UC Irvine Sports Year in Review
The athletics program finished the 2005-2006 season exceeding many expectations set by their critics. Here is a brief recap of how UC Irvine’s teams finished in the Big West Conference.
The Men’s Basketball team started the Big West season firing on all cylinders as they won eight straight conference games and ultimately finished second in the standings behind the Pacific Tigers. The Anteaters will lose their top two scorers from a year ago, Aaron Fitzgerald and Ross Schraeder, and will need to put last season’s 75-73 heartbreaking loss to Long Beach State behind them if they wish to duplicate their success. Next year the team will rely heavily on Nic Campbell, Patrick Sanders and Darren Fells to carry the scoring load while guard Adam Templeton will have the difficult task of trying to replace Fitzgerald and Schraeder in the backcourt. ‘We got a good mix of youth and experience next season,’ said junior forward Nic Campbell. ‘It should be an exciting season.’
Women’s Basketball started the season 1-10, but fought back to capture the sixth seed in the Big West Tournament. The team eventually lost 66-64 to Cal State Northridge in the first round of the tournament, but have much of their core team returning for next season. Angie Ned, who led the team in scoring an average of 13 points per game, will provide the Anteaters with a threat on the perimeter while Kelly Cochran and Stephanie Duda will solidify a strong UCI frontcourt. The women’s team will also need to find a way to win in close games as they lost their final three games, last season by three points or less.
The most memorable season in the history of UCI’s Men’s Volleyball team ended with a five-game upset loss to Penn State in the semifinals of the NCAA Championship. The Anteaters were the number one-ranked team for most of the season and captured the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Title for the first time in school history. Led by 2006 National Player of the Year Jayson Jablonsky, the volleyball team pulled off an impressive 21-game winning steak and made most fans forget about last year’s 9-20 losing season. While Jablonsky received most of the attention, the Anteaters were also led by Brent Asuka, Matt Webber and Brian Thorton, all of whom were named to the All-MPSF first or second team. The squad will lose only two players next season, which will put even more pressure on Head Coach John Speraw to emulate this year’s remarkable success.
The Women’s Volleyball team was largely overshadowed by men’s team this season as the Lady ‘Eaters finished seventh in the Big West. Amanda Vazquez was the lone bright spot for the team. and she was named first team All-West Region and finished second on the UCI all-time block assists list with 337. Freshman Lauren Kellerman emerged as a young star for the team as Head Coach Charlie Brande looks to improve on last season’s disappointing finish.
The Men’s Soccer team finished third last season in the Big West after a lackluster 2-0 loss in their final game against UC Santa Barbara. Irvine finished undefeated at home and will be even stronger heading into next season. The Anteaters will look for seniors Anthony Hamilton and Brad Evans to provide the bulk of the scoring this year as the dynamic duo combined for 24 goals last season. Replacing goalkeeper Ryan Mathy will be the hardest task for the Anteaters as Eric Reingen will take over between the pipes.
The Women’s Soccer team drew national attention when they signed April Heinrichs as their head coach for the upcoming season. Heinrichs coached the U.S. Women’s National Team for five years and led the women’s team to the gold medal in the 2004 Olympics. Her accomplishments also include being named Soccer’s Player of the Decade in the 1980s and being the first women to be inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame. Heinrichs will look to rejuvenate an underachieving program with the help of returning players such as Megan Ortiz, who led the team with six goals scored last season.
The Baseball team finished the season third in the Big West standings and made the NCAA postseason tournament for the first time under Head Coach Dave Serrano. The squad suffered two heartbreaking one-run losses at the hands of the UCLA Bruins and Missouri Tigers and was eliminated from the playoffs. While the team struggled early in the season, the Anteaters pulled off a remarkable 13-1 record in late April to capture their fourth 30-plus-win season in the past five years. Glen Swanson capped an impressive Irvine season by throwing a no-hitter