Cumberland’s fall sports continued preseason workouts over the weekend as they prepare for their first competitions of the season, which take place from Aug. 28-31. A few notes and quotes from the six sports with athletes already on campus:
The Bulldogs held their first scrimmage on Saturday, which included a pair of interceptions by junior Grant Jones. Offensive coordinator Ryan Locke and the entire unit are still adjusting to a new offense, the spread, and the scrimmage included Locke in the press box in a more gameday-type setting, calling plays that were signaled to the offense on the field.
Head coach Donnie Suber said the squad of almost 170 players has showed great progress through the first eight days of camp, but the cool temperatures and almost daily rain showers has cut down on some of the conditioning opportunities for the club.
“We’ve still got a long ways to go, but Saturday was a good start for both sides of the ball,” Suber said. “The offense is still learning as a whole, from the coaching staff to the players, the timing and nuances of play calls and running plays at the fast pace that we’d like to.
“We’re trying to build some depth on defense but also preparing for Tennessee Tech, which runs an Oregon-type hurry-up offense. The heat and humidity the next few days should allow us to condition a little better and really get ready for next week’s opener.”
Cumberland will complete two-a-days on Thursday and take off Saturday before beginning game-week prep work on Sunday for next Thursday’s season-opener at Tennessee Tech, set for 7 p.m. at Tucker Stadium.
Fourth-year head coach Gavin McKinney welcomed a veteran team to preseason practices and the fitness level of the entire group showed during the club’s fitness tests during the first week of drills.
“This was definitely the most players to pass the fitness test in my time here,” McKinney said. “We’ve had the same three tests over the last several years and I made the standard times a little tougher; yet the most players passed them, which really shows how dedicated this group is.”
The Bulldogs are spending this week in Florida, training in the mornings and working on fitness in the evenings. This is the second year for the preseason trip and McKinney called it perhaps the most important week of the season for his team.
“There are no distractions, no other teams, so the players really get to know each other and bond and can build some team unity. Although we have a lot of returning players, several of the newcomers will play vital roles this season and this puts everyone in a relaxed environment to come together as a team. We want to get as sharp as we can on the field and be extremely fit as well with this week of training.”
The club will continue with training sessions in the morning and then fitness in the evening on the beach in the sand. Cumberland opens the season Aug. 28 at Tennessee Wesleyan and begins the home schedule Sept. 1 versus Brenau University.
Bulldog men’s soccer has practiced three times a day for the first nine days of preseason, including a 6 a.m. workout for keepers as well as a 7:15 a.m. session for all varsity players along with a midday workout and then an evening practice. First-year head coach Kyle Smith has used the time to get to know his players and set the expectation level for the upcoming season.
“Preseason camp is always a difficult time, but we want to work on attitude, training and tactics everyday and it’s important to get a grasp of what our team has to offer this season,” Smith said. “You also use the long hours to build relationships with the players and amongst themselves. Those relationships take time but with the long hours, those walls are easily broken down.
“We also want to set the expectation of what we want from their side and follow through with it on our side and I think your team really gets better working through that.”
With eight seniors on this year’s club, including five returning starters, the head coach has allowed the veteran group to lead at certain times through the long days of training sessions.
“We have a strong group of core leaders and we’ve let them take ownership of the program when they need to. If you push too much, the players have a tendency to tune you out, so you need that balance of voices within the team. Our training sessions have a structure of physical, technical and practical work. Each session follows a certain model, but there’s always time for necessary changes, red flags, positives.”
The Bulldogs will narrow in on more specific soccer items in the coming days, as they prepare for the season-opener Aug. 28 at Tennessee Wesleyan.
“We’ll talk about how we want to play, attack, defend, all of those things and more in the next few days,” Smith said. “It’s a credit to the amount of work the players have put in that we are as far along as we are heading into next week.”
The Cumberland volleyball squad welcomed 11 newcomers to the roster this season, including five junior college transfers. The new players have been working during camp to learn the club’s offensive and defensive systems.
“With our new players, we are trying to teach them a new offensive system and new calls,” said head coach Dwayne Deering, entering his 26th season at the helm. “Most of the routes are the exact same from their former school, but there may be a different name we need to learn.”
Deering has also put a strong focus on getting his players physically and mentally ready for the season. The club has spent time in the weight room with strength and conditioning coach Ryan Cotton as well as putting a focus on being mentally prepared for key moments in close games.
“I want our girls to be aggressive. When the game is tight, we have to make something happen. I will never complain about someone making a mistake being aggressive. We want our players to be thinking they want the ball in big moments.”
The Bulldogs will begin tapering off two-a-day workouts in preparation for their opening match Aug. 28 against Tennessee Temple, set for 6 p.m. at the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center.
MEN’S AND WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY
Cumberland’s cross country teams have been working out once a day since reporting to campus, continuing their summer workout plan under second-year head coach Jared Klosterboer. The squad is also lifting twice a week in the weight room, total body workouts with low weight and high reps.
“If the runners did their summer workouts well, then this is really just a continuation of that plan,” Klosterboer said. “You really build up your mileage and your aerobic base in the spring and summer so that when we come into the fall, we can work on speed endurance and lactic-threshold training to get ready for the events, with everything building toward the conference championship in early November.”
The group has also taken part in what Klosterboer termed mile repeats, running a mile in 15-20 seconds less than their normal pace, taking a short recovery period and then running another mile. They do this up to five times for the five-mile run in their competitions for the men.