Highlander Athletics News – Winter 2024

January 22, 2024

Department of Athletics Honors Student-Athletes Lost in 1981 Accident

Friends, family, former teammates and members of the Houghton community gathered in the Kerr-Pegula Field House in October to honor the lives and legacies of Alan “Al” Bushart ’82, Joy Ellis ’82 and Cynthia “Cindy” Rudes ’82, three student-athletes who were among six students killed in an auto accident on October 2, 1981.

The event included the unveiling of a wall display; comments from Houghton President Wayne D. Lewis, Jr. and Director of Athletics Matthew Webb; remembrances from friends Brian ’82 and Christine (Schmidt ’82) Davidson; and a closing prayer from Bushart’s brother, Kevin.

In honor of their leadership, sportsmanship and Christ-like character, the display includes Bushart’s game jersey – which has been retired by the men’s soccer program – as well as photos and a written tribute to the three student-athletes. The department also officially announced the creation of the Joy Ellis and Cynthia Rudes Women’s Volleyball Endowment.

Bushart, Ellis and Rudes left an indelible mark on the Highlander programs and continue to be remembered with fondness on campus and among their former teammates and coaches for their campus leadership and their commitment to their faith in Jesus Christ.

The tribute continued at the men’s soccer and women’s volleyball games later that afternoon as members of each team wore commemorative t-shirts with the jersey numbers worn by Bushart, Ellis and Rudes.

Title Change, Promotion and Two New Faces for Houghton Sports Medicine

Houghton Director of Athletics Matthew Webb announced several important changes to both the administrative and sports medicine teams this fall. Deanna Hand has received a job title change and will now be Senior Associate Athletic Director for Internal Operations, while Austin Walden has been promoted to Head Athletic Trainer. The Highlanders have also added two staff members to the sports medicine team; former Houghton student-athlete Leslie Moose ’19 has been hired as a full-time athletic trainer, and Connor Englert will split time between athletic training duties and serving as Houghton’s first strength and conditioning coach.

Houghton men's volleyball player hitting ball over net to opponents.

Men’s Volleyball Set for Opening Season

Developments continue for Houghton’s newest sport, men’s volleyball, which was added as an intercollegiate sport last year. The department welcomed former Highlander women’s volleyball standout Lindsay (Burgher ’13) Seddon as its first head coach in the spring, and the team officially joined the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference in June. The team will begin its inaugural season in January with plans to move into conference play during the 2025 spring campaign. Seddon and her roster of 14 student-athletes have been practicing this fall in preparation for a 15-date schedule that begins January 19.

Houghton women's volleyball students worked with students during mission trip to Nicaragua.

Four Teams Continue Houghton’s Sport Ministry Legacy

A vital aspect of the student-athlete and team experience in Houghton athletics has been the opportunity for sports ministry. Four teams were able to continue in that legacy by participating in short-term ministry trips this summer and fall. Men’s soccer and women’s soccer traveled to Brazil in May with Missionary Athletes International, while women’s volleyball connected with Houghton alum Judy Fox ’89 on a trip to Nicaragua with Ignite International. This fall, men’s basketball traveled to Puerto Rico with Push the Rock, connecting with Houghton alumnus John Romàn ’77 at Wesleyan Academy.

Each team used the platform of sport to connect with the local communities, conducting clinics, participating in work projects and playing scrimmages against local teams.

Record Fall for Field Hockey

The field hockey team posted another record-setting fall season. The team advanced to the Empire 8 Tournament for the second-straight year and had its first back-to-back double-digit win seasons since 2004 and 2005. Head Coach Hannah Zgrablich Ogden ’14 passed coaching legend George Wells ’47 for the second most head coaching wins in program history. She now has 69 wins in nine seasons and trails only Donna Hornibrook (111 wins).

The Highlanders led the Empire 8 in goals scored (67), the second-most goals in program history, trailing the 2022 team by two goals. The team also tied the 2022 team for the most shutouts (6) in Houghton’s NCAA-era. With 17 goals, junior Bekah Davie ’25 now has 47 goals in her three-year career, second-most in Houghton history. She trails only Kelly Mazzeo ’05, who scored 54 career goals. Junior Jace Hunzinger ’25 became not only Houghton’s single-season leader (breaking her own record, established in 2022) but the Highlanders’ all-time assist leader (51) and the Empire 8 single-season and career assist leader. She led the NCAA in assists per game (1.25), her second consecutive season accomplishing the feat.

Houghton women's field hockey team.

Men’s Cross Country Claims First E8 Title, Linenfelser Wins Women’s Race

The men’s cross country program captured Houghton’s fourth team conference championship in October, joining women’s cross country (2019) and men’s tennis (2021, 2023) as E8 champions. The Highlanders placed five runners in the top 10, led by a third-place finish by Caleb Kasper ’24 in the 8K course in 25:17.7. “This group blended skills like focus and incredible work ethic in training and compartmentalized better than I’ve ever seen. We’ll remember this day for a long time,” said Head Coach Patrick Hager.

In the women’s race, sophomore Noelle Linenfelser ’26 was the individual champion, capturing the 6K title in 21:38.8, giving Houghton back-to-back women’s titles (Amanda Burrichter ’22) and three since 2019 (Shelby Langlois ’20). The women finished third as a team.

Houghton men's cross country team cheering together in a huddle.