/seasons/2018/contrib/20180724nxv8nl

Anticipated Approach – Manchester University looks to 2018 with confidence

The pages on the calendar can't turn quick enough in Manchester University head coach Nate Jensen's office.

"We can't wait to get going again," he reflected as he looked towards the start of preseason camp over the second weekend of August. "There is a lot of excitement. We're coming off our second winning season in three years … there's a buzz out there in recruiting, on campus, when we talk to high school coaches as they look back at what we've done [of late] and so on. The prospect of the new football stadium moving forward adds to that excitement."

"It's been hurry up and wait since the 2017 season ended," he added.

Looking around the field at the new edition of Black and Gold football, there are positives at almost every turn. That's especially true in what could be a rock-solid defense.

A strong defensive line is led by the likes of senior Jacob Cooper (Fairland, Ind.), senior Garrett Walker (Valparaiso, Ind.), and junior Nolan Sipe (Fort Wayne, Ind.) guiding the unit. Cooper was a menace to opposing offenses with five and a half sacks and 49 total tackles which led to all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honorable mention honors; Walker, looking to return to the starting rotation after injuries kept him off the field at times in 2017, has seen action in seven-or-more contests as a sophomore and junior; and Sipe tallied 22 tackles with four going for opposing losses to join Cooper on the all-league honorable mention list.

The defensive line will be supported by a veteran secondary. Senior Austin Coughlin (Fairland, Ind.) tallied four picks as a junior and was responsible for five more break-ups; sophomore Nick Tillman (Lawrenceburg, Ind.) made the most of his freshman playing times with 28 tackles; senior Dillon Nelson (Fairland, Ind.), a regular starter in the area and second team all-loop honoree in 2017, is back with impressive career numbers that include over 130 tackles and 11 interceptions; and junior De'Lon Barnes (Los Angeles, Calif.) registered 42 tackles and a fumble recovery during an active sophomore slate.

"It's always nice to have that kind of returning experience along the line and in the secondary," Jensen said. "However, as is always the case, competition will still be important [in camp] between those returners and some fresh faces that can make an impact."

The most prominent spot with some question to it is linebacker. Graduated standouts Jack Kay and Mitch Oskam made the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference offenses dizzy with their tackle numbers and defensive prowess over the last two seasons. Junior Justin Thomas (Lowell, Ind.) and sophomore Conner Sherwin (Pierceton, Ind.) give defensive coordinator Brad Higginson and the coaching staff some building blocks to work with.

"You can't replace what guys [like Jack and Mitch] meant to the program," Jensen admitted. "However, Justin and Conner have both seen success, and they will need to play an important leadership role as we start out."

The Burt Field scoreboard saw the 2017 offensive average almost 25 points a game due to over 350 yards of production in each instance. Even with losses like standout receiver Dakota Nelson along with Jared Bourff, Eric Beard, and others, Jensen feels offensive coordinator Vince Cashdollar has plenty of options.

"[Coach Cashdollar's] biggest key will be how quickly the young guys step in and understand what we do," the head coach said. "We're going to need to rely on some new people due to graduation losses, but the talent is there. Our players' leadership is vital all over the field, but especially on offense, to the season's success."

The Spartans return junior quarterback Alex Downard (Indianapolis, Ind.) who is 8-5 in his last 13 starts; junior wide receiver Austin Roberts (Indianapolis, Ind.) who was named honorable mention all-conference as a sophomore; junior running back Donovan Henderson, Jr. (Hollywood, Fla.) who was just shy of 1,000 yards and a 100 yards per game and was second team all-league; and an offensive line unit that includes senior Brady Nyland (Avon, Ind.) and sophomore Conner Bettis (Rockville, Ind.) each of whom have seen a significant amount of playing time.

"There are some other possibilities we can look to," Jensen hinted. "We looked at some defense to offense changes over the spring, development of our young men this offseason and this freshman class has plenty of ability."

Beyond the linebacker two-deep setup, the special teams' corps will be up in the air as camp begins. Sophomore Kody Graham (Indianapolis, Ind.) did achieve 22 extra points and a field goal as a freshman but more will be needed with an opening at punter. The return area is also up for grabs, according to Jensen.

"We were able to turn the field in our direction many times due to what our kicking and returning people did [last year]," he noted. "We need to find a combination that works and quickly."

"The overall key for the team is how quickly can we gel together and how quickly they can mature," he added. "This senior class has stayed through the coaching change and bought into our philosophies. This freshman class will do the same. If we can do that, we could be pretty doggone good."

Oct. 19: All times Eastern
Final
Martin Luther 21, at Northwestern (Minn.) 6
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Oct. 20: All times Eastern
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at Stevenson 33, Wilkes 21
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at RPI 31, Hobart 24
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at MIT 13, Coast Guard 0
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Norwich 15, at Maine Maritime 7
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at Moravian 31, Juniata 14
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at Dean 53, Gallaudet 21
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Endicott 45, at Becker 13
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Frostburg State 24, at Montclair State 17
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SUNY-Maritime 68, at Castleton 41
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at Trinity (Texas) 28, Sewanee 14
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Johns Hopkins 51, at Gettysburg 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 29, at Brevard 21
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at Misericordia 37, FDU-Florham 33
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Union 29, at St. Lawrence 7
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at Ithaca 28, Rochester 3
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at Colby 23, Hamilton 21
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at Middlebury 35, Bates 34
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Trinity (Conn.) 48, at Bowdoin 6
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Springfield 23, at Catholic 11
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Amherst 33, at Wesleyan 3
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at Plymouth State 17, Massachusetts Maritime 14
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at Husson 54, Anna Maria 14
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TCNJ 13, at Kean 8
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Carnegie Mellon 41, at Thiel 7
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Salve Regina 30, at Curry 21
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King's 37, at Albright 26
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Trine 31, at Finlandia 0
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Final - OT
Susquehanna 41, at Ursinus 35
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Delaware Valley 52, at Lebanon Valley 7
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at Western New England 70, University of New England 13
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Franklin and Marshall 35, at Dickinson 14
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at Wittenberg 38, DePauw 23
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at Emory and Henry 52, Shenandoah 50
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at Wabash 32, Oberlin 7
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at Westminster (Pa.) 27, Washington and Jefferson 20
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at Hampden-Sydney 38, Guilford 35
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Final - OT
at Randolph-Macon 44, Bridgewater 41
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Cortland 56, at Hartwick 3
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at Denison 27, Ohio Wesleyan 10
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Waynesburg 12, at St. Vincent 10
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Salisbury 33, at Southern Virginia 0
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at Methodist 42, Greensboro 6
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Christopher Newport 39, at William Paterson 10
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Albion 49, at Adrian 42
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Thomas More 35, at St. Scholastica 0
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at Westminster (Mo.) 25, Minnesota-Morris 7
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Lake Forest 24, at Grinnell 0
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at Greenville 41, Crown 14
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at Merchant Marine 25, WPI 24
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at John Carroll 27, Marietta 24
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at Tufts 28, Williams 21
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Ohio Northern 49, at Capital 46
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Baldwin Wallace 35, at Wilmington 33
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at Mount Union 54, Heidelberg 0
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at Lycoming 52, Alvernia 0
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at Rose-Hulman 44, Anderson 6
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at Franklin 64, Earlham 20
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Hanover 48, at Manchester 14
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Mount St. Joseph 20, at Defiance 0
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at Utica 30, Alfred 22
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Maryville (Tenn.) 37, at LaGrange 17
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Framingham State 27, at Westfield State 2
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Morrisville State 35, at St. John Fisher 7
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at Muskingum 21, Otterbein 14
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Final - OT
at Berry 28, Millsaps 21
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Final
at Muhlenberg 42, McDaniel 18
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at Rowan 28, Wesley 27
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at Wooster 28, Hiram 21
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Allegheny 54, at Kenyon 10
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at Nebraska Wesleyan 23, Luther 15
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Wheaton (Ill.) 20, at Augustana 3
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at Eureka 50, Benedictine 20
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Mary Hardin-Baylor 49, at Belhaven 0
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at Hardin-Simmons 58, Texas Lutheran 14
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Chicago 63, at Beloit 0
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at Concordia (Wis.) 45, Concordia-Chicago 34
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Aurora 25, at Rockford 7
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at Bethel 41, Concordia-Moorhead 13
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Lakeland 38, at Wisconsin Lutheran 12
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at St. John's 57, St. Olaf 7
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at Gustavus Adolphus 42, Augsburg 0
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Final
Dubuque 38, at Buena Vista 7
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North Central (Ill.) 26, at Carthage 14
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at Ripon 58, Macalester 34
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at Monmouth 51, Cornell 0
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at Simpson 38, Loras 33
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at Knox 20, Illinois College 6
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UW-Stout 31, at UW-Stevens Point 27
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Millikin 14, at Elmhurst 13
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at MacMurray 20, Iowa Wesleyan 13
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Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at UW-Platteville 16
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at St. Thomas 68, Carleton 0
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at Mass-Dartmouth 41, Worcester State 27
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at Wartburg 47, Central 20
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at UW-Oshkosh 24, UW-La Crosse 13
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at UW-Whitewater 44, UW-River Falls 7
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at Birmingham-Southern 47, Austin 35
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Centre 41, at Rhodes 14
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at Carroll 23, North Park 0
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at Kalamazoo 17, Alma 10
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at Pacific Lutheran 33, Willamette 20
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at Brockport 65, Buffalo State 7
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at Averett 45, Huntingdon 17
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Washington and Lee 38, at Ferrum 35
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at Pacific 54, Lewis and Clark 22
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Redlands 35, at La Verne 17
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Whitworth 47, at Puget Sound 13
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Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 27, at Occidental 7
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Linfield 14, at George Fox 0
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at Hope 35, Olivet 30
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Overtime
28 Bridgewater State
28 Western Connecticut
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3:26 4th
27 Case Western Reserve
14 Geneva
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7:00 PM
Howard Payne at Sul Ross State
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7:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Louisiana College
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10:00 4th
27 Illinois Wesleyan
21 Washington U.
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7:00 PM
St. Norbert at Lawrence
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10:00 PM
Whittier at Pomona-Pitzer
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10:00 PM
Chapman at Cal Lutheran
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Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
Frostburg State 24, at Montclair State 17
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at RPI 31, Hobart 24
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Final
Trine 31, at Finlandia 0
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at Wittenberg 38, DePauw 23
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at Westminster (Pa.) 27, Washington and Jefferson 20
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Final
Delaware Valley 52, at Lebanon Valley 7
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Final
Johns Hopkins 51, at Gettysburg 14
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Final
at Mount Union 54, Heidelberg 0
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Final
at John Carroll 27, Marietta 24
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Final - OT
at Berry 28, Millsaps 21
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Final
at Rowan 28, Wesley 27
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at Muhlenberg 42, McDaniel 18
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Wheaton (Ill.) 20, at Augustana 3
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Mary Hardin-Baylor 49, at Belhaven 0
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at St. John's 57, St. Olaf 7
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Final
at Hardin-Simmons 58, Texas Lutheran 14
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North Central (Ill.) 26, at Carthage 14
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at St. Thomas 68, Carleton 0
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at UW-Oshkosh 24, UW-La Crosse 13
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at UW-Whitewater 44, UW-River Falls 7
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at Brockport 65, Buffalo State 7
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Final
Whitworth 47, at Puget Sound 13
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Final
Linfield 14, at George Fox 0
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3:26 4th
27 Case Western Reserve
14 Geneva
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10:00 4th
27 Illinois Wesleyan
21 Washington U.
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