Andrew Houkal made the trip to Salem, Virginia, in 2015 when the Augustana College Vikings lost the Division III Championship game to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point by a score of 70-54.
For Houkal, 23, who graduated from Augustana with a degree in business management, the Viking’s 1-point loss to the Babson Beavers in the Division III Championship game Saturday was tougher than the loss two years ago.
“We were down by 16 two years ago, so you knew it wasn’t going to happen,” said Houkal, as he watched the game with about 100 other Augustana fans at The River House Bar and Grill in Moline. “They had a real chance in this game.”
Augustana lost the game to Babson by a score of 79-78 after fighting and clawing their way back late in the game.
A charging foul against Augustana with just seconds left in the game could have spelled the difference.
Del Smith, 80, of Davenport, a former basketball coach, looked several times at the called foul as it replayed. “That was not a foul on Augustana,” Smith said. “The other guy was still moving. He wasn’t set. That was not charging.”
Devyn Absher, 22, a senior who runs track for Augustana and who has played on the Viking’s women’s basketball team, had stronger terms for the alleged foul. “That’s a BS call,” she said.
Absher admits she hates to lose, but this loss is all the tougher because of the quality of the people who make up the men’s basketball team. They are great people who play hard as a complete team that fights for victory, she said.
Head basketball coach Grey Giovanine keeps the pressure on at practices to train them to keep their composure in tight games, she added.
“It’s not a one-man show,” she said. “Nothing rides on one person’s back. They all work together.”
This young team, Absher said, wanted to put to rest the idea that this was a rebuilding year for the Vikings.
Bri Frys, 21, a senior biology and Spanish major, and the girlfriend of the Viking’s Chrishawn Orange, said the men’s team took offense at the idea they were to spend this year rebuilding.
“You can see it in them,” Frys said. “They wanted to prove everyone who was calling this a rebuilding year wrong. And they did it. They ended up in the championship game.
Of the close loss, Frys said that, “It was disappointing because I think we all wanted it so badly for this group of guys, but they proved a lot of people wrong this season and their positive mentality towards everything remained unwavering during the entire season.
“We as Augustana students are extremely proud of them and can't wait to watch them win it all next year,” she added.
Jane Bahls, wife of Augustana President Steve Bahls, said the season and this championship weekend has been a fun ride for Augustana’s students, faculty, staff and supporters.
“We’re all proud of them,” she said of the basketball team. “They came back against a very, very good basketball team, and nearly won.”
Houkal said he has faith in what this current team of players can do.
“They’re a young team,” Houkal said. “They can go back.”