If the 50th national title for TJC athletics was the Super Bowl, the decisive game of the World Series, NBA Finals or any other professional team championship, twice during the fall the champagne would have been on ice and the commemorative t-shirts would have been ready to distribute.
But as students left campus in December and returned last month, the search for that 50th championship continues.
Three sports teams in the fall looked like contenders to become the squad to reach that milestone for the school. Football took a top-five ranking into the playoffs but lost in the first round. Both the men’s soccer and volleyball teams played in the championship round of their respective national tournaments but both fell just short.
The football team won its first seven games before taking a loss. The team still advanced to the NJCAA playoffs, where they lost in the opening contest to Navarro 33-24. The squad qualified for the Football Capital of Kansas Bowl where they defeated Garden City Community College 47-21 to finish the season with a 9-2 record.
The volleyball team went 28-2 during the regular season, with its only two losses coming to rival Blinn. Blinn proved to be a thorn in the Apache ladies’ side in the postseason as well, defeating TJC in the finals of the Region XIV tournament and the national tournament, denying the Apache ladies the school’s 50th title with a 26-24, 25-27, 25-12, 26-24 victory in the national championship match.
The men’s soccer team took a 19-2 record and the Region XIV title into the national championship match against Iowa Western Community College where the Apaches lost in a shootout, leaving the athletic program with 49 titles at the end of the fall semester.
As the spring semester begins, a group of new teams will look to make history. The men’s and women’s basketball teams are well into their seasons. Baseball and tennis seasons have begun and golf will get going next month.
One, or more, of those teams will win a national title. The question may turn from which team will win the 50th crown, to how many over 50 the school will have before all is said and done at the end of the spring.
The women’s basketball season is ranked in the Top 10 nationally and will be the first team to have a legitimate shot at the milestone.
The baseball team finished last year with a No. 7 ranking.
If the 50th title isn’t won by either of those teams, the most legitimate shot will come once the tennis teams reach their postseason. Both the men’s and women’s teams have won the last five national championships and will be expected to do so again this season. In all, the tennis teams have combined to account for 35 of the school’s 49 national championships.
Whether it be baseball or tennis, basketball or golf, the next TJC team to win a national championship will make its mark in the history of the school’s athletic programs.