• Athletics Banner Year in NCCAA
    Banner Year for the @LeeUFlames

    Very few teams on any level of competition in collegiate sports can match the overall success of the Lee Lady Flames and Flames against NCCAA competition during the 2014-15 calendar year. Four national championships were recorded in the sports spanning of cross country, soccer and basketball.

    It began on a cold mid-November morning in upstate New York when the Lee men’s cross country team captured the 2014 National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Division I National Championship on the Houghton College Field of Dreams course.

    From near-freezing temperatures and snow flurries, the conditions shifted to warm and sunny conditions in Kissimmee, Fla. area for the annual NCCAA National Soccer Tournaments where the Flames and Lady Flames battled rugged competition to claim national titles on the very same day.

    Lee men’s soccer coach Paul Furey probably said it best when he noted, “"What a thrill to win a national championship and then to share the same experience with our women's team during the same day,"

    The streak of NCCAA championships carried back into the cold and snowy conditions of northern Indiana in March where the women’s basketball team won the NCCAA Division I crown hosted by Grace College (Winona Lakes, Ind.).

    “This has been a banner year for Lee athletics and the NCCAA,” said Lee Athletic Director Larry Carpenter. “It was great to see Coach (Marty) Rowe, Coach (Paul) Furey and Coach (Caleb) Morgan win their first national titles. One of the true pleasures of my job is watching our student athletes and coaches celebrate after winning a national championship. I witnessed tears of happiness and watched seniors finish their careers with a win.”

    MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY

    More than 50 teams and 375 competitors from two NCCAA divisions took part in the men's 8K and women's 5K races.

    Five Lee runners (Seth Eagleson, Harold Smith, Tyler Boone, Jessica Childers and Elizabeth Sillcocks) earned recognition as NCCAA All-Americans by finishing among the top 15 runners from NCCAA Division I in their respective races.

    The Flames placed five runners among the top 23 finishers of Division I to record a score of 60. Oklahoma Christian was second (83), Emmanuel College placed third and Spring Arbor (Mich.) finished fourth (121).

    Eagleson was the first to cross the finish line for Lee. The freshman recorded a time of 25:11.9 for third place. Tucker Hilley of Emmanuel was first (25:05.8) and Bryant Keirns of Oklahoma Christian was second (25:06.9).

    Smith was right behind Eagleson in fourth with a mark of 25:14.1 and Boone finished 12th overall (25:40.6). Camden Perez was 19th (26:09.4) and Joseph Crook was Lee's final scoring runner at 26:20.0 (24th overall).

    Emmanuel Kipchumba and Terris Elliott were the final two Lee runners. Kipchumba was 56th (27:11.2) and Elliott finished 137th with a time of 29:31.7.

    MEN’S SOCCER

    Three hundred and sixty-four days earlier, coach Paul Furey and his Flames were denied their first NCCAA national championship when they lost a heart-breaking decision to Southern Wesleyan University in the tournament final.

    After waiting an entire year and gaining an at large berth to the NCCAA National Championship at the same Austin-Tindall Soccer Complex, the Flames were able to celebrate the soccer national title by coming from behind in the second half and defeating Bethel College (Ind.) 2-1.

    "Our guys can really take pride in doing something special and I think they will remember this for a long time," said coach Paul Furey after the championship victory. "The competition was very good and we had to work hard in each of the matches. Furey was named the NCCAA National Coach of Year.

    David Perez was voted the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. His teammate Quade Marinell was the tournament's Top Offensive Player and they were joined on the all-tournament team by goalkeeper Joey Hinshaw and defender Jonathan Finlay.

    Goalkeeper Tom Halsall, who was injured and missed national tournament play, was selected as a NCCAA First Team All-American. Defender Garrison was also an All-American First-Team honoree.

    WOMEN’S SOCCER

    Winning national championships was nothing new for coach Matt Yelton and his Lady Flames. After all the Lee women had won four straight NAIA National Championships, but were humbled when they exited early from their first NCCAA national tournament under coach Yelton in 2013.

    In an NCCAA national championship match that will long be remembered, the Lady Flames outscored a talented Grace College (Ind.) team 6-5 on penalty kicks to earn the right to add the NCCAA National Championship banner to their crowded trophy case.

    The win by the Lady Flames touched off a celebration between the Lee men and women teams that lasted for several minutes.

    In the shootout, Michele Spangler, Kaela Leskovar, Katie Cloud, Meagan Newman, Kinsey Cichowitz and Allison Braun made their kicks to put the pressure squarely on Grace's final kicker who had to make her shot to keep the shootout alive.

    Lee goalkeeper Marbel Egwuenu, who has stepped up bigtime for the Lady Flames, especially late in the season, made the save of her career when she blocked the match's final attempt and was later presented the game ball by coach Yelton.

    Yelton told his ladies after the celebration ended and the picture taking was concluded, that this was one of the hardest working teams he had coached since taking the Lee position. "We got off to a 1-3 start and a lot of people were writing you girls off for the year but you refused to quit and grouped together as well as any club I have had the privilege to coach."

    Leskovar was selected as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Kathryn Healy won the Most Outstanding Offensive Player honor, while Cichowitz and Braun were named to the All-Tournament team. Yelton was labeled the National Coach of the Year.

    Defender Michelle Spangler and midfielder Cichowitz were placed on the NSCAA/Continental Tire NCCAA All-America First Team, while Egwuenu and defender Meagan Newman were listed on the Second Team.

    WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

    The third time proved to be a charm for coach Marty Rowe and his Lee University women's basketball team.

    Two years ago the Lady Flames were beaten in the final round of the NAIA national tournament. Last season Lee lost in the NCCAA national championship game to rival Union University. But this year, there was no denying the Lee women. They defeated Bethesda University (Calif.) 95-59 to convincingly win the 2015 NCCAA National title.

    The Lady Flames blistered the nets in the second half, shooting 68 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range. Junior Kayla Beavers, who earned a spot on the All-Tournament team, set a new NCCAA national tournament record and also a new Lee record by knocking down nine 3-point shots and finishing the contest with 27 points.

    Freshman Shelby Brown was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. She finished the championship win with a double-double, 19 points and 10 rebounds.

    Carrie Cheeks recorded a career high with 27 points and 19 of those markers came in the first 20 minutes. She also had nine rebounds. Erin Walsh, who was also named a second-team All-American, totaled 12 points and seven rebounds. Alex Swope established a new Lee assists record with 13.

    Emileigh Swafford, unable to play in the tournament, earned first-team NCCAA All-American honors. Rowe was tagged as the NCCAA National Coach of the Year.

    The Lady Flames defense held the high-scoring Bethesda team that scored over 100 points in the semi-final round to just 59 points and 23 percent shooting from the field.

    "We've got a lot to build on with this club," pointed out Coach Rowe. "It has been the most fun I have ever had coaching a basketball team. These girls bought into what we were trying to do and improved with each game the entire season."

    The Lady Flames finished with an impressive 23-8 record and won their last eight contests.

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