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Long Beach State

Long Beach State Athletics 2018 Year In Review

Not even considering the fact that Long Beach State 49ers mascot Prospector Pete was retired this year, the last 12 months of BE/\CH Athletics have been a roller coaster of emotions on and off of the field. Even some of the positive stories have negative aspects, and vice versa.

10. Bummer For Beach Volleyball

Despite being ranked No. 5 for the majority of the regular season, LBSU (26-8) was not among the top eight teams in the nation invited to the NCAA Tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala., last April.

It’s not as if LBSU didn’t beat good teams to go 26-8 on the season. The Beach 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. Meanwhile, the eighth, ninth and 10th-ranked teams made it to Gulf Shores.

9. Men’s Golfer Joe Fryer Adds To Trophy Case

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. That was tied with two other golfers for the best final round score.

8. Clayton Andrews Makes Big West History For Dirtbags

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. However, Andrews somehow didn’t receiver a Pitcher or Player of the year award from the Big West.

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. Dan Monson Contract Extension

The news of Dan Monson signing on for five more years a men’s basketball coach was meet with mixed reaction from the fan base. Poor early results this season and low attendance in Walter Pyramid hasn’t done anything to quell those concerns.

Fans could be even more concerned that Monson and Athletics Director Andy Fee expressed in the contract announcement that this will be a long-term restructuring of the entire program using a 21-point metric that will assess the program internally.

“The contract says to me that I’m working for the right people at the right place,” Monson said. “This job has been a stepping stone in the past, but it’s a destination for me and my family.”

6. Softball Rebuilding After Making School History

The No. 20 softball team made its seventh NCAA postseason appearance in the last 12 years under coach Kim Sowder, thanks in large part to the performances of sophomore pitcher Cielo Meza. She tossed her second and third career no-hitters in March — the 27th and 28th in school history — but she’s transferred out of the school this summer. Meanwhile, the LBSU offense set team records with 486 hits, 91 doubles and a .306 batting average. But Sowder will also have to replace a handful of impact senior starters this season.

5. 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.

4. Women’s Soccer Double Big West Championship

LBSU absolutely dominated the Big West Conference Tournament for the second time in the last three years after winning the regular season championship as well. That feat sent the Beach back to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time since 2008. However, LBSU suffered a 6-0 loss at USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and hasn’t scored a tournament goal since 2012.

“We’ve got to do a better job during the regular season in order to host one of these tournament games,” LBSU coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. His team has never hosted an NCAA game.

3. Men’s Water Polo Back In NCAA Tournament

LBSU made history at Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center in November by beating Pomona-Pitzer 12-5 in the NCAA Tournament play-in game. It is the first NCAA postseason win for LBSU in 27 years.

“Just being part of this is amazing,” LBSU coach Gavin Arroyo said. “Seeing the NCAA banners at Long Beach State … we couldn’t ask for anything better.”

LBSU (14-11) advanced to the first round at Stanford where it lost to UC San Diego. The Beach also won the three-year-old Golden Coast Conference title for the first time.

“It was a lot different than anything I’ve experienced here,” LBSU junior Austin Stewart said. “We were pretty pumped up.”

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.”

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.