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Student athletes share thoughts on Horizon League move

Katelyn+Newton+chases+down+a+loose+ball.+She+was+credited+with+the+lone+goal+in+the+1-0+win+over+MSU.
Katelyn Newton chases down a loose ball. She was credited with the lone goal in the 1-0 win over MSU.

Katelyn Newton chases down a loose ball. She was credited with the lone goal in the 1-0 win over MSU.

Colin Johnson

Colin Johnson

Katelyn Newton chases down a loose ball. She was credited with the lone goal in the 1-0 win over MSU.

Kari Lakes, Reporter

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Northern Kentucky University’s move from the warm Atlantic Sun conference to the sometimes frigid Horizon League didn’t seem to bother Illinois native Brad Bohlen.

The Norse baseball player knows all about early spring in the upper midwest.

“I’m from Chicago, so personally I’m used to playing in the cold,” said Bohlen. “Man it was freezing, and snowing at some points, but we had games like that in the A-Sun too.”

The change in the climate is one of the few complaints registered by Norse athletes after year one in the Horizon League.

Indoor sports, such as women’s basketball, are enjoying shorter travel times and fewer missed classes.

When Sarah Kinch signed with the NKU women’s basketball team as a senior in high school, she didn’t consider what conference she would be playing in, just the fact that she would be playing collegiately was enough for her.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity, getting to travel and play against all of those different teams, and I was at the highest level doing it,” Kinch said. “Florida Gulf Coast was really big at the time because of Dunk City and what was happening in the NCAA tournament.”

One comparison that both basketball teams noticed was the different types of athletes. In the Atlantic Sun Conference, there was more of a focus on speed, whereas the Horizon League focuses more on skill.

“I think the Horizon League has athleticism and skill in every team,” Kinch said. “It’s not always about just trying to beat someone up and down the floor, you’ve gotta be able to break it down and play defensively.”

The men’s basketball team, who hired an entirely new coaching staff for the 2015-16 school year found that it was difficult to adjust to all of the moving pieces. Cole Murray, a senior Norse basketball player, said the adjustment to the new system was a tougher one than leaving the Atlantic Sun.

“It was just a year of getting used to a whole new system, more so than getting used to a new league,” said Murray. “The Atlantic Sun was a very good conference, but the Horizon League is just a step up from it.”

The move has received mixed reviews from the spring student athletes who began their careers in the A-Sun.

Danielle Devlin, a senior catcher on the softball team, said she enjoyed the weather that came along with playing in the A-Sun. 

“I liked the Atlantic Sun more than the Horizon League,” Devlin said. “The competition was better and the weather was nicer. Even the umpires were better. And, I never had to play in 30 degrees in Florida.”

Devlin started the first half of her career playing in those vacation destinations in South Carolina to Florida.

Although Devlin enjoyed the weather that went along with playing in the Atlantic Sun, she thinks the switch to the Horizon League is the best move. 

She believes competition in the Horizon League is more fair because of our similar facilities and climates.

sports_weather_infographic

As for the Chicago native Bohlen, just because he didn’t mind the cold weather didn’t mean that the weather was never an issue. Bohlen remembers a game where the elements seemed to be stacked against both teams.

Bohlen remembers well the doubleheader played in frigid conditions against West Illinois in Indianapolis.

“The first game lasted 18 innings and the second game went into a few extra innings,” Bohlen said. “It was freezing. But, it was funny because when we started winning, you don’t really think about the cold at all. When we won that extra game, we might’ve complained here and there before the game. But once the game started and we got our adrenaline rush, you don’t even think about the cold.”

Since the weather’s still nice and warm most of their season,the soccer programs at NKU find the only real change they see is venues. Katelyn Newton, a senior on the women’s soccer team thinks the Horizon League is right where she and her team needs to be.

“We have a really good rivalry with Oakland, they are always our toughest games,” Newton said. “We played them in the semifinals last season and lost in PKs (penalty kicks). It’s nice having teams like that closer to us.”

The switch has also brought an improvement in an attendance. While playing in the A-Sun, it was less likely that students would drive that far south to watch an away game. Now, it is much easier when Wright State is only 40 minutes down the road.

“It’s always a lot cooler to have people you know watch you, and being able to see them in the stands,” Devlin said. “The environment is a lot more fun to play in.”

Bohlen also appreciated the greater local support.

“Basketball and football are usually the bigger sports to get fans out, but baseball is a little bit different,” Bohlen said. I don’t want to say that not a lot of people come out to games, because there are times when our entire hill behind the outfield is packed, compared to a day game on a Tuesday where the stands are kind of bare. It’s so much better when people are interactive, honking horns – you can feel that they are behind you.”

Having a schedule with closer opponents means that not only do you get more fans to come to games, but family is also able to come out. For Bohlen, that was one of his favorite changes that came from the switch.

“NKU does a really good job at getting us exposure on ESPN3 online, so I would always call my friends and say ‘Hey man, make sure to watch us on ESPN3’, and so then people can watch us even if they can’t make it to a game,” said Bohlen. “Now that I’m in the Horizon League though, my family is able to make those trips to see me play. I’m happy to be finishing my senior year in the Horizon.”

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Student athletes share thoughts on Horizon League move