Recapping a banner year for area college athletics

It was quite a year for local colleges on the playing field as five teams finished as national runner-up. That is huge accomplishment but it’s still a little disappointing that none were able to seal the deal. Of those five, four were literally a play away.

So here’s the top 10. Yes, it’s pretty hard to decide who gets the No. 1 and who gets No. 2 and on so on. I’ll explain as I proceed.

1 – Cal Poly Pomona men’s basketball - The Broncos (25-8) get the top spot for one main reason, their finish was the most unexpected of the five second-place finishers. The Broncos were not ranked and were only 5-5 through the first round of CCAA play. They had to run the table the last 10 games just to finish in a tie for first.

They had injuries. Three players were lost for the season before the first game was played. And they ended up traveling 10,000 miles with playoff games in three different time zones. The season ended with a 56-53 loss to No. 1 and undefeated Findlay in the nationally televised championship game. Give Larry Gordon much of the credit for putting this team on his back and carrying it!

2 – Cal State San Bernardino golf - Unfortunately the Coyotes go here because of how they lost. Yes it was the best finish for the school in 13 trips to the national championship. But they had an eight-stroke lead going into the final round and finally lost that lead on the 18th hole, the 72nd and last of the tournament when Gene Webster double bogeyed the last hole.

The Coyotes finished tied with Sonoma State, then lost in a one-hole playoff. That error also cost Webster medalist honors and he ended up third individually.

3 – Cal State San Bernardino volleyball – The Coyotes finish might have been No. 1 any other year. Cal State (30-4) won its sixth CCAA title in eight years and that is a significant accomplishment in a conference with so much talent in that sport.

The Coyotes lost to No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul 3-2, 15-13 in the fifth set on Concordia’s home floor in what was likely the best title match in Division II history. Concordia’s only loss of the season came to the Coyotes in a season opener.

4 – University of La Verne volleyball - The Leopards (27-3) steamrolled their competition in the SCIAC as usual. Their biggest win in the tournament run came when they upset No. 1 Juniata (Penn.) in the semifinal 3-2 but coach Don Flora’s team ran out of gas and lost to No. 2 Emory 3-1 in the title tile.

La Verne went in ranked No. 3 so it slightly surpassed expectations, led by super senior Brianna Gonzales.

5 – University of La Verne golf - The Leopards finished second to Oglethorpe (Ga.) in the national tournament held at the PGA Club in Florida. The Leopards entered ranked No. 2 behind Methodist which placed third. Upland’s Mitchell Fedorka tied for medalist honors but lost in a playoff.

It was La Verne’s third straight top 10 finish following a second in 2007 and a ninth in 2008. The more ironic thing is that makes six straight national runner-up finishes for a SCIAC team as Redlands was the bridesmaid in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008.

6 – San Bernardino Valley College men’s cross country - The Wolverines won their third straight state title at Woodward Park In Fresno which is pretty impressive at the community college level given the constant turnover.

The team was led by the third place individual finish of Carlos Perez who ran a 20:19.05, smashing the previous school record.

7 – Pomona-Pitzer baseball - The Sagehens (37-7) had their best season in school history, highlighted by win streaks of 15 and 17 games. They were ranked No. 1 much of the season, only to have the storybook run end with losses to George Fox and Chapman at the West regional in Oregon. Senior Drew Hedman, named Division III Player of the Year, ignited the run.

8 – San Bernardino Valley College men’s basketball – The Wolverines made it all the way to the Elite Eight in Fresno but lost a three-overtime thriller to San Francisco 92-87. If they had made some free throws, who knows how far they would have gone. They team had a great run under first-year coach Quincy Brewer and it did so with just one sophomore on the team. The sky is the limit next year.

9 – Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball – The Coyotes (20-10) won a share of the CCAA title, making it eight in 10 years. If it weren’t for Larry Gordon’s desperation 3-pointer that sent the regional quarterfinal into overtime, it may have been Cal State in the national title game.

10 – Claremont-Mudd-Scripps hosts Division III national tennis - It is always nice to have a national championship in our own backyard and the Stags got hosting honors this year at their immaculate new complex. It was too bad the Stags lost out on a chance to win the team title after dropping the regional final at UC Santa Cruz. But senior Larry Wang capped a storied career with a couple of wins in the individual competition.

Coming soon – the top 10 athletes who made the headlines.

Locals earn honors in the Big West

Five players with local ties were among those honored when the Big West announced its All-Conference baseball selections.

Cal State Fullerton junior outfielder Josh Fellhauer was named to the first team. The Rancho Cucamonga product hit an impressive .391 with 51 RBI in leading the Titans to a 42-14 mark.

UC Riverside standouts Paul Applebee and Carl Uhl were named to the second team. Applebee, a junior left-hander out of Upland, went 10-2 on the mound with a 3.74 ERA.

Uhl, a senior outfielder, hit .329 with 36 RBI. He was a prep standout at Serrano High school, leading both the football and baseball teams to CIF titles his senior year.

Honorable mention went to UC Irvine freshman Tommy Reyes (.348) as well as Cal State Fullerton sophomore Gary Brown (.329). Brown is out of Diamond Bar while Reyes is from Rancho Cucamonga but spent his prep career at Bishop Amat..

Martinez, Austin earn top athlete honors at UCR

The UC Riverside Athletics Department hosted its 2008-09 Athletics Awards Ceremony on Tuesday evening at The Barn on UCR’s campus, honoring the achievements of the 2008-09 Highlander student-athletes and staff.

This year, the UC Riverside Athletics Department handed out five awards to distinguished student-athletes for their accomplishments during the 2008-09 season. The first award went to Men’s Golfer Scott Clayton, the recipient of the Harper Scholar-Athlete Award, presented annually to the UCR varsity athlete – a freshman, sophomore or junior – whose athletic and scholarly achievements are deemed most outstanding. The recipient must have a GPA of at least 3.20.

Clayton finished tied for third this season at the Big West Men’s Golf Championship, which is the second highest finish ever at the championship by a UCR men’s golfer. During his academic career at UC Riverside, the San Bernardino, CA native has all As except for one A-minus.

Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field athlete Danielle Evans was the winner of the evening’s second award, the Lindy Award, given annually to the student-athlete or service group member who has demonstrated exceptional dedication by participating in extracurricular activities in the community and at the university, during the current school year and who is in satisfactory academic standing.

Evans is the current president of SAAC, a captain on the track team, president of the track and running club at UCR, a mentor for her church group, secretary of the Black Graduation Committee, a member of African Americans in Humanities, and a frequent helping hand at basketball games and special development events. Not only is she an excellent student, but she was UCR’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the Big West.

Men’s Soccer player David Watson was the recipient of UCR’s Best Teammate Award presented annually to the UCR student and varsity athlete whose actions both on and off the field exemplify the concepts and ideals of team and teamwork.

This past spring, the men’s soccer program was hit with a number of injuries and barely had enough players to compete in matches. Watson, who finished his playing career in the fall, began coming to 8:30 am practices and traveling for matches so the team would have enough players and subs to be competitive. That kind of initiative and selflessness is the perfect embodiment of what a teammate should be.

The Male and Female Student-Athlete of the Year awards went respectively to Highlanders men’s basketball player Kyle Austin and women’s cross country and track & field athlete Brenda Martinez.

The men’s basketball program this year set a number of Division I-era standards including overall wins, conference wins and highest finish in the Big West, and Kyle Austin was a big reason why. The sophomore transfer led the Highlanders in scoring and minutes played and was second in rebounding and free throw percentage, while earning First-Team All-Big West honors in the process. In doing so, he became the first UCR men’s basketball player to earn First-Team accolades from the Big West.

Brenda Martinez was named an All-American in indoor track this year after finishing seventh in the mile at the NCAAs. She was recently named Big West Female Track Athlete of the Year after winning the 800m and 1500m at the conference championship, and her times in those events are both among the top 20 in the entire world. After competing in the US Olympic Trials last summer, she is set to compete in the USA Championships this June in Eugene, Oregon.

Throughout the evening, the Highlanders also celebrated their Big West All-Conference award winners, Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) members, graduating seniors, and Big West Scholar Athletes.

Former Cal State star excelling at Queens

For four years at Cal State San Bernardino, Tanya Zeferjahn of Hesperia was called the best cross country runner in the history of the Coyotes program.

Now, she can be called national champion.

This past Friday, Zeferjahn – competing for Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., — captured the NCAA Division II 10,000 meter championship with a time of 35:38.46, finishing four seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.

Sarah Waple, director of sports information for Queens, said Zeferjahn was the 10th seed in the field of 18 runners.

“Zeferjahn ran an even pace with a pack of 12 through the first 5,000 meters. The pack then was paired down to five over the next 3000 meters. When Kimi Shank of Missouri-Southern pulled away with 800 meters to go, Zeferjahn responded to her move.

“It wasn’t until the bell lap with 400 meters remaining that Zeferjahn took control of the race with a surge that saw her quickly open up a two-second gap on Shank. Zeferjahn was then able to solidly secure her first NCAA national title with a closing 35-second 200 meter kick to win…” Shank was timed in 35:42.93. Tori Tyler and Alia Gray of Chico State finished fourth and sixth in the event respectively.

Zeferjahn also qualified in the 5,000 meters but elected not to run after her big win in the 10,000.

Zeferjahn was an all-American for the Coyotes in 2004, finishing among the top 30 runners as the first woman to reach the NCAA Division II cross country national championship meet since cross country begat at CSUSB in 1984.

She is a graduate student at Queens, working toward her master’s degree in business administration.

Last month at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, PA., Zeferjahn finished eighth in the 10,000 meters in 35:36.23, but more importantly, she eclipsed the NCAA Division II automatic qualifying standard for the national championship meet by 14 seconds (35.50).

Earlier this year, Zeferjahn won the Carolinas Conference 10,000 meter run to earn all-conference honors. She  was also named the Southeast Region Women’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association.

Zeferjahn graduated from CSUSB in 2006 after setting team records at 5,000 meters (18:28.1) and 6,000 meters (21:59). She earned all-CCAA conference honors three times, NCAA all-West Region honors four times and was an NCAA all-American in 2004, finishing 28th in the national championship meet.

She was the CSUSB athletic department’s co-Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year twice, maintaining a 3.89 grade point average in business administration with an emphasis in environmental management. She was twice an ESPN-The Magazine/CoSIDA District 8 academic all-region first team selection in track/cross country and was an NCAA Division II Track& Cross Country Coaches Assn. scholastic all-American.

Zeferjahn is a 2002 graduate of Hesperia High School. Her parents are Randy and Debbie Zeferjahn

Former UCR coach honored

Former UC Riverside Head Volleyball Coach Sue Gozansky, who retired last fall after nearly four decades as the face of Highlanders volleyball, was honored this week with the USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach Award in the Donald S. Shondell Contemporary Division for 2009.

In the letter informing Gozansky of her selection, Cecile Reynaud, chair of the nominating committee, wrote:

 “Your coaching career has been nothing short of remarkable over the last 39 years . . . Your services as a long time FIVB instructor, your publications contributing to the knowledge of coaches at all levels, and your national championships at the University of California Riverside set you apart from many others in the coaching profession. Your qualities in leading young women and setting a great examples as a positive role model have truly been appreciated. You have dedicated a large part of your life giving back to our sport, and it has not gone unrecognized by your coaching peers or players.”

The award was presented at the USA Volleyball meetings in Minneapolis at the 64th Annual Boyce Awards Banquet.

Long Beach State wins Commisioner’s Cup; UCR sixth

Long Beach State has won the 2008-09 Big West Conference Commissioner’s Cup.  The Cup is the second for the 49er program in the 11-year history of the Cup.  The 49ers won four conference titles and averaged 110 points over the 14 conference sports in which they compete. The Cup is presented to the institution with the best overall results in the conference’s 18 sponsored sports championships.

    Cal Poly placed second in the Cup standings, the highest finish in the program’s history.  The Mustangs averaged the second-most points over the spring season which included a softball championship, a second place finish in women’s track and field and third place finishes in women’s tennis, baseball and men’s track and field.

    UC Irvine placed third for the second consecutive year.  The Anteaters won titles in men’s soccer and baseball and also won the inaugural women’s water polo tournament title.  The Anteaters also had second place finishes in men’s tennis, women’s tennis, and men’s golf.

    Despite four conference crowns, UC Santa Barbara placed fourth in the 2008-09 standings, its lowest finish in the history of the Cup.  UC Davis placed fifth, its highest finish and won a conference title in men’s golf.  UC Riverside climbed out of the cellar spot from a year ago to finish in the sixth spot this season.  The Highlanders claimed their first women’s cross country title in the fall to lead the way.

    To determine the champion for the Commissioner’s Cup, total points are summed and divided by the number of championships in which each institution competes.  Each sport champion is also given a 20-point bonus.  The Commissioner’s Cup is then awarded to the school with the highest average.

Chaffey’s Turner headed to North Dakota

State University in North Dakota. 

 

State University is a member of the Dakota Athletic Conference. The Beavers won the Conference in 2005 and 2008.

st team Foothill Conference performer who led Chaffey College to a 27- 7 record and a place in the Southern California Regional Finals in 2009. Nick was one of our team captains and averaged 16.4 ppg/4.4 Rebs/ and a team leading 142 three pointers for the “CHP” in his career.

Cal Poly pair places at nationals

Senior Tiffany Turner and junior Jonathan Williams of Cal Poly Pomona each took home All-American honors to highlight Cal Poly Pomona’s efforts Saturday at the NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships, held at Angelo State University.

“Jonathan’s experience at the NCAA was crucial and he got the job done,” Broncos head coach Troy Johnson said. “And Tiffany may be the most determined athlete that I’ve been around. Both of them came through today. They’re among the elite in their events and deserve it.”

Turner (La Crescenta) finished eighth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 11:00.55. She holds the school record in the event and became CPP’s first Bronco All-American in that event.

“For me, when I heard my name among the 12 who made it to the finals the other night was big,” Turner said. “I had the 16th best time coming in and knowing I was among the 12 in the finals was a big goal.

“Today, my coach (assistant Tony Reyes) told me don’t count bodies, but to just run and that kept me focused on the moment. It was pretty neat to come off the track and see the smiles on my coaches’ faces.”

“She did what she needed to do,” Johnson said. “I sent her a text message earlier in the day that said fight to be in the top eight and she did. Tony did a great job of preparing her for the race.”

Williams, who was competing in his third NCAA event, earned his first All-American honor by finishing seventh in the 100 meters. The Temecula native earned his honor with a 10.48 effort.

He is the first Bronco to earn an All-American honor in his event since David Gillard in 1972.

“I got out of the blocks well, but I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t finish higher,” Williams said. “I didn’t lift my knees high enough. But to be in my third NCAA and earn my first All-American honor means a lot to me. I’m looking forward to coming back again and going after the 100 and 200 and the relays.”

“Jonathan had as good of a start out of the blocks as he has had,” Johnson said. “There’s so little room for error when you’re going against an elite field. Jonathan improved over a year ago, and he’s determined to come back and win it. He’s competitive and hungry and that’s how you need to be.”

Tennis event ends college sports year

The college sports year came to an official end on Sunday. The last team in action happened to be the women’s doubles team from Pomona-Pitzer which was wrapping up play at the Division III national tournament in Georgia.

The top-seeded duo of junior Siobhan Finicane and Olivia Muesse of
won their semifinal but dropped the championship match later in the day.

The duo started with a semifinal win over Kristin Cobb and Marta Drane of
Denison in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3 but ended with a loss to the University of Chicago duo of Chrissy Hu and Kendra Higgins 6-1, 6-3.

The Sagehens were defeated by Emory (Ga.) in the team quarterfinal
earlier in the week.

Later in the week we’ll go back and look at some of the moments and the athletes that made the 2008-2009 school year an unforgetable one.

One last day of tennis coming up at CMS

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps has a beautiful tennis facility and it has been host to the NCAA Division II Championships all week. while I hardly profess to be an expert on the topic, most coaches at the tournament agree it is one of the nicest facilities anywhere in the country, regardless of classification.

The event has been blessed with Chamber of Commerce weather as well.

Sunday will be the last day of competition so tennis enthusiasts might want to wander out there. There is no admission charge. The facility is right off Sixth Street which runs through the campus.

The singles final is scheduled for noon with the doubles semifinals and final following.

The Stags’ own Larry Wang lost a tough three-setter to Michael Goodwin of Emory in Saturday’s singles quarterfinal. It wraps up a nice career for a quality young man who is now headed to grad school.