Evangel Crusaders Year-In-Review A look back at 2016

As 2016 comes to an end take a look back at this past semester for Evangel crusader athletics.

Evangel football opened its 40th season of football in 2016 under first-year head coach Chuck Hepola. Hepola was named the seventh head coach in Crusader football history March 22, as football also moved to Ozark, Missouri, and Tiger Stadium.

Brock West was one of four Crusaders to earn NAIA Scholar-Athlete honors for his hard-work on and off the field. West also was named CoSIDA Academic All-District and Academic All-America.

Seven Crusaders earned All-Heart South Division Honors in 2016 including First Team honorees Josh Evans and Brady Burke.

Junior Josh Evans was a First Team All-Heart linebacker and was also a finalist for the Cliff Harris Defensive Player of the Year award. Evans set the single-season school record for tackles for a loss and had the fourth most sacks in a single-season as he led the league in both categories. He is also the all-time tackles for a loss leader and ranks fifth in school history with 19 total sacks.

Sophomore defensive back Dalton Taylor returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown and blocked another field goal to help the Crusaders capture a Homecoming victory on October 22 vs Central Methodist. Taylor was not only named the Heart Special Teams Player of the Week, but earned national honors being named the NAIA National Player of the Week as well.

2016 Evangel Soccer

Coryell FIeld

Coryell Field was completed in September as the new home for Evangel men's and women's soccer and future home of Crusader football. The Evangel women's soccer team played the first ever match on Coryell Field September, 20.

The Crusaders fell, 2-0, in the first ever match played on Coryell Field.
Both Evangel men's and women's soccer teams won their first match at Coryell Field on Oct. 15 vs. Clarke University. The women won 1-0 before the men claimed a 2-1 victory.

In year two for Evangel men's soccer, the Crusaders finished the year 5-13 and also earned their first Heart victory. Kyler Moore paced the Crusaders with eight goals scored on the season and 17 points.

The Crusader women's soccer team captured the program's first ever win on the opening weekend of action at Stephens College on Aug. 26, with a 4-1 win.

Evangel started the season 3-0 including the program's first ever shutout, a 2-0 win over Williams Baptist. Lesleigh Fenton and Brooke Todd scored four goals each to lead the Crusaders offensively in 2016.

The Evangel Volleyball team finished the season 20-15 marking the 14th consecutive season with 20 wins.

Morgan Kensinger finished second in the nation in blocks as she set the all-time Evangel blocks record. Kensinger and Jackie Fugate were named to the All-Heart First Team while four other Crusaders earned all-conference accolades.

Senior Allie Dunton-Moss joined Morgan Kensinger as NAIA Scholar-Athletes. She also set an Evangel single-match record with 47 digs on September 9, and tied her own record on November 3, in the first round of the Heart Postseason Tournament.

Senior Devon Colegrove finished one of the best cross country careers in Evangel history. Colegrove earned his third consecutive trip to the NAIA National Championships after a sixth place finish at the Heart Championships.
The Evangel women were led by Leslie Perona who finished 21st at the Heart Championships. Perona also helped the Crusader women capture the title at the St. Louis XC Fall Classic as she crossed the finish line in fourth.

Devon Colegrove, right, races at the 2016 NAIA National Championships.

The Evangel women captured first place at the 2016 St. Louis Fall XC Classic.
The Evangel men's basketball team ended 2016 as one of the hottest teams in the Heart. Starting with a win over rival College of the Ozarks, the Crusaders end 2016 and head into 2017, with four straight wins including an upset over #13 Grand View.
After scoring nine points and adding six assists, Dylan Bekemeier posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 assists to help the Crusaders sweep Vanguard and Shepherd at the Assemblies of God Classic in Costa Mesa, California.
Ending 2016, the Evangel women's basketball has prepared for one of the toughest conference schedules in the nation. Led by All-American Allison Swanson, Evangel opens 2017 conference action vs. #12 Baker on January 3.
The Crusader women also continue their outreach in the Evangel and Springfield community. In addition to a summer trip to the Philippines to provide a basketball clinic and served in a variety of settings during their trip. You can read to full story here.
Head Coach Leon Neal and assistant coach Dawn Neal have continued to help serve in Springfield during the season. The Crusaders volunteered at the Miracle League Ball Field through September.
The Crusaders donated Thanksgiving baskets to all of the children in Bailey Irvine's class at Watkins Elementary school. Bailey was a wonderful student-athlete at Evangel and an excellent student assistant coach for two years.
Coach Neal and Evangel women's basketball also delivered Christmas presents to the Watkins Elementary School students.

Senior Mairead Cleary finished the fall season with the Consolation Championship at the Wheat State Fall Classic. Cleary will help lead the Crusader women's tennis team into spring team action starting January 28.

The Crusader men's golf team saw junior Dylan Bekemeier win the 2016 Evangel Fall Invitational. Evangel will head into the spring season searching for its first Heart Championship since 2012 at Hail Ridge Golf Course in Boonville, Missouri.

Blake McKnight is called up to Double-A Springfield

Blake McKnight was called up to Double-A Springfield on August 26, 2016. McKnight was the first Evangel baseball player drafted by a major league team when he was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 38th round of the draft on June 8, 2013. With the Palm Beach Cardinals, McKnight posted a 3.11 ERA in 33 appearances and a 3-6 record with two saves. The O'Fallon, Missouri native graduated from Evangel in 2013. During his time in Springfield, McKnight made four appearances in the Cardinals postseason stretch run going 1-0 with four strikeouts.
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