By Max Goodwin
It’s August, which means fall sports teams are preparing to open another season at Avila.
Head football coach Marc Benavidez returns for a fifth season. The Eagles have eight starters returning from last season on offense and seven returning starters on defense.
Notable returning starters include two-time NAIA All-American running back Malik Nesbitt, first-team all-conference kicker Kaivon Mortazavi, and second-team all-conference defensive back Terrell Valentine.
Avila will depend on its running game with Maliek Nesbitt returning for another season after being named as Avila’s Male Athlete of the Year for the second straight year. Nesbitt rushed for 1,034 yards last season and scored a total of 18 touchdowns. Nesbitt returns for a fifth season having already put up 2,828 rushing yards, 3,451 all-purpose yards, and 46 touchdowns at Avila.
Avila went 7-3 last season, with all three losses coming to each of the three schools that would eventually finish the season tied for the conference championship at 9-1. The three losses came during a four-game stretch from Sept. 25 through Oct. 16 with losses to Southwester, Bethel, and Kansas-Wesleyan.
Most of the new starters for Avila will be on the offensive and defensive lines.
“We’ve got most of the team coming back,” Marc Benevidez said during his KCAC media day appearance. “We’re gonna do whatever we can to try to replace some offensive defensive linemen.”
The hope is that some of the newcomers in those positions can step up and play an immediate role on the team. But overall, Benevidez is finding more consistency going into this season after a closer-to-normal offseason this year.
There were several coaching changes around the KCAC conference and Avila hopes to make the most of returning starters, coaching staff, and building consistency.
“The thing I’m looking forward to most is just consistency at certain positions,” Benavidez said.
Avila returns a starting quarterback from last season in senior Kyle DeOrio who threw for 1,472 yards in seven games, averaging 210 yards per game with 13 total touchdowns. Avila’s top four in receptions on last year’s team all return for this season.
The depth around the field at multiple positions should be a strength for the Eagles going into this year.
“I think we’re in a position right now where we’ve got a handful of guys and a bunch of different positions that are battling it out,” Benavidez said.
Last season was rough for the Avila men’s soccer team in Robert Kelly’s first season as head coach. They finished without a single win in the KCAC, going 0-10-2 against conference opponents and 1-13-2 overall in the 2021 season.
In Kelly’s second season he says the team will look to build on the steps toward progress they had last season.
There are 10 starters returning from a year ago. Naguib Nassir returns as a senior after starting 12 games last season as goalkeeper. The Eagles have their top goal scorers, Jeremiah Epps and Jaime Gomez, returning.
Avila scored just 11 goals last season and will add a new group of players with the hope that they can be immediate contributors.
“We’ve got a group of 10 to 12 new guys coming in,” Kelly said. “I think that they’ll really make an impact. Just to bring us more depth and intensity.”
The season begins August 27, with Avila traveling to St. Louis for the first game of the season before the home opener on August 31 against Benedictine College.