For many at Graceland, sports are a very important part of the college experience. This year, the football team found themselves in a difficult position; they didn’t have any kickers. The team needed help, so they put out feelers all over campus. As luck would have it, they found exactly what they needed on the JV men’s soccer team.
Carlos Coello and Will Graef, both freshmen, decided to lend a helping hand, or foot, rather, and kick for two Yellowjacket teams.
Graef (right) is from Canyon, Texas, and has been playing soccer since he was four years old. He also used to play football, although as wide receiver and corner back. For Graef, Graceland is somewhat of a family tradition; both his father and uncle are alumni. After being introduced to Graceland by his father and going to SPEC, Graef decided he would attend and play soccer.
Coello (left) comes to Graceland from a little further away. He is from Ecuador, South America. Coello also began playing soccer at the age of four, learning how to play with the help of his grandfather. He admits he took a bit of a break from soccer to learn taekwondo, but after earning his black belt, Coello returned to soccer, and Graceland recruited him after seeing a highlight video of him playing.
OUR SOCCER COACH CAME INTO THE LOCKER ROOM ON THE FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE AND ASKED IF ANY OF THE JV GUYS WOULD LIKE TO TRY OUT FOR FOOTBALL AS THE KICKER. ME AND CARLOS – WE KIND OF LOOKED AT EACH OTHER – EH, WHY NOT.
Playing two sports keeps both men pretty busy, but they do find ways to relax and have fun. Graef enjoys doing things with his House, and Coello really enjoys anything with music, whether it’s singing or playing an instrument.
While time management is a major factor for everyone, Bryan Courtney, head men’s soccer coach, is happy the two Yellowjackets have chosen to participate in both soccer and football.
“Graceland provides a healthy, positive environment to create meaningful relationships while belonging to something greater than yourself.”
–Bryan Courtney `98
Head Coach, Men’s Soccer
Caleb Thomas, a freshman wide receiver, is catching everyone’s attention.
In the game against Baker, he had 27 receptions – the most in NAIA history and more than anyone ever in all divisions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Head coach Marc Kolb says, “Our goal in practice is to run three plays per minute. It’s constant motion. As a team, we have already set NAIA records for most plays in a game (124) and most plays by an individual (103), as well. If things go according to plan, we will set three All Division records, six NAIA individual records and one NAIA team record.”
Graceland football is moving forward!
27 – Most Receptions in a Game
14.3 – Receptions Per Game and Counting
The women’s soccer team has marked their best season since 2013. The Jackets have compiled a 13-4-1 overall, qualifying for the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament.
Megan Kimrey (offensive), Jady Polson (defensive) and Manaia Siania Unutoa (defensive – twice) each earned Heart of America Athletic Conference Player of the Week honors. Five players earned Heart Conference accolades with Siania Unutoa leading the way. Unutoa was named First Team All-Conference goalkeeper, while Megan Kimrey earned second team as a forward. Bethany Koutsouridis (midfielder), Jady Polson (defender) and Suzune Sato (forward) rounded out the accolades with third team recognition. National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) awards will be released at a later date.
“RESULTS ARE IMPORTANT FOR MANY REASONS, BUT THE PROCESS, THE SPIRIT, THE CAMARADERIE, THE COMPETITIVENESS AND THE OVERALL ACADEMIC, ATHLETIC AND CAMPUS EXPERIENCE IS THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE. WE WORK HARD EVERY DAY TO BE A TEAM, TO REPRESENT OURSELVES, THE WOMEN’S SOCCER PROGRAM AND GRACELAND UNIVERSITY.”
– Ozzie White
Head Coach, Women’s Soccer
The women’s soccer program will continue in the Heart Tournament with hopes of earning a bid to the NAIA National Championships. Graceland earned the fourth seed in the Heart Tournament and defeated Grand View University in the quarterfinal contest. The Yellowjackets won the semifinals and advanced to the conference finals on Nov. 11 against Benedictine College.
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