2013-2014 marked a phenomenal season for several athletic programs at UC Irvine. Here’s a look back at what the Anteaters have accomplished this season.
Volleyball Throughout the last decade the men’s volleyball program at UC Irvine has established itself as one of the most formidable Division I teams in the NCAA. The Anteaters boast an impressive resume, earning a total of four national championships within the last seven years. UC Irvine’s first national volleyball title came in 2007 through a 3-1 defeat of IPFW. It would mark UCI’s first national championship in 18 years, which previously came courtesy of the men’s water polo team in 1989. A mere two years later the ‘Eaters captured their second national title in a thrilling five setter against USC, successfully battling back from a 1-2 deficit. In 2012 the two teams would once again meet in the finals of the NCAA tournament in a rematch of their 2008 confrontation. Despite playing at USC’s home court, the top-seeded Anteaters were able to secure their third national title without dropping a set to the Trojans. UC Irvine would repeat as champions to earn their fourth title against BYU the following year, once again sweeping their opponents 3-0. The two-peat is made even more impressive by the fact that the Anteaters became the first team in 17 years to win back-to-back championships and the first school in 30 years to do so without dropping a single set in the championship matches. In 2014 the ‘Eaters were unable to capture the past success of their previous two seasons, falling to Stanford in five, losing 13-15 in the final decisive set. UC Irvine concluded its season holding an overall record of 18-11 and 15-9 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation league, placing them in a tie for fifth. In spite of having the toughest schedule in the MPSF (per the NCAA Statistics Toughest Schedule Report), the ‘Eaters still held the most road wins of any MPSF team with 10. Though the success of the team didn’t measure up to that of previous years, their efforts were still recognized as several players earned numerous individual accolades. In the MPSF, middle blocker Scott Kevorken and libero Michael Brinkley were named first and second team respectively, while outside hitter Scott Dejno received honorable mentions. Additionally, the duo of Brinkley and Kevorken received All-America honors by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (A.V.C.A.) and were named first-team All-Americans by Volleyball Magazine. Ranking fourth nationally in terms of average attendance, UC Irvine is home to one of the largest volleyball fan-bases in the nation. Look for the ‘Eaters to claim their fifth title in 2015, but brace yourself before entering the Bren on game night. It gets pretty rowdy in there.
Tennis In the past 40 years UC Irvine’s tennis programs has produced multiple national championships, conference titles and All-American selections. Men and women’s tennis have kept with this tradition by exhibiting strong performances in recent seasons, but are still looking to permanently establish themselves as a dominant fixture of the Big West Conference. Since moving into the Division I conference, the men’s tennis team has appeared in the postseason NCAA Tournament a total of 11 times, placing highest in 1989 when the team advanced to the quarter finals. In the current conference, the Anteaters have experienced the most success in 2010, where they clinched the school’s first Big West Tournament title and NCAA tournament appearance since 2005. The next year the team claimed its second-straight Big West Conference Title and another post-season appearance in the NCAA tournament after a 4-0 sweep of their opponents. Most recently, the men’s team concluded their 2014 campaign with a 5th place finish in the Big West and an overall record of 11-18. The team did accumulate multiple honors for four of its student-athletes, with four All-Big West singles nominations and two doubles selections. While the team will be hurt by the loss of its lone senior in Ryan Cheung whom started at No. 1 singles, the roster features a core group of rising juniors whom are still growing as players and will look to have a greater impact in the years to come. Under the tutelage of head coach Mike Edles, the women’s program has consistently made their way to the finals of the Big West Tournament in the past eight years. Most recently the Lady Anteaters enjoyed a milestone season when they recorded a team-record 23 wins including a Big West conference title and a third trip to the NCAA tournament. From there, the Anteaters continued to make history by winning their first tournament match in a 4-2 victory over San Jose State. That same year, the ‘Eaters finished with a ranking of No. 23 in the national polls, a record high for the program. The women concluded the competitive 2014 season with an overall record of 17-7 and a second place finish in the Big West Tournament. UC Irvine also earned five All-Big West selections, with No. 1 singles Sarah Gong and the No. 1 doubles tandem of Ali Facey and Franziska Goeetsching earning first team honors. Boasting a deep roster, a fourth NCAA appearance is definitely within grasp for next year’s women’s team.
Water Polo UC Irvine’s water polo program holds a strong tradition of success for both the men’s and women’s teams. Under the guidance of legendary men’s water polo coach Ted Newland, the Anteaters have won national NCAA championships in 1970, 1982, and 1989. Over the course of his storied career Newland crafted the Anteaters into constant championship contenders, leading UCI to the final four of the NCAA Championship 21 times. Through Newland, the program has produced fifteen Anteaters that eventually went on to compete in the Olympics and 113 student-athletes whom have earned All-America Accolades. Retiring after 39 years in 2004, Newland has entrusted current head coach March Hunt to continue his legacy. A former UCI All-American, Hunt has led the Anteaters to a top five ranking in the national poll five times since assuming the mantle of head coach, peaking as the nation’s third best in 2007. UC Irvine’s water polo currently reign atop the Big West, as they added a fifth Big West Tournament Trophy to their already impressive collection with an 11-4 victory over Cal State Northridge. With the win, the Lady Anteaters advanced to their third NCAA Tournament appearance, finishing in a respectable sixth place. Since moving to the Big West Conference from the MPSF Conference in 2009, the Lady Anteaters have claimed the Big West regular season title and tournament title ever year with the exception of the 2013 season. UC Irvine currently holds a Big West record of 28-4 over six years, and is 14-1 all time in the Big West Tournament. The Lady Anteaters have held winning records every year in the Big West Conference, holding twenty or more wins in five of those seasons. Third-year utility player, Danielle Warde was selected as the Big West Player of the Year in addition to an All-Big West first team selection, scoring a team high of 56 goals and consistently posting strong defensive plays. Warde follows in the footsteps of former Anteater Gianna Rossi from 2009 and fellow teammate Jessy Cardey who earned the honor in 2011 and 2012. Seniors Hanna Croghan, Jessy Cardey, Hillary Estrada and Jillian Yocum also shared in first team honors, while sophomore McKenna Mitchell earned honorable mentions. All four players were also named as All-Americans by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (AWPC). Rounding the awards out, Head coach Dan Klatt was also awarded Big West Coach of the year for leading the Lady Anteaters to five regular season and tournament titles. With a talented roster and coach, expect nothing less but yet another Big West championship from the team in 2015.
Soccer Soccer is another sport where both the men’s and women’s teams have both experienced a tremendous amount of success the Big West Conference, and 2013 proved to be no different. By the end of the 2013 season the men’s soccer team once again proved why they belonged amongst the ranks of the elite in the Big West Conference. For the fourth time in school history the program reached the NCAA Tournament in the post season, and advanced into the round of 16 before falling to the No. 5 Maryland Terrapins. Speaking of fours, the ‘Eaters also claimed their fourth Big West regular season and tournament title. The team’s 15 wins are the second-most in program history, with five of those wins coming against the likes of ranked opponents such as No. 1 UCLA and No. 16 Louisville. Several individual accolades were awarded throughout the season, as seniors Marco Franco and Enrique Cardenas were named Big West Defender of the Year and Midfielder of the Year respectively. The duo was also recognized as All Americans by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), the second time the program has landed a pair of athletes on the list. Franco and Cardenas were also selected to the NSCAA/Continental Tire All-West Region First Team, while senior defender Tarek Morad scored second team All-West honors, marking the first three-player class in UCI history. For Franco, the best news was yet to come as he was selected as the 13th overall pick by the Chicago Fire in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft. He is the twelfth Anteater to be drafted and the highest selected in program history. Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, the women’s program also saw several of their players earn individual accolades. For starters, Senior Zoya Farzaneh was selected as Big West Defensive Player of the Year, earning her first all-conference accolade in the process and becoming the third defensive POTY produced by the program in the last four seasons. Farzaneh is joined by seven of her teammates in being named to the All-Big West squad, setting a program record of eight selections. The senior tandem of Farzaneh and forward Natalia Ledezma also went on to become All-West Region award winners. Under the leadership of head Coach Scott Juniper, the women’s team reached the NCAA for the first time in 2010 off of an astounding 19-3-2 season, where they defeated No. 4 Wake Forest in the Round of 32 as the 16th seed. They would return to the NCAA tourney the following year, but fell to San Diego in the opening round.
Basketball 2014 marked a resurgence in the men’s basketball program, as the team won their first Big West Conference regular season title in 12 years under the guidance of Coach Russell Turner. Upon leading the ‘Eaters to an overall record of 23-12 and 13-3 in Big West Play, Coach Turner was named the 2014 Big West Conference Coach of the Year and NABC District 9 Coach of the Year. The team’s 23 wins tie the record for second-most in UCI history while the 13 conference victories are the most in 11 years. UCI also made its second consecutive postseason appearance, where they advanced to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in Texas but fell to eventual runner-up SMU. At the season’s conclusion Turner’s Anteaters ranked No. 3 nationally in field-goal percentage defense (.374), fourth in total blocked shots (224), and fifth in blocked shots per game (6.4). In the stretch of games from Feb. 1 to the season’s end, the ‘Eaters held the best record in the nation for field-goal percentage defense at an astounding .339, and are a perfect 16-0 when holding the opposition to less than 60 points. With a relatively young squad, Russel’s turners are in position to continue asserting themselves as a prominent Big West power for the future to come. Freshman Luke Nelson led the ‘Eaters in scoring, three-pointers and steals, and was named the Big West’s Freshman of the Year. Fellow freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye set a Big West Conference record of 106 blocks and was given the nod as the Big West’s “Best Defensive Player.” 2013-2014 also proved to be a highly successful season for the women’s basketball team. Irvine advanced as far as the semifinals in the Big West Tournament, but the Lady ‘Eaters were downed by eventual champion Cal State Northridge. The Lady ‘Eaters were an overall 17- 15 for the year, which is the most wins by the team in 19 years when the 1994-95 team went 19-11. 2014’s squad had one of the highest scoring offenses in school history, as they scored 90 or more points in three games during a season, a feat that had never been done before. A key proponent of UCI women’s success was forward Camille Buckley. Averaging 18.5 and 12.0 rebounds per game, Buckley led the conference in rebounding and second in scoring; her career best 26 rebounds set a school record and were the most in the country by any men or women’s player this year. With a roster filled by a majority of seniors whom accounted for 80% of the team’s points, the Lady ‘Eaters will look to rebuild for the upcoming season.