08-09: The year that was

Scott Roeder | Staff Photographer

Scott Roeder | Staff Photographer
This was one of the best year’s in UC Irvine history for sports, and there seems to be little stopping us.

Men’s Tennis

The 74th – ranked Anteaters grabbed a share of the Big West regular season title for the second straight year, but failed to make the NCAA Tournament when they fell to UC Santa Barbara 4-2 in the Big West Tournament finals.

Finishing the season at 12-15 overall, the ’Eaters had a tough go at it in their out- of- conference schedule, but managed to go 4-1 in the Big West.

This stellar conference performance earned UC Irvine a Big West record nine All-Big West honorees. Two freshmen who played No. 1 and 2 singles for UCI, Steven Henderson and Fabian Matthews, were both named first team singles. Sophomore Khunpol Issara was a second team singles honoree, while sophomore Steven Stege was a singles honorable mention.

Four doubles teams were named All-Big West, with the team of Issara-Sam Gould as first team. Issara-Wes Miller and Zac Tsai-Jon Kazarian were second team, while the tandem of Gautam Vaidyanathan-Henderson was given the honorable mention nod.

The ’Eaters are sure to continue to make strides in the upcoming year, as Miller is the only graduating senior with significant playing time. Meanwhile, Gould, Henderson, Kazarian and Matthews were all members of an outstanding freshman recruiting class by Head Coach Trevor Kronemann. Along with sophomores Issara, Stege and Vaidyanathan, UCI has a bright future in front of it.

Women’s Tennis

No. 56 UC Irvine knocked off UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara in the Big West Tournament before falling to No. 1 seed Long Beach State 4-1, coming up just short of the NCAA Tournament.

Ranked as high as No. 27 nationally at one point, the ’Eaters finished the season ranked No. 56, with a 16-8, 7-1 record.

Freshman Stephanie Hammel, who played No. 1 singles for the ’Eaters, was named Big West Freshman of the Year as well as All-Big West first team singles. Another freshman, Courtney Byron, was named All-Big West second team singles, while sophomore Brooke Bartlett was an All-Big West honorable mention singles recipient. Senior Heidi Kaloi and Hammel teamed up for All-Big West first team doubles honors, while sophomore Miranda Young and Byron earned an All-Big West honorable mention.

Head Coach Mike Edles, who guided the ’Eaters to an NCAA tournament appearance in 2007 with current seniors Ali Borowicz, Clare Fermin and Kaloi on that team, fell just short this year of an at-large bid.

“This team has a lot of talent, but the 2007 team had more experience,” Edles said. “It might seem a little strange having a freshman as the No. 1 singles player, but it’s been good. [The freshmen and sophomores] are so talented and mature for their age.”

Men’s Soccer

UC Irvine made history on the soccer field this season, finishing the year with a 15-2-6 record and its first appearance in the NCAA tournament. Not only did the No. 7 nationally ranked Anteaters make the tournament, but they drew a first round bye and dazzled a sold-out crowd of 2,500 at Anteater Stadium by beating Cal Poly 3-0. The No. 14 seeded ’Eaters then traveled to Queens, New York to face No. 3 seed St. John’s in the round of 16. Unfortunately, they fell just short, losing 3-2.

The magical season was filled with highlights, including winning the inaugural Big West Tournament, the San Diego State University/University of San Diego Tournament, and starting the season undefeated in their first 10 games. UCI also did not lose its last 11 games, winning the last seven leading up to the St. John’s match.

Senior midfielder Matt Murphy, senior defender David Sias, junior forward Irving Garcia, and sophomore forward Spencer Thompson were all named All-Big West first team, while Murphy, Garcia, Sias and freshman goaltender Andrew Fontein were all given All-American honors from various publications. Sias went on to be selected by the Chicago Fire with the 43rd pick of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

Meanwhile, Head Coach George Kuntz and Assistant Coach Chris Volk were honored with NSCAA/adidas Far West Region Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year, respectively. It was the second such honor for Kuntz in three years.

While UCI will miss the face of Anteater soccer Murphy, lock down defender Sias and fellow senior All-Big West honorees Kyle Schmid, Shane Westbrook and Rafael Macedo, it will be sure to build on the experience that was 2009, which will go down as a major building block for the Anteater soccer program.

Women’s Water Polo

The Lady Anteaters won 23 games on their way to winning the inaugural Big West Tournament. Unfortunately, the 23 wins, good for most in school history, and a No. 10 national ranking, were not enough to earn an at-large bid in the tiny eight- team field NCAA tournament.

Senior Gianna Rossi, third all-time at UC Irvine with 192 career goals, was named the Big West Tournament Most Valuable Player after scoring six goals in three games, including two game-winners. Rossi will be sorely missed next year, as her 67 goals this season were the highest in UCI history. Senior Julia Fancher will also be departing after notching 49 goals, good for second on the team. Junior Kat Plummer, who was third on the team with 48 goals, will look to pick up the slack.

On the Big West awards front, UCI swept the three major honors. Rossi was named Big West Player of the Year, freshman goaltender Morgan Vickers was named Big West Co-Freshman of the Year, and Head Coach Dan Klatt picked up Big West Coach of the Year honors.

Finishing the year with a 23-9, 4-1 Big West record, the Anteaters will be able to gain an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with the Big West Tournament beginning in 2011.

Men’s Basketball

After losing three key seniors from last year’s Big West Tournament finals run, UC Irvine had a hard time gaining its identity in the beginning of the season. This led to a 2-10 start to the season, including embarrassing losses to Idaho and Seattle University. However, the ’Eaters did not give up on the season and came back to earn a five seed in the Big West Tournament.

Led by the emergence of power forward Eric Wise, who was impressively named second team All-Big West as a freshman, senior Kevin Bland, who turned in a league leading seven double-doubles, and junior guard Michael Hunter, who was named honorable mention All-Big West, the ’Eaters had their moments.

Senior guard Brett Lauer scored 27 points on seven three-pointers while Wise poured in 25 points against California State University, Fullerton to start off Big West play. Wise had 18 points and nine rebounds in an annihilation of Cal State Northridge, 73-51. Northridge would go on to win the Big West and play Memphis closely in the NCAA tournament.

Fan support was also at an all-time high with ASUCI putting on several “Black-Out Nights,” inspiring “’Eater Nation” to rally around the team. Bren Events was filled to 4,000 plus fans against Oregon, and nearly 3,700 against a homecoming game win versus UC Riverside.

In a very evenly matched Big West, the ’Eaters were hoping for another repeat of last year’s tournament magic. However, they suffered a tough loss to UC Davis, 69-68, after a questionable foul call late in the game. UCI finished the season 12-19, but will surely improve with a solid new recruiting class of six, and only two seniors leaving.

Men’s Golf

The Anteaters had high hopes for the 2008-09 season, coming off a third- place finish in the NCAA East regional last year and making an appearance in the NCAA Division I Championships.

Led by junior John Chin, who was named the Big West Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season, the men received an at-large berth in the NCAA Regional, finishing 11th in the West. It was the 8th trip in nine years for Coach Paul Smolinski’s program, whose team tied with Pacific for second place in the Big West Conference Championships.

Chin led UC Irvine with a 71.43 average, and competed with senior Tim Cha in the U.S. Amateur Championships.

Senior Sean Shahi had a 72.26 average and six top-10 showings. He was an All-Big West second team honoree. Sophomore Bryan Harris posted a 73.71 average, while freshman Roberto Francioni averaged a 73.86. Francioni was tabbed Big West Co-Freshman of the Year. Sophomore Max Greil, who averaged 76.25, rounded out the lineup for the NCAA Regionals.

He will look to continue the history of UCI men’s golf excellence.

Women’s Golf

The story of UC Irvine golf in 2008-2009 begins with red-shirt senior Jane Chin. After sitting out a year after her junior season to improve her game, Chin had an off-the-charts year that ended in being named the Big West Women’s Golfer of the Year.

She won three individual tournaments during the year, and dominated the UCI record books with her performance at the Kent Youel Invitational. She tied the lowest score for 18 holes (66) and set the record for the 36-hole (134) and 54-hole total (203). After posting a 76.5 average as a junior, Chin has posted a ridiculous 69.62 average this year, the lowest in all of women’s Division I golf. Golfstat Cup Rankings named her No.1 in the nation in November, and she earned First Team All-American Honors in May.

As a team, UCI was very strong, as they finished fourth in their West Regional, advancing to the NCAA finals. There, they finished in 22nd place nationally..

Junior Patty Chawalitmetha, sophomore Hillary Packard and freshman Joy Trotter were all named to the Big West second team. This young core will look to make up for the departure next year of Chin, their only senior.

Men’s Volleyball

The Anteaters brought home their second national championship in three years, defeating USC 3-2 (26-30, 30-23, 26-30, 30-17, 15-12) in the championship match in Provo, Utah.

Finishing the year 27-5, the Anteaters were upset in the MPSF tournament semi-finals by the very same USC team, but still nabbed a No. 1 at-large seed for the NCAA tournament. After beating No. 4 seeded Ohio St. 3-0 in the first game, UCI had to overcome a deficit multiple times to beat the Trojans.

“That was an epic battle,” Coach John Speraw said. “I think people could be talking about that match for a very long time. I know I will.”

Tournament most valuable player Ryan Ammerman was the team captain and the all-important catalyst for the Anteaters. Olympic gold medalist and Head Coach John Speraw guided a composed and experienced team of freshmen opposite Carson Clark, outside hitters Taylor Wilson, a senior, sophomore Jordan DuFault, senior libero Brent Asuka, and middle blockers Austin D’Amore, a freshmen, and sophomore Kevin Wynne.

“This whole year has been about team effort,” Ammerman said.

Ammerman was named first team All-American, while DuFault, Wynne and Clark were all second-team honorees. They are the latest products of Speraw’s coaching and recruiting, which has turned UCI into a volleyball powerhouse and potential dynasty.

Women’s Volleyball

The Lady Anteaters finished second in the Big West with a 17-12 overall record, 12-4 in the Big West, winning 10 of their last 12 matches to make a strong push for the NCAA postseason. Unfortunately, UCI narrowly missed out on an at-large bid, despite posting their best season since 2003.

Coach Charlie Brande, who announced he was retiring after nine seasons at UCI, was named Big West Coach of the Year for his efforts.

On the court, sophomore outside hitter Kari Pestolesi, senior outside hitter Lauren Kellerman and junior setter Taryn Robertson were all named American Volleyball Coaches Association All-West Region honorees, marking the first time UCI has had three honorees. Kellerman made it on to the first team, while Pestolesi and Robertson were both honorable mentions. Kellerman went on to be named an honorable mention All-American.

Junior Alexandra Filkins was also a big reason that UCI turned it on late in the season. She recorded or tied personal highs during seven of the eight weeks of Big West play, ending with a whopping 16 kills and 18 digs in the 3-1 season finale against Cal Poly.

For next year, Paula Weishoff has been named the new women’s volleyball head coach at UCI. A three-time Olympian, Weishoff looks to continue the Anteaters’ rise. Robertson, Filkins and Pestolesi will all return, and standout recruits Taylor Smith and Courtney Moeller look to help the cause as well.