McKendree University senior defensive end Lucky Baar has been named a first-team NCAA Division II All-America selection by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). The AFCA released its list of All-America honorees Wednesday morning.
Baar becomes the first Bearcat to earn first-team AFCA All-America accolades in the program’s Division II era. He is the lone player from the Great Lakes Valley Conference to be named to the AFCA list in 2016.
“We are really happy for Lucky to receive this honor from the AFCA,” said McKendree head football coach Mike Babcock. “It’s a well-deserved honor for a great young man. Lucky worked hard every day he stepped onto the football field for us and worked hard in everything he did. This is certainly a great moment for him, and we’re proud of all he accomplished in a McKendree uniform.”
Baar put his mark on the McKendree football record books not only this season, but throughout his four-year career with the Bearcats.
In 2016, he was sixth on the team with 55 tackles, 34 of which were solos. Baar led McKendree with 21.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 quarterback sacks. He was just a half-sack shy of his own school record of 18 set as a sophomore in 2014.
Baar closed his McKendree playing days as the program’s career leader in both sacks (46.5) and tackles for loss (65.5). He is also tied for the Bearcats’ all-time lead with eight forced fumbles, and is tied for 10th in career tackles with 183.
During the Bearcats’ 41-14 season-ending win at home against Truman State University, Baar registered the final sack of his career in the second quarter. That play made Baar the NCAA Division II career leader in sacks. As the NCAA Division II postseason winds down, Baar still leads the division in sacks per game at 1.94, and is third in tackles for loss per game with 2.4.
At the conclusion of the Bearcats’ 2016 season, Baar was selected as the GLVC Defensive Player of the Year. He also picked up his third-consecutive first-team All-GLVC honor in 2016. Earlier this month, Baar was named the Super Region 4 Defensive Player of the Year by the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association (D2CCA), becoming the first McKendree player to receive the distinction.
In addition, Baar finished third in the voting for the 2016 Gene Upshaw Award, given annually to the top interior lineman (offensive or defensive) in Division II. Baar was the top vote-getter among defensive players for the award. He is also on the list of nominees for the 2016 Cliff Harris Award, which is presented to the top defensive player in Division II.
With Baar anchoring the Bearcats defensive line, McKendree led the GLVC in both total defense and scoring defense. The Bearcats allowed just 315.7 yards per game, while giving up 18.4 points per contest. As a team, McKendree leads all NCAA Division II programs with 4.82 sacks per game, while the Bearcats are also third in the division with 10.3 tackles for loss per outing.
While Baar is the first McKendree player to earn first-team AFCA All-America honors during the program’s NCAA Division II era, he is now the fourth Bearcat all-time to collect the award from the AFCA. The other three – Mike Harrison (now the assistant head coach at McKendree) in 2006, Mike Siverly in 2007 and Nick Hegger in both 2009 and 2010 – claimed the award from the AFCA during the Bearcats’ days as members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
The McKendree University football team won its final five games of the 2016 season to finish with an overall record of 8-3. The Bearcats were third in the final GLVC standings at 6-2.
Williams an All-American
McKendree junior outside hitter Arela Williams picked up her fourth post season honor Wednesday morning after being named to the 2016 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) NCAA Division II All-American Honorable-Mention Team.
Williams, a six rotation player, led the Bearcats in both kills and digs after appearing in all 120 sets for McKendree this season with 455 and 392 respectively. Williams hit .248 adding 40 aces and 52 blocks.
Williams led McKendree to its third-straight 20-win season and the best record in conference play since joining the GLVC with a mark of 16-2. The Bearcats also reached the GLVC Championship match for the second time in three seasons, falling to Truman State.
Women’s soccer ranked
The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) released its final postseason rankings, and the McKendree University women’s soccer team received top 25 votes.
The Bearcats finished the 2016 campaign 17-5-1 overall and posted a 11-4 mark in Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) play. The team also claimed its first GLVC Tournament title and won a program-first NCAA Tournament contest.
GLVC member Truman State earned the 11th spot in the national poll after defeating the Bearcats in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, before falling to national runner-up Grand Valley State University. Conference members Rockhurst University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis also received top 25 votes.