UNK Today | August 2014 - page 19

come here.”
Resources is the key word.
UNK has never been rich in
resources.
UNK entered the MIAA with
fewer than half the football
scholarships offered by other
conference schools. Several
have indoor practice facilities,
including Missouri Western
where the Kansas City Chiefs
have their preseason camp.
On the scholarship front,
Plinske said, “We’re still in the
middle of the pack. We’re look-
ing at $1.4 million allocations
for all scholarships in 2014-15.
We were at $1.2 million in
2013-14, so we’ve gotten some
new monies that will help us
move the dial.”
At Whitewater, Plinske didn’t
have to raise funds for athlet-
ic scholarships; they’re not
allowed in Division III. He did,
however, raise $10 million for
facilities improvements, some-
thing else UNK has to improve
if it wants to catch up to its
competitors in the MIAA.
“Frankly, we’re in the arms
race, and we need to have facil-
ities that attract student-ath-
letes,” he said.
Fans who attended UNK’s
baseball and softball games
saw one simple improvement
— the mesh wraps on the out-
field and baseline fences. Fairly
inexpensive, they enclosed and
personalized the playing fields
and clearly identified the ven-
ues as home of the Lopers.
“While it seemed like it was
going to make a small impact,
it was dramatically noticed by
our student-athletes. They were
excited. They were proud to be
Lopers,” Plinske said. “Even
our opponents commented on
how the banners looked, and
they talked about how cool they
looked.”
Plinske wants to make the
same dramatic changes in
appearance at Cope Stadium
and the Health and Sports
Center. Portable baskets will
replace the ceiling-mounted
baskets in the Health and Sports
Center. Wall murals and other
motivational pictures will change
the appearance of the 15-year-
old facility. In addition, work is
underway on visuals that will
tell the history of UNK and what
it means to be a Loper. Those
visuals will include photos from
the 1930s to present day as well
as areas recognizing UNK’s
national players of the year.
“We’re trying to create an
image that is really going to
be a wow factor,” Plinske said.
“That was a major undertaking
for us to create a new visual
that will not only tell our story
but to inspire the future.”
When athletes report this fall
they will notice that four of the
locker rooms in the Health and
Sports Center were remodeled
over the summer. New wood
lockers, new carpeting and new
shower doors were installed.
Plans also call for new chair-
back bleachers on the lower
level.
Cope Stadium’s face-lifts
may be a year or two away.
Finishing the second floor with
coaches’ offices and a team
meeting room is a goal. New
turf will be a reality soon. Syn-
thetic turf usually lasts 10-12
years, Plinske said, and UNK’s
turf is 11 years old. To replace
the turf, Plinske plans to work
with Kearney High School as
it builds its new school and
athletic fields to get a discount
on a package deal.
UNK is also working with
KHS on cooperative agree-
ments for use of the track and
the pool. That will mean the
addition of a steeplechase pit at
the track and accommodations
for a 3-meter diving well at the
pool.
In the future, Plinske hopes
to add a softball field and
tennis courts at University Vil-
lage — plans for which were
announced earlier this year
— as well as video boards for
basketball and football.
Accomplishing those needs
and desires will not come with-
out a lot of hard work and there
have been several additions
made to the UNK athletic staff
in the past year, including Dusty
Jura as director of development
and Hilke Brandon as director
of corporate sponsorships.
Jura, a former basketball
All-American, brings instant
credibility because his name
recognition and alumni con-
nections and Brandon, an Alma
native, brought experience
she gained while working for
the St. Louis Cardinals Major
League Baseball team.
In addition, Marcus Clapp
has been hired as an assistant
baseball coach and event man-
ager. Assistant wrestling coach
Dalton Jensen and assistant
strength and conditioning
coach Cale Holscher have been
promoted from part-time to
full-time positions.
“The chancellor is definitely
stepping up to the plate and
wants to help with increased
needs in scholarships, growth
and development in our facil-
ities and improvements in our
staffing model. Those are three
areas of growth than are needed
for us,” Plinske said.
But to achieve Plinske’s
goals, the support has to extend
beyond the campus. To com-
pete in the MIAA and at the
national level will take “all the
stakeholders to buy in,” Plinske
said, and that includes coach-
es, athletes, faculty, athletic
department staff, administra-
tion, alumni and people in the
community.
“We need them all in behind
the Lopers if we plan to
compete in this conference,”
he said. “The momentum is
moving in the right direction,
and there’s a lot of excitement
for what’s to come in 2014-15,
and I’m overly excited to watch
our student-athletes have an
outstanding year.”
email to:
CONTINUED FROM 3
GREAT THINGS:
More resources should translate into more success, image that will be more of wow factor, Plinske says
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Miller brings more to UNK
Five Phoenix College softball recruits bring West Coast vibe to Nebraska
UNK
Today
:
Loper Lineup
By CONNOR O’GARA
Hub Sports Writer
KEARNEY —When Matt
Miller signed on to be the
University of Nebraska at
Kearney wide receivers coach
in December 2013, he created
quite the ripple effect within
the athletic department.
Miller’s move meant his
wife, Cassie, who had been
an assistant softball coach at
Phoenix (Ariz.) College, was
looking for work in the athletic
department. She emailed UNK
softball coach Holly Carnes
offering her services. After
receiving recommendation
letters from Miller’s former
players at Phoenix, Carnes
brought her on board.
Naturally, Miller wanted to
get involved.
“The first thing I asked was,
‘How’s your
recruiting going?
Do you need any
players?’” Miller
said.
Luckily for
Miller, she had
coached a bevy
of JUCO talent
in Phoenix, and
those players would be looking
for a new home in the 2014-15
season. Luckily for UNK, Cas-
sie Roessing, Makenzi Dallas,
Paige Hamelin and Rebecca
Wyatt jumped at the idea of
reuniting with their old coach.
“It was just a simple text
of, ‘Hey, how would you feel
about playing for me again?’
And they were like, ‘What?
Yes! How does this happen?’”
Miller said. “The fact that they
could come together was just
another selling point for them.”
After the Phoenix four made
it official, UNK also got their
teammate, Kelli Wickerman,
on board in June. Five Phoenix
College kids — more than half
of a batting order — will call
Kearney home in the fall.
Miller didn’t have to dig
deep on her recruiting pitch.
Neither did Carnes.
“The minute they talk to her,
they love her,” Miller said of
Carnes. “You automatically
want to play for her.”
UNK infielder Samanatha
Liebmann was
equally excited
about the West
Coast infusion.
Liebmann, who
is from Valen-
cia, Calif., is the
Lopers’ lone out-
of-state returner
excluding Council
Bluffs, Iowa, native Brittnie
Kreiser. Liebmann already
served as a liaison for the Phoe-
nix newcomers.
They can relate to experienc-
ing a new area of the country
together. The difference for
the Phoenix group is that they
aren’t as far from home as
it might seem. Grand Island
Regional Airport has flights
to Phoenix for $90 each way.
A 45-minute drive to Grand
Island and a two-hour flight
isn’t exactly a cross-country
journey. That was a significant
selling point, Roessing said.
“That’s a really good way to
look at it,” she said.
They’ll bring more than just
diversity to a UNK squad in need
of experience. Roessing hit .477,
clubbed 17 home runs and drove
in 82 on top of her 1.82 ERA in
119 1/3 innings of work last year.
Dallas, Roessing’s best friend,
also was her battery mate. Wyatt
stole 72 bases, while Hamelin
andWickerman slugged .699 and
.680, respectively.
“I look at it and see that we
could really turn the program
around and make it a winning
program,” Roessing said. “We
all have different talents that
are going to fit into the formu-
la that is going to make us a
winning team.”
They’re coming from a pro-
gram that won eight NJCAA
National Women’s Softball
Division II Championships.
They’ll add experience to a
young team.
“I think it’s huge,” Miller
said. “The biggest thing isn’t
the location they’re from but the
fact that they are junior col-
lege transfers. They’ve already
played two years. They’ve been
successful and had winning sea-
sons. Now they can come in and
have a direct impact in basically
molding our young kids and
teach them how to win.”
Roessing admitted she never
thought she’d go to Nebraska
for anything. She and her four
Phoenix teammates will go to
Nebraska with a purpose —
injecting new life and, they
hope, a new identity.
email to:
connor.o’gara@kearneyhub.com
Cassie Roessing Makenzi Dallas
Paige Hamelin Rebecca Wyatt
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