This year four teams at Owens Community College have made the move from Division III to Division II.
And that move is much bigger than just deleting a Roman numeral.
The volleyball, men's soccer, baseball and softball programs at Owens made the move up to Division II status in the National Junior College Athletic Association.
The biggest change, according to Owens athletic director Michael Rickard, is that those four programs now can award scholarships.
“The biggest thing those (scholarships) mean is that our student-athletes now get a chance to go to school and put an emphasis on education instead of work,” he said. “Our students have to juggle a lot of balls: go to classes, study, participate in sports and work. A lot of times they had to make a choice between working to pay for their education and participating in sports.
“Now by offering scholarships we have an opportunity to get athletes we wouldn't have had before. It should increase the talent level in each of our sports.”
The change won't be noticeable in men's and women's basketball, where Owens has long played at the Division II level. It also won't be apparent in league play, where Owens already is among the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference's elite programs.
Owens has claimed the last three all-sport championships in the OCCAC despite being one of only two teams in the 10-school conference that was not a Division II school - Columbus State is the other.
But Rickard said the change will be clearly evident when Owens teams compete for national honors. For example, in volleyball the Express finished third in the nation last season, marking the team's second straight appearance in the national tournament.
This year Owens is ranked ninth in Division II but has two other top-ranked schools in its district, including defending national champ St. Clair College. That increased competition may block the Express from a berth in the national tournament that the school will host Nov. 8-10.
But Rickard said the programs at Owens are ready to tackle this new level of competition. “From our past successes it's clear we've had a lot of high-caliber athletes,” he said. “We're willing to take this challenge.”
GETTING HIS KICKS: Former Anthony Wayne standout Andy Cline was named Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference special-teams player of the week on Sept. 17.
The previous Saturday Cline, a freshman at Albion College, had kicked two field goals in overtime to help the Britons to a 34-31 triple-overtime win at Buffalo State.
In the first overtime Cline kicked a 36-yard field goal, his longest of the season, to force a second overtime. And in the third extra session he booted a game-winning 20-yard field goal.
So far this season Cline has made four of six field-goal attempts and 15 of 16 PAT tries for a team-leading 27 points.
ON A ROLL: The Heidelberg men's soccer team was ranked fourth in the Great Lakes Region in the latest rankings by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
The 'Berg had won six in a row and was 7-1 before suffering a 1-0 overtime loss to Ohio Northern in the two schools' Ohio Athletic Conference opener.
During its six-game win streak Heidelberg averaged 4.5 goals per contest while holding its opposition to a total of three goals.
Among the team leaders for the 'Berg are Monroe native Adam Neill, a junior who has netted six goals.
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