Western Michigan’s Rachel Bontrager is MAC Player of the Year

Western Michigan’s Rachel Bontrager, a Valparaiso graduate, was named the MAC Player of the Year. The senior finished the season with 387 kills, which was fourth overall among NCAA Division I players.

If this is it for Rachel Bontrager, she definitely didn’t leave anything on the volleyball court.

The Valparaiso High graduate and Western Michigan star was recently named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year.

“Rachel is deserving of all the accolades and honors coming her way,” Western Michigan coach Colleen Munson said. “Her mindset is what stands out the most for me — she has grown tremendously on and off the court so much over her career.”

Bontrager has a season of eligibility remaining, due to COVID-19, if she’d like to return. If Bontrager doesn’t return, Munson said the senior has already put her name all over the program’s record books.

Bontrager, the program’s first MAC Player of the Year in 20 years, was All-MAC for three seasons and led the conference (fourth in the NCAA) with 387 kills. Her 4.66 kills per set ranks first in the conference and was eighth in the nation.

She ended the regular season having 18 straight matches with double-digit kills and had double-digit kills in 20 of 21 matches. Her .324 hitting percentage in 21 matches was ninth-best in the MAC and her nine double-doubles led the Broncos.

“Rachel is also a six-rotation player, which means she plays front row and back row,” Munson said. “She finished on the right side of the court (front and back row) which is where she started in our program. When she was a freshman, she played on the left side/outside.

“This doesn’t seem like that big of a change, yet it is an entirely different perspective for athletes to make this adjustment and Rachel embraced it and did what was best for the team.”

The right side was definitely a place where Bontrager found a home and dominated this past season.

“Opponents were not able to stop her offensively and she is such a great blocker so the match-ups for her always worked in her favor,” Munson said.

For her career, Bontrager is the only player in school history with over 1,600 career kills and 1,000 career digs. Her 1,613 career kills rank second all-time in program history and her 1,032 career digs are 10th overall.

She also reached 30 kills in a five-set victory over Buffalo on March 4, the first player since 2005 to eclipse 30 kills in a match.

The Broncos (18-5) fell to Bowling Green (22-1) in the MAC championship match. Bontrager didn’t go down without a fight, though, with a match-high 21 kills to go with 11 digs. It was her 11th double-double of the season. The standout finished the season with 20 straight matches with double-digit kills.

• Purdue (14-6) earned the No. 7 seed among 48 teams for the NCAA Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska.

Junior Emma Terwilliger (Valparaiso) has played in 49 sets, while freshman Savana Chacon (Crown Point) has appeared in three. The tournament starts Wednesday.

Men’s basketball

Cedarville’s Conner TenHove (Valparaiso) was selected as the 2021 Pete Maravich Award recipient by the National Christian College Athletic Association.

The senior forward and three-year captain averaged 11.3 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds a game. During his four years, TenHove hit 88% of his free throws.

TenHove is a double major in political science and history, holds a 3.47 GPA and serves on Cedarville’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

The award recognizes an outstanding NCCAA student-athlete in basketball who highlights excellence in competition, skill, academics, and Christian service during their career.

Football

Anderson’s Jawan Coney (Morton) had eight tackles, two sacks, and forced a fumble in a 42-19 loss to Defiance on April 4. The freshman linebacker totaled minus-18 yards on the two sacks. Teammate Sean McSmith (Griffith) added five tackles.

Women’s track and field

Western Michigan’s Annalise James (Lowell) won the steeplechase with a time of 11 minutes, 36.27 seconds at the Hilltopper Relays at Western Kentucky on April 3.

Teammate Madison Ochs (Chesterton) was fifth in the discus.

• Embry-Riddle’s Piper Kimes (Boone Grove) won her third consecutive pole vault title at the Spikes Classic in Daytona Beach.

The freshman tied her personal-best with a leap of 10 feet, 6 inches.

Baseball

Kankakee’s Kyle Iwinski (Griffith) went eight innings on a four-hitter in a 10-3 victory over Triton. The freshman right-hander is 4-0 on the season with 2.78 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched.

Iwinski is tied for first in wins in the NJCAA Division II rankings and third in ERA.

• Manchester’s Keegan Stevens (Rensselaer) pitched two innings of relief with two-hit ball in a 7-3 victory over Bluffton, and followed with 2 1/3 innings of solid relief to earn his first save against Earlham. The senior is 3-1 on the season.

Softball

Purdue’s Rylee Platusic (Lake Central) had a recent seven-game hitting streak. The junior is third on the team with a .341 average and hit her first homer against Iowa.

• IPFW’s Madeline Swart (Kankakee Valley) leads the team with a .348 batting average. The sophomore infielder is also first in runs (17), hits (23), and has five doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Lauren McConnell (MC Marquette) has appeared in 13 games in the circle with two saves.

• Indiana State’s Lexi Benko (Chesterton) is second on the team in innings pitched (49) and has two wins and a save.

• Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Crystal Guzman (Lake Central) went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs in a 6-5 victory over Horizon League-leading Youngstown State Friday.

Guzman, a junior, has started all 29 games.

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