‘Eaters on the Big Stage
The ‘Eaters finished at number five in the national rankings, one spot out of a trip to Columbus for the National Championship. But Head Coach David Kniffin’s bunch had plenty to celebrate, hitting their stride in the second half of the year and winning a home match in the MPSF playoffs against UCLA. They reeled off a whopping nine wins in a row, including a win over then-No. 1 and eventual champion Ohio State on March 11, ending their 42-match winning streak with a 3-0 sweep.
UCI will return next year with another competitive squad, led by MPSF Freshman of the Year Scott Stadick. Stadick led the conference with 22 solo blocks this past season, had the second-most total MPSF blocks with 110 and ranked fifth in the nation with 1.20 blocks per set. The team will lose some senior leadership in presence in the form of Michael Saeta and Tami Hershko, who leave the program as members of the all-MPSF First Team and AVCA Second Team All-Americans. Saeta set a single-season UCI-record with 63 aces, and the all-around setter’s 0.59 aces per set ranked third nationally. Hershko led the team with 317 kills, averaging 3.20 per set on a .315 hitting percentage.
UCI finished 21-15 for the 2016-17 basketball season, culminating in a first place seed in the Big West tournament. The ‘Eaters, led by Big West Coach of the Year Russell Turner, racked up 20 wins in their fifth consecutive season, and locked up their third Big West regular season title in the last four years. They kicked off conference play with a 6-0 record before faltering, but regained their footing to finish 12-4. Wins in the first round of the Big West tournament over UC Riverside and in the second round over Long Beach State led to the championship matchup with second-place UC Davis, in which the ‘Eaters fell in a hard-fought 50-47 decision.
In addition to senior Big West Player of the Year Luke Nelson, seniors Jaron Martin and Ioannis Dimakopoulos provided the much-needed maturity for a squad with nine freshmen, most of whom played significant minutes. Martin was recognized as all Big West First Team after averaging 14.1 points and over three assists per game, while Dimakopoulos made the conference second team with averages of 10.9 and 4.1 rebounds while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Sophomore Jonathan Galloway also brought home some hardware for the ‘Eaters, nabbing the Big West Defensive Player of the Year award for his efforts.
Women’s Water Polo
This year’s ‘Eaters team was responsible for the highest-ever ranking for the women’s water polo program this season, reaching No. 5 in the nation twice throughout the year. Head Coach Dan Klatt received his sixth Big West Coach of the Year award, as he led his group to their seventh regular season conference title after finishing 5-0 for the fourth time in his career. As the No. 1 seed in the Big West tournament, the ‘Eaters went on to win the championship with an 8-7 victory of Long Beach State to earn a bid to the NCAA Championships.
UCI fell to a tough California squad 9-7 in the first round of the tournament, ending their season with a 23-7 mark. During the regular season, the ‘Eaters put together a program-best 14 game win streak that saw them unbeaten for the entire months of March and April. In addition to the Big West Coach of the Year in Klatt, junior Mary Brooks earned Big West Player of the Year for the second straight year and led the team with 63 goals. Senior Kelsey Thornton joined Brooks on the first team while converting 45 goals on the year, while fellow seniors McKenna Mitchell and Annika Nelson made the second team.