FALL SPORTS WRAP-UP
The advent of touted first-year head coach Tracy Hamm was as-advertised. The women’s soccer team cracked the .500 win-loss margin for the first time since 2011 and outscored their opponents 26-22 on the season. A strong freshman class and a talented crop of transfers combined for more than half the roster, establishing Hamm as an effective recruiter and cultivator of talent. Both of the Gators’ All-Conference selections, junior defender Jada Williams and junior transfer Vanessa Penuna, were first-year starters. The team is slated to graduate only six on a roster of 32, so the foundation of returners is in good shape to put the recent half-decade skid behind the University.
Men’s soccer followed their winning 2014 season with a consecutive one for the first time in 35 years. Athletic Director Charles Guthrie has to be pleased with the progression of the team since the hiring of second-year head coach Matt Barnes. The pool of talented players has increased drastically during the Barnes era, with eight starters looking to continue their strong play in 2016. The team’s excruciating number of close losses and ties had to be frustrating for Barnes and company, but dropping winnable contests and still posting more wins than losses is an indication of good things to come, à la Murphy’s Law. The Gators will lose All-Conference and All-Regional defender Max Talbert to graduation but should remain stout in the backfield. The Gators allowed just 0.72 goals per match this season with the help of upcoming freshmen Aydan Bowers and Jake Nokes.
Collegiate cross country is all about peaking at the right time, and head men’s cross country coach Tom Lyons showed his ability to facilitate timely performances at the Division II Western Regionals. Four of the Gators’ top five finishers set personal best times on the season’s biggest stage, securing them a fifth-place finish among 23 teams – one spot shy of qualifying for the Division II National Championships. Junior Benji Preciado spearheaded the charge with a 15th-place finish and time of 30:27:74, and sophomore Drew Feldman was close behind at 30:43:59, finishing 26th. Men’s cross country is top dog among Gators athletic programs at this point in the year, and they will keep their top-three core of runners intact for the 2016 season.
After the departure of their top runner and senior team captain Paxton Cota in 2014, the women’s cross country team experienced an expected drop-off in the California Collegiate Athletics Association standings this season, but the young squad is retooling in a promising fashion. Sophomore Adriana Calva emerged as the Gators’ top post-season threat after a quiet freshman campaign, finishing with a time of 22:33:51 at the Division II Western Regionals. Cori Harral was right behind Calva at 23:07:87 and paced the team for most of the season. Chloe Rock, Samantha Lopez and Jessica Betancourt rounded out the top five for Gators, who won’t lose any seniors to graduation heading into 2016.
Women’s volleyball had a fantastic 2015 season, and it’s easy to see why, looking at the personnel. The Gators featured a pair of record-setting seniors Jaclyn Clark and Jessica Nicerio, who backboned the team’s offense and defense, respectively. Nicerio, Clark and senior Arianna Cruz will be missed in 2016, but the Gators retain a strong foundation despite their departures. The team returns a stellar junior in Taylor Brownlee and will look to improve upon this year’s first-round loss in the CCAA tournament, where the Gators fell to their season-long kryptonite Cal Poly, Pomona.