June 28, 2006
Fullerton, Calif. -
Deep ventures into the NCAA Championship Tournaments by baseball and women's soccer highlighted the 2005-06 Cal State Fullerton athletics year, one of the most successful in recent years.
The Titans' baseball team did what has almost become expected -- reach the College World Series for the 14th time in the program's 32-year Div. I history. The Titans beat Georgia Tech and Clemson in between losses to North Carolina, the eventual runnerup, to tie for third place. But the women's soccer team was a surprise, winning a pair of playoff matches to advance to the final round of 16, the best finish ever, not only by the Titans, but by any Big West Conference women's soccer team.
Softball re-emerged as a force in the Big West as the Titans went 37-24 and 14-4 in conference to win their fifth championship in the past seven years but first since 2003. They went 1-2 in the NCAA Regional at Fresno State.
Both basketball teams continued to show progress under the current coaching regimes.
The men's team posted its second successive winning season at 16-13 for Coach Bob Burton and interest in the program continued to increase due to the exploits of explosive point guard Bobby Brown, who tested the waters of the National Basketball Association draft before withdrawing to return for his senior season. The women's team actually had a better conference season than the men, tying for third place for the best finish in 15 seasons. The Titans won 9 of 12 games at home and defeated every Big West rival except UC Santa Barbara. Coach Maryalyce Jeremiah won her 400th career game on Feb. 4 when the Titans upset first-place Long Beach State, 62-61.
The cross country and track and field programs had milestone years. Both the men's and women's track teams enjoyed their best team finishes in Div. I history with the men taking third place and the women fourth in the Big West. Several school records were broken and the Titans qualified a record 14 individuals for NCAA Regionals. Two -- Matt Turner (in the high jump and long jump) and Aaron Williams (long jump) advanced to the NCAA finals with Turner earning All-American honors with a tenth-place finish in the long jump.
The Titans enjoyed their best finish ever in the Big West Conference Commissioner's Cup standings, placing third behind Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara. Fullerton finished ahead of all seven Big West rivals in the U.S. Sports Academy Directors' Cup Standings, tying for 73rd nationally.
Five Titans qualified for the NCAA finals in three individual sports -- two in wrestling, two in track and field and one in fencing.
A sport-by-sport review:
The women's cross country team placed fourth out of eight schools at the Big West Conference Championships for its best finish since 1994. Karina Ortiz was the team's MVP, finishing 12th in conference and 74th at the Regionals. She set a school record for the 6K with a time of 21:50.3.
The men's cross country team was down to the minimum of five players by the time of the Big West Championships, where it finished sixth among seven schools. Damien Nieves was the team MVP, running 20th at the Big West meet and 69th at NCAA regionals.
The women's soccer team won the regular season Big West Conference championship with a 6-1-0 record and then won the post-season tournament for the first time before advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Titans beat UNLV and USC at home before a 2-1 loss at No. 7-ranked Virginia to finish 19-4-0. Six Titans made the All-Big West first team with Karen Bardsley selected goalkeeper of the year and Kellie Cox and Kandace Wilson sharing the offensive player of the year trophy and Marlene Sandoval earning the defensive player award. Coach Ali Khosroshahin shared coach of the year honors in the Big West and was runnerup in the all-district balloting.
The men's soccer team said farewell to 25-year Head Coach Al Mistri with a forgettable 4-14-1 season that saw them go 1-9 to tie for fifth in the 6-team Big West Conference. Senior Jose Barragan was the only Titan on the All-Big West first team and Aaron Craggs was the lone Fullerton representative on the second unit.Former Titan goalkeeper and current assistant coach Bob Ammann was promoted to head coach at season's end.
The women's volleyball team won as many as 14 matches for only the fourth time in the program's history, missing a winning season by losing the season finale to University of San Diego. The Titans won their own Four Points Titan Classic and placed second in the Hawthorn Suites Fullerton Classic. They beat Pacific for only the second time in 43 matches. Libero Vanessa Vella became only the third Fullerton player to make first-team All-Big West Conference while ranking in the nation's Top 25 in digs per game.
Junior point guard Bobby Brown was one of only 150 players selected to NABC All-District men's basketball teams as well as earning first-team All-Big West Conference honors. Senior forward Jamaal Brown earned second-team All-Big West honors and Frank Robinson was selected the league's top sixth man. The close games the Titans won in 2004-05 went the other way this season as Fullerton was 1-3 in overtime and 3-6 in games decided by five or fewer points. Twice the Titans were featured on national television, losing two close games to eventual league champion Pacific.
The Titans' women's basketball team absorbed a difficult non-conference schedule to tie for third place in the Big West standings with their best record (7-7) since the 1990-91 season and the most overall wins (11-17) since the 1994-95 team went 14-15. Fullerton defeated every Big West rival except UC Santa Barbara, which had to hang on for a 1-point win in Titan Gym. Senior Amber Pruitt became the 15th Titan to score 1,000 points, finishing with 1,078 to tie for 13th place. She earned second-team All-Big West honors along with Toni Thomas, who also was selected the BWC Freshman of the Year.
The fencing team placed second in the Intercollegiate Fencing Conference of Southern California in Coach Heizaburo Okawa's 26th and final season. Senta Breden was undefeated (42-0) in the regular season in women's foil and she advanced to the NCAA finals where her 17th place showing carried the team to a tie for 23rd place.
The women's gymnastics team welcomed a new head coach in Richard Gishi after Julie Knight-Bowse stepped aside to become the department's compliance director. The Titans went 7-10 and finished sixth among six schools competing under the banner of the Western Athletic Conference. Nicole Lim was the Titans' best finisher, placing second on balance beam and tying for fourth on floor exercise. Gishi resigned at the end of the season and Jill Hicks was promoted to replace him after one year as an assistant.
The wrestling team went through a rebuilding year (6-12, 0-7) but still managed to qualify two wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. Senior Jesse Taylor placed third at 184 pounds at the Pac-10 Championships and Morgan Atkinson was fourth at 149 pounds. He won two of four matches at the NCAA finals in Saint Louis.
The women's tennis team competed most of the year with the minimum of six players. Fullerton went 6-16 overall and 1-6 in Big West Conference matches before placing seventh among 8 schools at the conference tournament. Gina Le in singles and Le and Ruya Inalpulat in doubles earned second-team All-Big West honors.
The softball team won its fifth Big West Conference championship in the past seven years, edging Long Beach State by one game. The Titans gained a berth in the NCAA Regional Tournament at Fresno State, where they lost to Fresno State and eventual champion Stanford around a victory over Tulsa. Ashley Van Boxmeer was selected co-field player of the year in the Big West and Michelle Gromacki was named coach of the year. Van Boxmeer and Candice Baker made the All-West Region team. The Titans hit 58 home runs, second most in school history.
The baseball team was ranked No. 1 in the nation for four weeks and No. 2 for four more. The Titans won the Big West Conference championship by six games to earn their 15th consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament. They hosted a Regional and defeated Saint Louis and Fresno State (twice) to earn a Super Regional berth at home against Missouri, which lost 7-1 and 9-1 decisions that sent the Titans to Omaha for the third time in four years and the fifth time in the past eight tournaments. The Titans swept Big West Conference honors with George Horton earning coach of the year, Wes Roemer pitcher of the year and Justin Turner co-player of the year. Roemer was selected co-national player of the year by Collegiate Baseball, which also gave All-America status to Turner and relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano. Baseball America bestowed All-American status on Roemer, Turner and pitcher Lauren Gagnier. Turner, Danny Dorn and David Cooper all made the All-College World Series team.
Track and field enjoyed arguably its best Div. I season. The men placed third and the women fourth at the Big West Conference Championships, the best finishes for both. Marques Barosso (men's 200), Matt Turner (men's long jump) and Destany Cearley (women's 400 hurdles) were individual champions. Turner placed tenth in the long jump to become only the fifth Titan male to earn Div. I All-American honors.