Ah yes, the end of the school year is near. A time when summer is just around the corner and classes somehow seem both so close to the end yet also interminable. Project deadlines and final exams are coming quicker than the Night King (I’ve binged a lot of Game of Thrones lately).
With the end so close it feels appropriate to hand out final grades/awards for team performances for the 2018-19 academic year. So, without further adieu, I present to you the 2019 Beacon Sports Awards, chosen by me. Let’s get started.
Best home performance: Men’s Soccer, Playoff game against UCLA
This was a special game for Pilot fans to see live.
First of all, the men’s soccer team had played well all season long. The men’s team was consistently ranked in the top 25, going without a loss for the first 13 games before eventually falling to the University of San Francisco Dons. It was one of the best seasons in recent Pilot history, and the team had seven players earn All-WCC honors. Benji Michel, who earned All-WCC first team for the third time in three seasons, signed a homegrown contract with MLS team Orlando City FC in December.
Despite their late-season slide (after starting 10-0-3 they went 1-3-0 in their last four regular season games), the Pilots hosted the UCLA Bruins at Merlo Field in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Benji Michel scored the lone goal for an epic 1-0 victory. It was the first time the men’s team hosted an NCAA tournament game since 2002 and their first visit to the second round since 2009. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. Plus, we got a fantastic picture of head coach Nick Carlin Voigt’s baby.
That’s a cute baby. And November 15th was an exceptional night.
Most improved: Women’s Soccer
This award was hotly contested, but in the end no team improved from last year to this quite like the women’s soccer team. Under the direction of new coach Michelle French, the team improved from five wins last year to 11 this year and scored 19 more goals (11-30). Sophomore Taryn Ries, who was named All-WCC First Team, had 15 goals by herself, four more than the team as a whole did last season. Sophomore Olivia Dendinger and junior Kimberly Hazlett also earned second team and honorable mention respectively.
It would’ve been understandable for the team to not succeed and just keep rebuilding. And they didn’t completely return to dominance like years past; they only finished seventh in the WCC this season and had almost as many wins as losses (11-9). But it’s still undeniably impressive that this team more than doubled their win total and almost tripled their goals scored. The French Revolution (That’s not trademarked, right?) is underway, and so far the changes have been positive.
Most Improved Honorable Mention: Volleyball, Baseball
It feels negligent to not mention the vast improvements both baseball and volleyball saw this year. Let’s start with volleyball, which finished a program best 20-13 and made the postseason for the first time ever, earning an invite to the National Volleyball Invitational Championship. The team also won their first 12 games, a program record for longest win streak. Not bad for Jeff Baxter’s first year on the job. Baseball also has a 21-20 record with 12 games left, putting themselves in prime position to surpass their win total last year of 23, which was their highest since 2012. Baseball also got off to a 15-5 start, their best record through 20 games since 1969.
There were two reasons that these teams didn’t nab the honor of most improved. The first is their play in conference. Despite starting 12-0, the volleyball team finished towards the bottom of the WCC with a conference record of 6-12, good for only eighth. Baseball is also currently struggling in conference, with a 3-15 record.
To be fair, women’s soccer also didn’t do great in conference, only finishing seventh with four wins. But they also had a lower floor than the baseball and volleyball teams. That lower floor is the second reason neither of these teams won. Both baseball and volleyball were on the rise, with baseball finishing 23-30 last year and volleyball 15-15. Plus, neither team outdid or is expected to surpass their conference record from last year. Still, that doesn’t take away from the solid seasons both of these teams had.
Most Disappointing: Men’s Basketball
Sadly this award was pretty easy to figure out.
The men’s basketball team finished 7-25 overall, the worst record of the Terry Porter Era. They went 0-16 in conference play, the worst conference mark since Santa Clara went without a victory in 2012. They lost their last 18 games, by far the longest losing streak out of all the WCC teams.
The men’s team has yet to have a winning season under Terry Porter and has had a worse record every year he’s been coach. Whether they can turn things around and catch up in a conference that is continuously getting better remains to be seen.
Male Athlete of the Year: Nick Hauger, Cross Country
When you’re arguably the best member on the most successful team on campus, that automatically qualifies you for this award.
Redshirt senior Hauger led the team to a second place finish at the WCC Championships and a first place finish in Regionals. He was the top individual finisher in both of those races. He also was the top finisher for the Pilots at the 2018 NCAA Pre National meet in Madison, Wisconsin, finishing sixth overall to give the then No. 3 Pilots a third place finish. His time of 23:24 was the fastest men’s individual mark in WCC history. Hauger also earned All-American honors for his 40th place finish at Nationals, helping lead the Pilots to a third place finish, their third podium appearance in five years.
Hauger was absolutely stellar for the Pilots this season. The team will surely miss him next year.
Honorable Mention: Benji Michel, Men’s Soccer
It would be malpractice to not mention the wonderful year that Benji Michel had as well. Before he signed his homegrown contract to join Orlando City FC, Michel earned first team All-WCC honors after scoring 11 goals for the Pilots. He opened the year scoring a goal in six straight games, and was named Top Drawer Soccer’s National Player of the Week on Oct. 1. He was the first Pilot to be named an All-American by the United Soccer Coaches since 2002 and was also named to the United Soocer Coaches All-American Second Team.
The accolades don’t stop there. Michel was named to the All-West Region First Team as well as Top Drawer Soccer’s Best XI Second Team. He had seven game-winners, good for third in the nation. He also scored the lone goal against UCLA that sent the Pilots to the second round of the NCAA’s for the first time since 2009.
There’s a reason this guy is playing in the MLS now.
Female Athlete of the Year: Taryn Rawlings, Cross Country and Track and Field
Taryn Rawlings is one of the best runners in UP’s storied history on the course and on the track.
She was key to the success of the women’s cross country team this season. She earned All-American honors for her 26th place finish at Nationals, but what’s more special is how she did it. She passed 24 runners in the final 2K of the race to reach that spot and earn her first All-American award. Her finish helped the team finish 12th in the nation. The team went into the event ranked 23rd.
But I’m burying the lede here. The super impressive thing that she’s done is continuously break her own record for the UP Indoor Mile. She ran a time of 4:36 at the UW Invite to shatter her previous record by almost four seconds. She also owns the record for the 1500m. Breaking a record that you already set is the ultimate power move, and doing this helped her earn this honor.
Honorable Mention: Taryn Ries, women’s soccer
Sophomore Taryn Ries’s meteoric rise to soccer stardom was something to watch. She scored a career-best 15 goals this season, the most since Danielle Foxhoven in 2009. To put that into perspective, that was four more goals than women’s soccer had all of last year. She also had six game-winners on the year, leading the conference in both of those categories. She was the first Pilot to have two hat tricks in the same year since Foxhoven in 2009 again.
Against the WCC she dominated as well, scoring nine goals and 19 points against WCC opponents this season. She earned First Team All-WCC honors for her performance and made the United Soccer Coaches Women’s All-West Region Second Team.
The best part for Pilot fans? They have her for two more years.
Male Rookie of the Year: Sema Pankin, Men’s Tennis
Men’s tennis is pretty young, with only one senior and a multitude of freshmen and sophomores. Turns out one of those freshmen might be special.
Sema Pankin was named WCC Freshman of the Year for his performance this season, the first Pilot to earn such an honor. He had the tough task of anchoring the top of the Pilots’ lineup this spring and delivered, earning All-WCC Second Team recognition for singles play and All-WCC double recognition for his doubles play with fellow freshman Eleftherios Neos.
Pankin posted an 18-13 overall singles record this year and a 10-8 dual singles mark at the No. 1 position. As the primary No. 1 double duo he and Neos went 5-1 against WCC opponents. He earned WCC Singles Player of the Week honors on April 9 as well.
The Pilots are in the midst of rebuilding with the loss of star tennis player Michail Pervolarakis last season. The team struggled this season, only going 7-14 and 2-7 in conference. Maybe in Pankin they’ve found someone who can help bring the team back to prominence.
Female Rookie of the Year: Haylee Andrews, Women’s Basketball
The women’s basketball team admittedly had a tough year. While they technically did improve, the team finished 13-17 and only 5-13 in conference play. Their offense was fast-paced and exciting, but their defense struggled, and at the end of the season UP did not renew head coach Cheryl Sorenson’s contract.
One bright spot on the season, however, was the play of freshman Haylee Andrews. In 28.5 minutes per game she averaged 11.5 points per game on shooting splits of 47/32/72. She played a lot of big minutes and really stepped up at different times. The Australian Sensation (the nickname is a work in progress) is adept at getting to the free throw line and capable of locking down on defense.
She’ll factor in big into whatever new head coach Michael Meek implements. With a new head coach who has a history of success and a year under her belt, there’ll be big expectations for the guard next year.
Top Team: Men’s Cross Country
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone which team took the top prize.
The men’s cross country team once again made the podium with their third place finish at the 2018 NCAA Cross Country Championships back in November. It was the third time in five years the Pilots finished third or better, with last year being their highest finish in program history at second place. The Pilots had three runners earn All-American honors, with Junior Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse leading the Pilots with a 21st place finish while seniors Logan Orndorff and Nick Hauger finished 25th and 40th respectively.
The men’s team dominated all year long, proving to be one of the best teams in the nation. They ranked in the top five for almost the entirety of the Fall Season, the only teams consistently ahead of them being Northern Arizona and WCC rival BYU. They also swept the team and individual races at the NCAA West Regional, with Hauger winning the individual title.
Cross country had the most success out of every sport on campus this year. They aren’t the most recognizable team on campus, but they are definitely the most dominant.
Now even though these are the teams and players that won, it doesn’t take away from what other teams have done this year. Women’s cross country had a fantastic year. Rowing has claimed plenty of podium finishes this spring, and senior Veronica Nicacio was even invited to the US Rowing U23 National Team Selection Camp, which will select the crews for the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Sarasota-Brandenton, Florida. Both tennis teams are struggling somewhat, but they’re both young and have shown bursts of ability as well. And track and field, as per usual, is doing just fine in these meets.
It was a year of ups and downs for UP athletics. From the stellar fall season to the struggles of winter to the return of a (fairly) successful spring. Some sports are still in progress, such as baseball and track and field, and will still be after we’re off to our respective homes this summer. These athletes put a lot of work into their sports, and at the very least have made this year interesting.
Stay tuned next year for the next Pilot Roundup. Have a great summer!
Kyle Garcia is the sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.