With significant individual recognitions and successful regular season achievements across all teams, the 2018 spring semester was one of the most memorable in recent PLNU sports history. In particular, the following five teams deserve to be remembered in a positive light as we look back on them (and in one case, continue to look forward to).
With an 18-7 record and a monstrous 13-2 outing at home, the women’s tennis team won its most games within a single season since joining the PacWest. The stint began on a high note with an upset victory at UC Irvine, which was the team’s first win over a Division I school since 2014. Other notable victories included six 9-0 sweeps over Westmont, Western New Mexico, Holy Names, Hawaii Hilo, and Biola (twice), as well as a vengeful 5-4 victory at home over Azusa Pacific to close out the season.
Unfortunately, the PacWest Championships did not have a similar story. A dominating 5-1 victory over Sonoma State University led the team to its first-ever appearance in the PacWest semifinals, where they would fall just short of defeating the No. 1 seed in Hawaii Pacific. Following with a loss in the consolation matchup against Azusa Pacific, the team finished in fourth place. Despite this, the season may not be over, as an NCAA tournament selection remains a possibility.
Notable individual accolades included sophomore Ellie Gamble (PacWest weekly honors for Feb. 11-17) and senior Nikki Newell (PacWest weekly honors for Jan. 28-Feb. 3).
The men’s tennis team had a massive turnaround from their 2017 season (5-19) by going 14-9 this season with a 12-4 record at home, making it by far the most successful year of Head Coach Curt Wheeler’s five-year tenure. After a brutal 2-4 start, the team went on an uplifting 11-2 run that included key victories over Westmont, Sonoma State, Concordia, Biola, and even UC San Diego, who they had not beaten since 2015.
At the PacWest Championships, the team opened up the tournament with a competitive 5-4 victory over the No. 6 seed Hawaii Pacific, but it would be the team’s final win. A rough 8-1 loss against Azusa Pacific and a loss to Concordia led to a fourth-place finish for the men’s tennis team. Despite the finish, it is still possible for the team to qualify for an NCAA tournament selection.
For the week of Feb. 25-March 3, junior Thomas Dafcik was recognized as the PacWest Player of the Week.
Lisa Faulkner’s second season as head coach saw a slight decline from last season’s 24-6 showing, but that’s not to say this was still a successful year for women’s basketball. After a tough 6-9 stretch in the middle of the season, the team bounced back with a 7-1 run from late January to late February to finish the regular season 17-10. The momentum was carried into the PacWest Championships in March, as they opened the tournament with thrilling 63-60 and 76-68 victories over the No. 4 seed Concordia and the No. 1 seed Azusa Pacific, respectively. Their efforts ended, however, in the PacWest Championship against Hawaii Pacific by a 77-71 margin.
Senior forward Roya Rustamzada was recognized as an honorable mention All-American, was named to the All-West Region first team, and was named the PacWest Defender of the Year and Co-Player of the Year. Other notable individual achievements included freshman center Grace Brady (multiple PacWest Player of the Week honors) and freshman point guard Sydney Peterson (PacWest Freshman of the Week for Feb. 18-24).
Head Coach Ryan Looney’s second season at the helm saw one of the team’s best year’s in recent memory. With the help of a 15-2 run from mid-December to mid-February, the team finished 21-8 overall with a dominating 15-5 record in the PacWest. While the 2017-18 season was one of the team’s best-ever years in conference play, the postseason was short-lived. A 69-65 loss against Concordia, a team that the Sea Lions swept in the regular season, ended the PacWest tournament stint. The team would qualify for the NCAA West Regional, but lost yet another competitive matchup against Western Oregon, 73-66.
At the conclusion of the season, junior forward Preston Beverly was named to the PacWest All-Conference second team, junior center Ziggy Satterthwaite and junior guard Josh Rodriguez were named to the third team, and sophomore forward Sterling Somers was recognized as an honorable mention. In addition, senior forward Skyler White was named the PacWest Defender of the Week (Nov. 20-26) and freshman guard Tanner Nelson earned CoSIDA Academic All-District 8 honors for being a top student-athlete.
With eight games left to play in the regular season, Head Coach Joe Schaefer’s 11th season could see a postseason berth that the team has been seeking since 2015. With a 27-14 record and a 23-9 showing in the PacWest, the Sea Lions are currently riding on a 10-game winning streak and have won 18 of their last 22 matchups, including back-to-back four-game series sweeps at home over Holy Names and Academy of Art. Before their postseason fate is known, the team’s remaining games will include a four-game series at home against Fresno State (April 27-28) and a four-game series at Azusa Pacific (May 7-9).
So far this season, freshman pitcher Garrett Irvin and senior pitcher Trevor Abshire have received multiple weekly honors, senior infielder Adam Rios was recognized as PacWest Player of the Week (April 9-15), senior pitcher Wyatt Shackleford was named a San Diego Hall of Champions Star of the Month (March), senior outfielder Tyler Flores was recognized as the PacWest Player of the Week (Feb. 18-24), and junior outfielder/pitcher John Balliet was named the NCBWA West Region Player of the Week (March 19-25).