Athletics faces challenges in DI transition

With California Baptist University’s move from NCAA Division II to Division I, gone are the days of playoff appearances, conference championships and national awards, right?

Not so fast.

Less than a month into Division-I competition, the Lancer fall teams have already proven they belong.

Riding a 29-1 campaign in 2017, CBU volleyball found instant success in this new environment. The Lancers opened the season 4-0 at the Starkvegas Classic, dropping just one set and capping the weekend off with a win over Power Five Conference member, Mississippi State.

Branden Higa, head volleyball coach,  said wins over household names such as the Bulldogs mean a bit more than other wins.

“We try to not play the jersey,” Higa said, “It does mean something to be able to be a school that’s an emerging DI school and to take a win off a Power Five, off an SEC school. That is pretty big.”

Speaking of household names, CBU men’s and women’s soccer teams are a combined 5-3, including wins over the University of Houston and Gonzaga University.

This winter, both Lancer wrestling and basketball will look to make big splashes in Division-I waters.

Last season, CBU wrestling battled against Division I Stanford, but ultimately fell 20-15. The Lancers will be tested early as they host wrestling powerhouse Ohio State in their second duel of the season.

CBU basketball exited Division II with an Elite Eight appearance and is gearing up to host high-level basketball in the state-of-the-art Events Center.

The Lancers take on 2017 Division I Sweet Sixteen team, the University of Nevada, Reno, in November. When CBU opens Western Athletic Conference play in January, it will get its first shot at 2018 WAC champion, New Mexico State.

With an NCAA Division II Learfield Director’s Cup in its rearview mirror, CBU is on a mission to prove they can compete at the nation’s highest level.

In a 2017 press conference, WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd welcomed the Lancers to the Division I conference.

“Commitment to quality academics and athletics programs, along with the extraordinary vision provided by (CBU) President (Ronald L.) Ellis, are at the top of the list,” Hurd said during the press conference. “There is no doubt that CBU will make a smooth transition to Division I and to the WAC.”

While CBU will not be immediately eligible for postseason play, Lancer fans will have plenty of opportunities to celebrate the smooth transition. Division I royalty is sprinkled across the 2018-19 schedules, giving the Lancers numerous chances to put themselves on the Division I map.

About Cullen Holt

Asst. Sports Editor

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