It’s a been a long journey, but the season has finally arrived for the Spalding University women’s basketball team and first-year coach Kylee Gorby.

With the start of its season pushed back more than two months and its schedule shortened to 11 games due to the coronavirus pandemic, Spalding’s long wait to take the court will end at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Campbellsville University-Harrodsburg at Columbia Gym.

“Our team is definitely ecstatic to be able to play,” Gorby said. “I think that when you have something taken away from you unexpectedly and for an extended period of time, you grow a greater appreciation for it. There’s always an excitement for gameday every year, but I think it’s even amplified this year with the current circumstances.”

Tuesday’s game brings some normalcy to a season that has been uncommon at every turn for the 26-year-old head coach.

A former Asbury University standout player and Georgetown College assistant coach, Gorby was hired in April to replace retired Spalding career wins leader Charlie Just. Because Spalding’s campus was closed from mid-March until August, Gorby was unable to visit her office or the gym or meet her players in person until the end of the summer.

She got to know them over FaceTime calls and watched film of last season to learn about their basketball talent. She also got busy recruiting to fill out what was a nine-player roster.

Gorby took joy in the campus reopening in August, her first chance in four months to meet her players in person and watch them participate in open gyms and workouts. It’s been a lot of workouts and practices since, with games having been pushed back until the new calendar year.

RELATED: Spalding University Women’s Basketball on

The Golden Eagles have been practicing since October, so the group – now 14 players strong after adding two transfers – is familiar with each other and has had lots of time to learn Gorby’s system and improve as individuals.

“It’s kind of crazy because I feel like I’ve had this job for a (pretty lengthy) minute, but I haven’t actually as an assistant or a head coach coached a basketball game in a full year,” she said. “I’m just really grateful. I had no idea if we would have a season this year, so I’m just grateful amid the circumstances. Then, beyond that, I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to be a head coach. That is not something that everyone can say they’ve been able to do.”

Gorby continued: “I’m fortunate to have walked into a program and a group of players who have made this transition really easy. Considering the circumstances and the adversity we’ve faced – along with the rest of the country – they have been nothing but impressive with their maturity level and ability to bring it every day and be resilient. I’m just excited to watch them do their thing and take joy in their success.”

Gorby said she has inherited several promising players off a team that was the 2020 SLIAC runner-up.

Junior center and All-SLIAC first-team pick Hunter Wright, who averaged 14.1 points and 8.5 rebounds last season, is one of the top returning players in the conference. The 6-foot Wright,  who also made the SLIAC All-Defense team last year, “fundamentally changes the game when she’s on the court” with her shot-blocking and ability to stretch the floor on offense, Gorby said.

Additionally, Gorby said, she has given Wright the green light to take off and attack with the ball in transition after her defensive rebounds.

“Her versatility is limitless,” the coach said.

Other key juniors include guard Kailey Reed, who started 14 games last season; point guard Breanna Anthony, who started 11 of the 13 games she played in 2019-20 and is at full strength after injuries as an underclassman; and forward Amber Higdon.

Indiana University-Southeast transfer and Sacred Heart Academy alumna Natalie Fichter, who averaged 10.2 points last season for the Grenadiers, will be a key newcomer, and seniors Hannah Renfro and Kendyl Powell will provide leadership, Gorby said.

Spalding will have to overcome the absence of second-team All-SLIAC guard Maleah Hirn, who is recovering from a foot injury suffered last season.

Gorby said Just left the program in great shape and that she is eager to build on the winning tradition he established. Her goal is for Spalding to be the best NCAA Division III program in Kentucky, and she said the university’s presence in Louisville provides plenty of recruiting opportunities for the Golden Eagles to thrive.

They’ll get started against CU-Harrodsburg (1-6), which is a member of Division II of the National Christian College Athletic Association and the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.

CU-Harrodsburg will be Spalding’s only nonconference opponent.

The Golden Eagles will take another break before visiting Eureka on Feb. 20 to begin six weeks and 10 games of St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. All eight SLIAC schools competing in women’s basketball this year will qualify for the conference tournament. Due to the many challenges of the season, all NCAA Division III athletes will be able to retain this year of eligibility.

Their wait to get going will be over in a matter of hours as the 2020-21 season – now well past 2020 and well into ’21 – finally begins.

“I’m excited to be out there and competing and watching our girls have fun,” Gorby said. “Reflecting back on my playing days, I would have hated to endure this current situation as an athlete. I’m excited as a coach to see them go out and be enthusiastic and compete and work and have fun with it.”


Spalding University will join fellow members of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in postponing the seasons for men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball from fall 2020 to spring 2021. The SLIAC Presidents’ Council voted to approve the move as a safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s golf will be allowed to have limited competitions during the fall of 2020 while following the directives of local, state and national health organizations, the SLIAC announced.

Spalding’s soccer and volleyball teams will be allowed to hold nontraditional seasons this fall while consistently following health and safety protocols. Nontraditional athletic activities may include individual and team skill instruction, practice, leadership development, strength training and scrimmages.

RELATED | FAQs regarding Fall 2020 sports at Spalding

“The safety of our student-athletes will always be our top priority,” Spalding President Tori Murden McClure said. “Moving soccer and volleyball season to the spring is a responsible step by the SLIAC to protect students while still giving them the chance months from now to participate in the competitions that they love and that are at the heart of the college experience for so many in Division III.”

Spalding Athletic Director Roger Burkman said, “The SLIAC’s decision to move soccer and volleyball to the spring is a positive solution that keeps our student-athletes safe, preserves their ability to have a season and gives our country more time to get this pandemic under control. Our soccer and volleyball players can use this fall as an opportunity to focus on academics while using the nontraditional fall season to stay safely engaged with their teams and developing as individual athletes.”

Specific details on rescheduled seasons, contests and championships will be discussed by the conference and announced at a later date. Winter sports schedules currently remain unchanged but will be evaluated as the conference approaches their respective start dates.

If not for the coronavirus pandemic that canceled spring sports around the country, the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament would be taking place this weekend, and there’s a good chance that Spalding University, which in mid-March was nationally ranked and on a long winning streak, would have been part of the four-team tournament.

The sudden shutdown of the Golden Eagles’ 2020 season nearly two month ago – which occurred just as they were arriving in Florida for a spring-break slate of games – was a jarring and difficult blow for a team with high hopes of earning an NCAA Division III Tournament bid, coach Matt Downs said. But Downs said he was proud of the leadership and maturity of his players in realizing that canceling the season was a necessary step for the safety of themselves and their families.

The dizzying sequence of news that led to the halting of all U.S. sports took place while the Spalding baseball team was traveling south to the Russmatt Central Florida Invitational. The Golden Eagles were on the second day of a 17-hour bus trip when word got out that Division I conference basketball tournaments were being canceled, followed by the cancellation of NCAA March Madness and all other winter and spring college championships. The NBA also suspended its season after a player tested positive for COVID-19.

“We had ESPN on the satellite TVs on the bus, and we were traveling across state lines as basically the whole sports world shut down before our eyes,” Downs said.

FOLLOW | Spalding baseball team @SpaldingUBSB on Twitter

Spalding’s first game in Florida was called off when its opponent canceled its season. Soon after, Downs said Spalding’s seniors – pitcher Logan Koch, catcher Isaac Lineberry, outfielder Garrett Wilson, shortstop Eric Meyer – and juniors also elected to not play any other games that weekend once it became clear that there would be no postseason to play for and that participation in any additional regular-season games could pose a health risk.

“I thought that was really responsible of them,” Downs said. “I’m recently married and was thinking about home and family and big-picture stuff, but for them, as 20-, 21-, 22-year-olds to make a decision like that that was responsible even though it may have meant they never get to step on the field again, I really, truly commend them for that decision.”

The day before the team was set to make the long trip back to Louisville, NCAA Division III tweeted that spring student-athletes would be granted an additional year of eligibility if they’d like to use it.

Downs said the four seniors saw the D-III announcement before he did. When he visited their room that day to check in, he expected the seniors to be bummed out. Instead they were all upbeat.

“That put a new spring in their step and a new breath of fresh air in them,” Downs said. “The seniors and juniors saw it as an opportunity that this doesn’t have to be done. … They were fired up, and there was a renewed sense of joy.”

It provided consolation for a disappointing end to a promising season. Spalding entered the spring break trip to Orlando with momentum – an 11-3 record and an eight-game winning streak. The Golden Eagles had just kicked off conference competition by sweeping Principia in three games by a combined score of 38-7.

The Orlando games would have allowed them a chance to rack up a few resume-building nonconference wins. Then, Spalding would have returned to SLIAC play with a chance to make noise against Fontbonne and Webster.

“We had a lot of great things going for us,” Downs said.

As disappointing as it was, Downs is excited by the chance in 2021 to return some of the Golden Eagles’ talented seniors as grad students while also bringing in a strong recruiting class. The coach praised Spalding’s seniors for their leadership, practice habits and willingness to help younger teammates. It’ll be a long wait, but now there’s a chance to continue the momentum into next season.

“I think our story can be a little more hopeful and joyful,” Downs said. “… I think for a night we were kind of heartbroken, but then the NCAA stepped up and did the right thing, and the guys can see hope and opportunity.”

March 13, 2020

Dear Spalding Community,

Thank you for your understanding as we work together to navigate a fluid, unprecedented period for our country brought on by the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

There remains no known positive case of COVID-19 on our campus, but we are doing part to help prevent the spread of the virus. We are preparing for the measures outlined in a campus-wide message that was distributed Wednesday evening: Spalding will move all face-to-face classes online, effective Monday, March 16, until April 5, and all on-campus residential students must leave the residence halls by noon Sunday, March 15.

Here is additional information and guidance on a range of topics:


[UPDATED: As of Summer 2020, Spalding is no longer using the technology form it introduced in March of that year and is described in this section of this message. The link to it has been removed from this page, and students with technology needs and questions should contact [email protected]]

With the move to online classes coming, students will need regular access to a computer or tablet with a recent version of Windows or iOS, as well as Internet access.

Students who do not have a computer, tablet or other device, or who lack off-campus access to the Internet should fill out this short form to inform the university of their needs, so that arrangements can be made. Students who do have a computer and regular Internet access do not need to fill out this technology form. The software and programs needed to complete coursework will be provided.

The library will remain open at its regular hours so that students lacking technology or Internet access can use on-campus computers to complete their classes.

Students who live on campus must leave the residence halls by noon Sunday, March 15, and take with them only what they need to be away for three weeks. Those students may not return to the halls until at least April 4.

Students who have filled out the form from Residence Life requesting to stay in the residence halls during the hiatus should receive an answer March 13.

At this time, Spalding does not intend to issue refunds on housing or dining plans. We will review this in the weeks ahead.

Please contact Dean of Students Rick Hudson at [email protected] or 502 873-4488 with any questions or concerns.

Effective Monday, March 16 until April 5, the POD dining counter will remain open, but the College Street Café will be closed.

For the next week, the POD will operate on regular session break hours starting tomorrow, March 14:

Saturday-Sunday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Monday-Friday: 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Effective Monday, March 23, the POD will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hours will be:

Monday-Friday: 7:30 a.m.- 7 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.

The Spalding Counseling Center will stay open and continue serving students. Instead of coming to campus, students are asked to contact Counseling and Psychological Services Director Dr. Allison From-Tapp at [email protected] or (502) 873-4458 to discuss the best way to have your needs met. We understand that the global uncertainty regarding the coronavirus may be a source of anxiety, and the Counseling Center is available as a resource.

The coronavirus outbreak has prompted Spalding to suspend all of its athletics activities, as well as cancel or postpone a long list of campus and university-sponsored events in the coming weeks. A list of affected events has been posted on Spalding’s Healthy Together – COVID-19 page, and on Spalding’s Facebook page. The list will be updated as needed. Email [email protected] if there is an event missing that should be added to the list.

Spalding’s Commencement ceremony is still on schedule for June 6, 2020 at Canaan Christian Church.

Until at least April 5, the campus fitness center in the lower level of Columbia Gym and the basketball/volleyball court on the first floor will be closed for all students and employees.

Every team and student-athlete at Spalding University has the same ultimate goal – to win a national championship.

So it’s ideal that the man leading the Golden Eagles’ athletic department – Athletic Director Roger Burkman – played on one of the city’s most celebrated championship teams and understands what it takes to get to the top of the NCAA mountain.

Forty years after helping the University of Louisville to the 1980 NCAA Division I men’s basketball national title, Burkman’s memories of his championship season remain fresh, and his relationships with his former teammates and coaches remain strong.

The lessons he learned as a college basketball player about the importance of teamwork, a strong work ethic and wise decision-making continue to influence his life and work today. Burkman and the rest of coach Denny Crum’s 1979-80 Cardinals, who were U of L’s first basketball champions, will be honored on Saturday afternoon at halftime of the Louisville-Virginia game at the KFC Yum! Center.

“It’s amazing that it was 40 years ago, but we can still remember it like it was yesterday,” said Burkman, who is in his 15th year at Spalding and was a junior guard and the sixth man on the 1980 title team. “It’s just so fond of a memory, that whole season. You couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

Burkman said his role on the team was to be essentially a “coach on the floor,” coming off the bench to provide defense, energy and ball-handling and to help all the players get organized. After averaging about 30 points per games at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis, Burkman took on the role of an aggressive defensive stopper at U of L, which relied on All-American Darrell Griffith, Derek Smith and others to supply most of the scoring.

“Roger, what an outstanding player, person and friend,” said former U of L guard Tony Branch, who was a senior on the title team and Burkman’s roommate. “He ended up being a great defensive specialist, one of the best defenders in  the whole NCAA. And he could score a little bit, too.”

Burkman said the competitiveness and motivation of the Cardinals carried them.

“We’ve talked about how physical and tough the practices were, and a lot of the games were easier than the practices because they were so competitive,” Burkman said. “We were tough. … And we didn’t have any, ‘How many points did I get?’ We were just out there to win.

“A lot of U of L fans watched and kind of grew up with that team, and I think that’s a reason why, to this day, people stop and say hi to you, or want an autograph or want to talk about the games that year.”

U of L lost star player Scooter McCray to injury in the third game of the season and suffered a couple early losses before raising its intensity in practice and finding its groove the second half of the season. The Cards were a No. 2 seed and earned a first-round bye in the 48-team NCAA Tournament. They survived back-to-back overtime games against Kansas State (in Lincoln, Nebraska) and Texas A&M (in Houston) before throttling top-seeded LSU 86-66 in the Midwest Regional final to earn a spot in the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Some of the unforgettable memories for Burkman?

Louisville 1980 championship team with 2019-20 Cardinals
Member of the 1980 Louisville basketball team met the 2019-20 Cardinals on Friday, Feb. 7. The 1980 squad will be honored at U of L’s game Saturday against Virginia.

Branch’s last-second shot to beat Kansas State — “it hit the front of the rim, the back of the rim, then kind of rooooolls around, and through,” he said — and how Crum accurately predicted the Cards could beat LSU by 20 because U of L’s defense would overwhelm the Tigers.

After that, the Final Four at Market Square Arena was a homecoming for Burkman, a native of Acton, Indiana, and an easy trip north for an excited U of L fan base.

About 10,000 fans attended the Cards’ shootaround before the semifinal game against Iowa, and Burkman had a large group of family and high school friends in the arena. After practice, he greeted his parents on the front row and gave his father, Al, a hug.

“I head back to the locker room, and I look over my shoulder, and my dad is signing autographs,” Burkman recalled with a laugh.

U of L defeated Iowa, then UCLA in the national title game, cementing the Cards’ place in history. The players remain some of Burkman’s closest friends.

Burkman said the friendships are a testament to the culture built by Crum and his staff and the high character of the players they recruited.

Burkman has considered Crum a lifelong mentor and said the Hall of Fame coach is like a grandfather to Burkman’s children.

As a high schooler, Burkman expected to attend Purdue. That changed when he established a personal connection with Crum, who knew Burkman loved fishing and took him to do that on his recruiting visit to Louisville.

“I said, ‘This guy is pretty cool, man. I like this,'” Burkman said with a laugh. “It was a great basketball program, a great city, and they had guys like Darrell Griffith where you knew you were stepping into a winning program.”

Crum has been a longtime supporter of Burkman’s work at Spalding and has many times served on the expert panel of the Golden Eagles’ annual Bracketology fundraiser.

Crum taught Burkman the importance of getting to practice early and being well-prepared. On the court and off, the coach drilled into the players’ heads the simple motto, “Make good decisions.”

“If you ask both my children,” Burkman said, “probably my most common reminder, statement, phrase, whatever, is, ‘Make good decisions.'”

Burkman said Crum helped him develop his leadership style – to stay even-keeled, to never get too angry or emotional, to make thoughtful decisions – and he said his playing career and national title at U of L helped lay the foundation for a happy, successful life and career.

“That’s one great things about being on a championship team is you get to meet so many people and make so many friends,” he said.

A new historical marker was unveiled on Thursday morning at Spalding University’s Columbia Gym that commemorates the building at 824 S. Fourth St. as the location where a young Muhammad Ali learned to box.

The marker unveiling took place one day before what would have been Ali’s 78th birthday on Jan. 17. On Ali’s birthday two years ago, Spalding officially changed the name of its athletic building back to Columbia Gym.

A red bicycle hangs over the entrance of Columbia Gym as a tribute to Ali and his first encounter with Louisville Police Officer Joe Martin, who ran a boxing gym in the lower level of the building and became Ali’s first trainer.

Bronze Columbia Gym historical marker reads: At Columbia Gym, a young Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, told Louisville Police Officer Joe Martin he was going to "whup" whoever stole his bike. Martin became Alis first train. Martin introduced Ali to regional audiences through the local boxing show, Tomorrows Champions and encouraged him to compete in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
The new historical marker outside the front entrance of Columbia Gym, where a red bike also hangs as a tribute to Muhammad Ali.

The Columbia Gym historical marker, which is located next to the front steps of the main entrance, is one in a new series of Ali-related markers around the city that are produced by the Kentucky Historical Society and that celebrate the legendary humanitarian and boxer’s Louisville roots. The series of markers is supported by Louisville Tourism, which also developed the Footsteps of Greatness tour of Ali-related landmarks in Louisville that includes Columbia Gym.

On Thursday, Ali’s brother, Rahman Ali, joined Spalding President Tori Murden McClure in pulling off the cloth cover to reveal the Columbia historical marker.

“That sense of striving, that sense of passion, that sense of wanting to make the world a better place is what (Muhammad Ali) stood for,” McClure said.

In what has become a key piece of Louisville history, in 1954, 12-year-old Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, parked his new red bicycle outside the building at 824 S. Fourth St. while he went inside to attend the Louisville Home Show. When he came back out, the bike had been stolen. An angry Clay found Martin there and reported the crime, telling Martin that he planned to “whup” whoever took the bike.

Martin told Clay that before he could do that, he better first learn to fight. He then introduced Clay to training at the Columbia Gym, setting in motion what would become a storied amateur boxing career that included winning a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Tori McClure addresses crowd at press conference outside Columbia Gym
President McClure addresses the crowd outside Columbia Gym.

Spalding acquired the building years later, and Columbia Gym is now the home of Spalding’s NCAA Division III volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the Golden Eagles’ athletic department offices and the historic Columbia Auditorium, where many campus and community events are held. Spalding’s student fitness center, weight room, athletic training room, locker rooms and health clinic are located on the lower level, where Joe Martin’s boxing gym once was.

A series of photo panels on the wall of the lower level pay tribute to the red bike story and Ali’s ties to Spalding. As a teenager, Ali had a part-time job across the street from the Columbia Gym at what was then the Spalding library.

Muhammad Ali Center President and CEO Donald E. Lassere, Louisville Tourism Vice President of Destination Services Zack Davis, Kentucky Historical Society Community Engagement Coordinator Ali Robic, Spalding Dean of Graduate Education Dr. Kurt Jefferson and Spalding Athletics Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Danielle Lavender also spoke at Thursday morning’s dedication.

Lavender, who trains Spalding’s student-athletes in the Columbia Gym, said they draw inspiration from training in the same general space where Ali began his journey to athletic greatness.

“It’s awesome working in this building every day,” Lavender said. “It’s me with 150 athletes, and every day they are trying to come in and do better. Over our doors, (inspirational messages) say, ‘Effort is everything,’ and they know that.  With this historical marker now and everything we have up in the hallways (alluding to Ali), they know, ‘You better give it your all down here.'”

About the Kentucky Historical Marker Program: The Kentucky Historical Marker Program, administered by the Kentucky Historical Society in cooperation with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, tells Kentucky’s story through on-the-spot history lessons that connect the history, communities and items housed in the Commonwealth’s many historical organizations. The program makes Kentucky’s history accessible to the public not just on markers along the state’s roadways, but also online at and via the Explore Kentucky History smartphone application available free at iTunes and Google Play. 

The four seniors on the Spalding University men’s soccer team are no strangers to the postseason, but they hope to reach into unfamiliar territory this month.

Over the past four years, the current senior class has left a mark on the program by winning two regular-season St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and qualifying for the conference tournament three times, including the 2019 league playoffs that start Wednesday night. Now, they’re eager to take the next step and claim the school’s first postseason SLIAC title, which would earn Spalding its first trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

They’ll begin that pursuit at 6 p.m. Wednesday, when second-seeded Spalding (12-4-3, 6-2-1 conference) hosts No. 3 Greenville (10-8, 6-3) in a SLIAC Tournament semifinal at the new Spalding Athletic Complex.

“I think everybody is motivated,” said senior forward and Spalding career goals leader Kornell Hilliard, who is the United Soccer Coaches’ D-III National Player of the Week after recording back-to-back hat tricks. “I think you can feel it as soon as you step onto the pitch for practice. Everybody is focused. Everybody knows that what we have on the line is something special and something that we can accomplish as a group for the first time in history.”

That Spalding is back in the SLIAC Tournament is a notable achievement in itself. It marks the first time the Golden Eagles have appeared in the event in back-to-back years, and it’ll be the fifth consecutive SLIAC Tournament game that Spalding has hosted (though the first ever at the new fields complex).

Spalding won its SLIAC semifinal games in 2016 and ’18 but lost both times in the title game. The seniors are hoping to take the next step this week.

“We’ve hit a bunch of our goals – going undefeated in conference (in 2016), winning the regular season (in ’16 and ’18), ” senior defender Kasim Alsalman said. “Now we’re ready for our next trip, and that’s winning the conference tournament and making it to the national tournament. That’s the next goal we want to hit before we graduate. … That would mean a lot. That would cap our career at Spalding and really set us apart.”

Coach Adam Boyer said seniors Hilliard, Alsalman, Erfan Rezai and Adam Frith, as well as senior student assistant coach Joe Railey, have already built an impressive legacy. They have the potential this postseason to keep adding on.

“They’ve hung a couple banners, and here they are in the postseason again, two games away from the national tournament,” Boyer said. “It’s pretty remarkable to see the success that they’ve had. Some of the guys have produced statistically, and some of the guys have produced by having good character and being a great teammate and leading by example.

“The five of them in total are all great leaders.”

Rezai  said he thinks this year’s Spalding team is the most talented he’s been a part of, and Railey said he is proud that the seniors have “helped pioneer” the program to the status it’s reached as a two-time regular-season champion and consistent contender in the SLIAC Tournament.

Frith said that when he arrived at Spalding, the primary goal of the team was just to qualify for the conference playoffs.

“Now making it is expected,” he said. “We want to go further. That’s really cool to see that transition. (Making the national tournament) is the goal now. We’ve checked off a lot of things in our career. But we haven’t checked off that one thing. It would be awesome to go out senior year with that as the last box that’s checked. I really think we’re going to do it, too.”

No other senior and probably no other player in Spalding soccer history has had a bigger impact on the field than the Hilliard, whose 61 career goals and 148 career points are Spalding records.

Hilliard, who once scored 52 goals in a season at Fern Creek High School, leads the SLIAC by a wide margin with 17 goals and 41 total points this season, and his seven assists trail only teammate Mirza Uragak (eight) in the conference in that category.

Hilliard is tied for 12th in all of NCAA D-III in both goals and points a year. He was also among the national leaders all season in 2018, when he had 18 goals, eight assists and 44 points. He even had a bicycle kick goal in 2018 that was featured nationally on ESPN’s “Top Plays”

“The statistics he’s put up are absurd,” Boyer said. “They’ll probably never be topped.”

Additionally, Hilliard has played in every Spalding game the last four seasons – “a pretty remarkable” feat for a physical player who is constantly marked by opposing defenses, Boyer said. Given Hilliard’s durability and production, it’s no surprise that Spalding has won two regular-season titles during his collegiate career and is back in the postseason again.

“Kornell has had an incredible career,” Boyer said.

Hilliard said he’s proud to have become the top scorer in program history and that he’s never missed a game. He said he’ll cherish his career at Spalding and the time he’s spent with the other seniors.

“These are my guys that I’ll talk to every day, even when I’m out of school,” he said. “They’ve helped me so much through life and especially soccer. Coach did a great job recruiting these guys, and they’ve been like my brothers. It’s going to be great to know that these guys are there, and it’s going to be amazing to finish this season off with them.”




With a big crowd in attendance on a perfect, clear night, Spalding University broke in its new athletic fields complex on the evening of Oct. 23 with a grand opening celebration that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

About 800 fans gathered under the lights of the 7.3-acre complex between South Eighth and South Ninth streets to watch the Golden Eagles’ men’s and women’s soccer doubleheader, as well as a grand opening ceremony and ceremonial “First Kick” of soccer ball between games.

It was the culmination of nearly six years of private fundraising for the complex and about six months of construction, which was overseen by general contractor Schaefer Construction. The finished product will be a source of pride and achievement for the university for years to come.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer praised Spalding President Tori Murden McClure, Athletic Director Roger Burkman and the entire university community for being unafraid to take on big projects.

“And this was a big project,” the mayor said.

“What I love about Spalding is that you guys work hard each and every day,” Fischer said, before alluding to McClure’s most famous individual athletic feat. “It’s kind of like rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, one stroke at a time. If there’s something to be done, you can bet on this team here at Spalding. The kind of hope that you all represent, the persistence that you represent, it’s come true here tonight with this great facility. It’s a wonderful bridge for hope for our entire community. Tori, Roger, and the entire team, thank you very much on behalf of our great city. Wonderful job.”



Located on the site of a former unused industrial brownfield and about four blocks west of the primary campus, the athletic complex provides for the first time an on-campus home for Spalding’s men’s and women’s soccer and softball teams, which have previously had to travel to high school facilities around the city to practice and host games.  The complex includes two turf soccer fields and a turf softball field that are lighted and can be used year-round. The Spalding softball team will begin playing at the complex during the upcoming spring 2020 season.

Spalding University Athletic Fields lit up at dusk
The Spalding University Athletic Complex was lit up on the edge of downtown during the Oct. 23 grand opening soccer doubleheader.

“Now (the soccer and softball programs) have a place that they can call their own,” Burkman said. “It’s a game-changer. You think about it from a recruiting standpoint and how it’s going to level that playing field, so to speak. And you can already see on the faces of our athletes how excited they are. When you talk to them about it, they just start smiling, and they just light up. And in the prospects who come to campus, you can see their eyes light up as well.”

New Spalding sports programs are set to make the complex their home as well.

Spalding is already in the early stages of adding men’s and women’s lacrosse, utilizing the soccer field that is also lined for that sport. Though a full plan for the creation of men’s and women’s lacrosse programs is still being developed, the university recently posted job openings for a men’s coach and women’s coach.

The other soccer field is lined for field hockey, allowing Spalding to explore adding a program in that sport, too.

The complex will also be available for outside clubs and schools to rent.

Surrounded by dozens of new trees and extensive landscaping, the fields complex also helps beautify the neighborhood at a site where there was previously nothing but asphalt and weeds. It continues Spalding’s effort to green and transform urban spaces south of Broadway. In recent years, the school turned a 2.2-acre parking lot into Trager Park – a grassy public recreational space at the corner of South Second and West Kentucky – and built the Mother Catherine Square green space in the center of campus at South Third and West Breckinridge.

More photos | Look back at months’ of the athletic fields’ construction progress and the grand opening on Spalding’s Facebook page.

It’s Commencement weekend at Spalding University! Festivities kicked off Friday with the Baccalaureate service and individual college, school and program award ceremonies. There are tons of pictures from the day on Spalding’s Facebook page within the “Commencement Activities 2019” album. Please like, share and tag yourself or others in the pictures, and do the same after the university Commencement service (10 a.m. Saturday at Canaan Christian Church). Here’s a look at some of Spalding’s new grads who participated in Friday’s events.

Haitian earthquake victim now a Spalding nursing grad
Nine years ago, Witchina Liberal’s home in Haiti was destroyed by the earthquake that devastated that country.

This weekend, she is graduating with the degree of bachelor of science in nursing from Spalding and set to add a member to her young family.

Liberal attended Friday’s Baccalaureate service on Friday nearly nine months pregnant with her son, who is due on June 23 and will be named Jeremiah. She said she expects to look back on pictures from this weekend years from now with him.

“I can say I have a career now, and I will be able to provide for him, give him everything I didn’t have growing up. I’m happy,” said Liberal, who was accompanied Friday by her husband and friends from their church.

She added with a laugh: “He’s been a good boy. I didn’t have too much trouble with him while I did the nursing program.”

At the time of the earthquake, 15-year-old Liberal was at home, but she was cooking in a kitchen that was in a different part of the building.

“Fortunately, none of my family members died, but we lost everything,” she said. “None of us were in the house at the time. But it was horrifying. A lot of people died.”

Liberal moved from Haiti to Florida in 2010 to finish high school. She also attended a community college in that state before moving in 2016 to Louisville, where she had family. She picked Spalding to finish out her BSN the next year because she “liked how they were so welcoming,” Liberal said.

“It’s hard, but it’s doable,” she said of the nursing degree. “It can be done, but it’s challenging. I enjoyed it. The professors were really helpful, really helpful.”

Commencement weekend felt bittersweet for Liberal. In November, a few weeks after she learned she was pregnant, Liberal lost her mother, who was still living in Haiti. She has had her mom on her mind as she approaches graduation. Liberal said she barely slept Thursday night as she stayed up thinking about her.

“I’m proud of what I have done, but it has been rough,” she said.

Liberal plans to be a neonatal intensive care unit nurse. At some point, she’d like to provide nursing and medical care in her home country, which she has visited every year since moving to the United States.

“That’s part of my plan,” she said. “I’d like to go back and help.”

Former Spalding golfer now a mom and grad
Bachelor of science in natural science graduate and former Spalding golfer Megan Shirley Faust had a special young guest at Friday’s Baccalaureate Service – her 2-month-old daughter, Madalyn.

Spalding student Megan Faust, in blue cap and gown, holding baby, Madalyn, in a car seat
Spalding student Megan Faust and 2-month-old daughter Madalyn after Baccalaureate service on May 31, 2019.

“It’s pretty awesome being able to experience it with her and her be in the moment with me,” Megan Faust said. Years from now, “I can show her what I did, and she’ll want to do the same.”

She said attending Spalding has been “a really great experience,” citing the experience of being an athlete and a student, as well as the bond she had with the golf team.

Faust was a senior on the 2017-18 Spalding team that won the first-ever St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship for women’s golf.

“That history is pretty awesome, being one of the first people to set those standards,” Faust said.

During her final academic year, Faust has had a new experience.

“Instead of going to practices and workouts and tournaments, I’m a mom and a student,” she said.

Faust currently works as a Certified Nursing Assistant in a nursing home. She said she may at some point pursue a job in human resources.

College of Ed master’s grad: ‘I feel like I’ve gained a family here’
Destiny Nichole Livers, a teacher a Foster Elementary School who is earning the degree of master of education in teacher leadership, said she would recommend Spalding to other aspiring or current teachers.

“I loved Spalding. The staff is very supportive,” she said.

Livers, who taught fifth grade the last three years and who will move to third grade as a team leader next year, said she’s learned about methods and best practices at Spalding that she is eager to take back to her school and share with her colleagues.

“If someone is looking for a supportive family, not just professors – I feel like I’ve gained a family here at Spalding – then you would like Spalding,” Livers said. “If you want the college where you really don’t know your professors, then go somewhere else. But here, like I told Dr. (Kristen) Harris, (the Spalding program director), ‘You’re stuck with me for life.'”

Livers was the winner of the Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award for her program.


With Commencement approaching on June 1, Spalding is publishing a series of stories and Q&A’s that highlight students from a range of degree programs who are set to graduate. Next up is Taylor Thompson, who is earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree. She is also the 2018 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women’s golf champion, and she helped Spalding to two SLIAC team titles.

What is your favorite Spalding memory?
It’s hard to choose something specifically; however, I’d choose my entire freshman year as a whole. Getting the opportunity to join a new community and meet new amazing people was something I’ll never forget.

Which accomplishments are you most proud of during your time at Spalding?
Winning SLIAC women’s golf championships with my team in back-to-back years and individually my senior year.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
The outdoor area by the Mansion with the tulip poplar tree.

At Spalding, we like to say that, “Today is a great day to change the world.” For many of our students, Commencement is a world-changing experience. After graduation, how do you plan to change the world, big or small, and who inspires you to be a #spaldingworldchanger?
While I don’t have a specific plan to change the world, I hope I can continuously find ways to positively impact my community and the people around me. As Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Spalding has taught me how to embrace a diverse community, and I hope to continue to create that sense of belonging postgraduation in whatever community I end up in.