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Vanguard teams Lion-ized

Men's basketball national champions and top-ranked women's program saluted at campus rally.

April 02, 2014|By Barry Faulkner
  • Rhett Soliday, the head coach for the Lions mens' basketball team, speaks to the crowd during a 2014 NAIA Basketball National Championship rally at Vanguard University on Wednesday.
Rhett Soliday, the head coach for the Lions mens'… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

One more time they packed The Pit on Wednesday to recognize a pair of noteworthy Vanguard University basketball teams.

About 300 students, faculty, staff, fans and community members filed into the cozy campus gymnasium to pay tribute to the Vanguard men's team that won the program's first NAIA Division I national championship, as well as the Lions' women's team, which was ranked No. 1 all season.

The men's program's most successful season ever included Golden State Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles and an unprecedented 32-6 record.

Coach Rhett Soliday's Lions, the No. 6 seed, won five games in seven days at the season-ending national tournament in Kansas City, Mo., including a 70-65 triumph over Emmanuel of Georgia in the final at Municipal Arena on March 25.

The Vanguard women, though upset in the second round of the NAIA Tournament in Frankfurt, Ky., were unbeaten in 25 regular-season games. They lost in the semifinals of the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament and, as the No. 1 seed in search of another national crown — they won it in 2008 — surprisingly bowed out early in Kentucky to finish 27-2.

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But the prevailing message delivered Wednesday had little to do with wins and losses.

Athletic Director Bob Wilson and President Michael Beals conveyed their pride in the character the players had displayed, on and off the court. They said they have received testimonials about how the players and coaches had represented the university well, as well as congratulating the national champions.

"Success, is about achievement and significance is about impact," Wilson said. "Significance is where your primary focus is achieved and your objectives and outcome of success occur with your values intact.

"The culture we have created at Vanguard University touches everything," he continued. "Gold Pride defines who we are. It's about coming together as a group. It's about working together, which is progress. It's about thinking together, which is success. But, more importantly, it's about being together and that leads to significance."

Wilson and Beals said they have heard from many, through email and social media, about how the Vanguard men's team, which received the NAIA national sportsmanship award, made it easy to root for.

Players and coaches from both teams sat on a stage behind the podium, at which Soliday and women's Coach Russ Davis spoke. Both Soliday and Davis collected national coach of the year honors.

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