the Mount, the future is now.

"I'll tell you one thing about me: I'm about today," Huber says, the words chasing one another out of his mouth. "I can't tell you what our record is going to be this time next year. We're all about this year. We're about this Saturday."

Saturday didn't turn out so well. Hanover College, the No. 8-ranked team in NCAA Division III, beat the Mount 49-14.

Still, the Mount is 5-4 overall and 4-2 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. A win Saturday would have meant a share of the conference title for the first time in the MSJ program's 13-year history.

Over those 13 seasons, there have been two constants on the Delhi campus: losing, and Coach Huber. He was one of the first hires - a part-time assistant - when the program was founded in 1990. Going into this season, the Lions were 36-81-1. They had one winning season, going 5-4 in 1995.

So when Huber took the head coaching job, he knew a total reconstruction was in order. The plan: to keep backyard talent in the backyard - literally, in some cases. About half the Mount's roster is from the west side of Cincinnati. All but three players on the roster are from Greater Cincinnati.

"We knew there was going to be no quick fix," Huber said. "But we felt if we could recruit within the (Interstate) 275 belt and get some of the better incoming freshmen who are looking for a small school, then we'd be going in the right direction. To be honest with you, we're a little ahead of schedule. I didn't think we'd be playing for a conference championship (Saturday), but I'm tickled to death we are. No one's more excited than me, except for the players."

So how did Huber and his staff persuade these talented players to stay at home?

"I tell everyone who comes here, `It's a no-frills deal,'" he says. "They get two shorts and a T-shirt. That's it. We don't play for the crowds; we don't play because our parents want us to; we don't play because the girls like it. These players play football at Mount St. Joseph for one reason - they love it."

Who wouldn't want to play for this guy?

So far, Huber's recruiting philosophy seems to be working. Freshman linebacker Andrew Ackerman had committed to play at the Air Force Academy, a Division I program, before deciding to play at the Mount.

Ackerman and his brother Nick are among the 11 freshmen from Elder on the Lions roster, part of the program's youth movement. The team starts eight freshmen, and its top rusher and receiver and eight of its top 10 tacklers are freshmen or sophomores.

So this is the base of the program, the future, the guys who will be remembered for turning things around.

Not quite, Huber says.

"Our seniors are the guys I'm most proud of," he says. "They're the ones most appreciative of the success. They've been through a 3-7 (season), a 2-8 and an 0-10. ... It says a lot about their character.''

Huber's talking about guys such as Ken Jones, a fourth-year starting center from Walnut Hills who is one of 10 seniors.

"It's great to be a part of this success," Jones says. "And it's kind of surprising. But at the same time, coming in here as freshmen, this is what we had in mind. The seniors here now are the ones who stayed dedicated to the program, and I feel that's what has helped turn it around."


Ashland wide receiver Michael Hull (Sycamore) caught a school-record 14 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown last week in a 25-20 loss to Findlay.

Miami hockey player Nick Jardine was named CCHA offensive player of the week with four points against Bowling Green.

Julie Dupont led the Cincinnati volleyball team to wins over Memphis and St. Louis, averaging 6.29 kills, 3 digs and 1.43 blocks, and was named Conference USA co-player of the week.

Three UC women's soccer players received honors. Senior defender Heather Herweh (Ursuline) was named to the C-USA first team, and teammate Amy Simonson (Princeton) was tabbed a second-team member. Goalkeeper Tracy Hale was named the conference's defensive player of the week.

Northern Kentucky soccer player Stephanie Sandfoss (Highlands) scored two game-winning goals for the Norse last week and was named Great Lakes Valley Conference player of the week. The award was her third of the season. Later in the week, NKU soccer was showered with all-conference honors. Hope Bushelman was named GLVC Player of the Year. Bushelman, a senior defender from McNicholas, led the Norse to 11 shutouts and a No.1 national ranking. Joining her on the first team were Sandfoss, Kristen Noakes (Dixie Heights), Becky Schnieders (Seton) and Robyn Withers (Seton). Goalie Megan Zalla (Notre Dame) was named to the second team. NKU coach Bob Sheehan was named the GLVC Coach of the Year for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

Kristen Votapek (Amelia), a freshman forward on the Mount Vernon Nazarene soccer team, tallied three goals and an assist in two games to be named player of the week for the American Mideast Conference, NAIA Region IX and National Christian College Athletic Association.

Miami soccer player Danielle Berkemeier (Fairfield) was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year. The senior tallied 15 goals and 35 points this season. Joining her on the first team were teammates Andrea Cunningham (McAuley), Danielle Altiero, Audry Wieman and Ashley Swinehart. Shaedyn Cousino (Indian Hill) was a second-team selection.

Jessica Robb (Seton), a Xavier soccer player, was named to the Atlantic 10 all-rookie team.

Several area soccer players earned honors in the Ohio Athletic Conference. Wilmington forward Carrie Mills was a second-team all-conference selection. Chrissy Bennett (Lakota East) and Amanda Wilson of Wilmington were honorable mention selections, as were Heidelberg's Molly Thornton (Seton), Wilmington's Chris Darby (Kings) and D.J. Switzer (St.Xavier).

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