The last 12 months of Long Beach State athletics have been full of record breaking statistics, memorable individual performances and one historic national championship.
10. Women’s Water Polo Senior Night Win
The highlight of the women’s water polo season came during the last game of the year at Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center. Senior captain Virginia Smith celebrated Senior Night with a game-high four goals, including the eventual game-winner, and two key steals in a 10-8 overtime win over Cal State Northridge. Smith finished the year with a team-high 35 steals. She also second on the team with 35 goals, 10 assists and 45 points. Junior Toni Morrissey led LBSU with 46 points.
9. Men’s Golfer Joe Fryer First-Team All-Big West
After bursting onto the scene as a sophomore and receiving Big West second-team honors, Joe Fryer was named to the first team after winning the Big West Golfer of the Month in September and March. The junior picked up his second and third career wins at the Sacramento State Invitational and UC Santa Barbara Collegiate. Fryer tied for ninth at the Big West Championship, but shot a four-under par 68 in the final round at Industry Hills. It was tied with two other golfers for the best final round score.
8. Dirtbag Clayton Andrews Makes Big West History
Clayton Andrews was the best two-way player in the nation as a starting pitcher and centerfielder for the Dirtbags, and is the first player in Big West history to win Pitcher of the Week and Player of the Week during the same season. The junior southpaw was the third player in history to win five Big West Pitcher of the Week awards, and the first player ever to win four weeks in a row. Andrews led the conference with a 1.11 ERA during conference play, and had a 1.99 ERA on the season. His 118 strikeouts were best in the Big West, and that ranked 16th in the nation.
Andrews was also second on the team in RBIs (26), walks (25) and stolen bases (13) this season, and was the toughest batter to strike out in the country (35.8 AB/K).
7. Women’s Basketball Ends Season On High Note
From Dec. 8 to Feb. 7, the women’s basketball team did not win a single game, dropping 12 straight and sinking to the basement of the Big West standings. However, the LBSU turned it around to win its final five regular season games to make the conference tournament. First-year coach Jeff Cammon relied heavily on young playmaking guards Shanaijah Davison and Ma’Qhi Berry down the stretch.
“I can’t say how proud I am of these young ladies, it’s unbelievable,” Cammon said. “They always played with effort and enthusiasm but now we’re starting to execute and play with toughness and grittiness.”
6. Dan Monson Contract Extension
The men’s basketball program will stay under the guidance of Dan Monson for now after a reconfigured five-year contract extension capped another disappointing exit in the Big West Conference Tournament. Not only did LBSU athletics director Andy Fee make the decision quickly, he did so with a full multimedia explanation about the choice and the future goals of the program.
“Being transparent is a big key to what I want to do here,” Fee said. “Things are going to change. We’re putting together a 21-point metric that we’ll use to assess this program, and make sure we focus and stay on course.”
The official university release was actually a letter from the desk of the athletic director addressed to “LB Nation” and it was accompanied by 15 minutes of video featuring Fee and Monson speaking directly to the camera.
“The contract says to me that I’m working for the right people at the right place,” Monson said in a video announcement. “This job has been a stepping stone in the past, but it’s a destination for me and my family.”
5. “No. 5” Beach Volleyball
The top eight teams in the nation were invited to the NCAA Tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala. Despite being ranked No. 5 for the majority of the regular season, LBSU (26-8) was not among them. LBSU even finished the regular season by pulling off two upsets of No. 4 Cal Poly in order to reach the championship of the Big West Tournament, where the 49ers fell to Hawaii, 4-1.
The eighth, ninth and 10th-ranked teams made it to the tournament, and Hawaii was the only Big West representative, despite the Big West having three of the top six-ranked teams in the nation for the last month.
4. Women’s Golf Wins Big West Championship
The women’s golf team completed a dominant performance at the Big West Championship at Strawberry Farms Golf Club to win the three-round tournament by 10 strokes. It’s the second Big West Championship in school history, and the first since 2009. LBSU senior Jennifer Yu won the individual title after a 2-under par 69 in the final round. She is the first LBSU golfer to win since Kay Hoey in 2007. Yu started the day with two bogies, but finished strong with two birdies on the final holes to win by three strokes.
“We had a really good talk about two weeks ago about raising the bar,” LBSU coach Joey Cerulle said of he and Yu. “It inspired her, and watching her last two weeks of preparation, you could see it coming.”
3. Softball Makes School History
The No. 20 softball team made its seventh NCAA postseason appearance in the last 12 years under coach Kim Sowder after making history all year long. Sophomore pitcher Cielo Meza tossed her second and third career no-hitters in March — the 27th and 28th in school history. Meanwhile, the LBSU offense set team records with 486 hits and 91 doubles. The 49ers also tied for the best ever batting average (.306) in program history, and their 43-14 overall record is sixth best in school history. After participating in the Tempe Regional, sophomore Taylor Rowland became the fifth All-American in school history, earning second-team honors as announced by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. She led LBSU with 12 home runs, and set a school record with 58 RBIs.
2. Women’s Track & Field Big West Championship
With the 4×100 relay team of Azaria Hill, Courtne’ Davis, Madison Golden and Ashleigh Chambers leading the way, the women’s track and field program won its first Big West Conference championship in school history by edging UC Santa Barbara 122-120 in May. The quartet of Davis, Chambers, Hill and Golden went on to shatter their own school record with a 44.59 at the NCAA National Championships prelims in Eugene, Ore., earlier this month. That time is almost a third of a second faster than their previous record. LBSU head coach Andy Sythe gave credit to sprints coach LaTanya Sheffield.
“She came in pretty green on the coaching side of things,” Sythe said. “It was the motivational aspect of Coach Sheffield that I knew would be a difference maker in the program. Her experience comes from her Olympic days, so she’s been a great hire for us. That stability means a lot to me, and the athletes in this program.”
1. Men’s Volleyball National Championship
There were so many moments when the NCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championship match could have slipped away from LBSU, like when it faced elimination at the hands of UCLA trailing 18-16 in the fourth set, down 2-1 in the match. However, the top team in the nation came back to win the set and take the fifth, winning 25-19, 23-25, 20-25, 26-24, 15-12 at Pauley Pavilion.
LBSU relied on the grit and determination it developed over the last year and made history to win the school’s first NCAA championship since 1998.
“You get some failure, what are you gonna do with it?” asked 49er coach Alan Knipe after the match. “Our guys decided to have some determination and do something about it. That was a gritty performance.”
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