LMU Athletics - Building Champions
A History of Champions
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1890 - 1910
Then in 1981, with the opportunity for women to compete at the collegiate level, LMU athletes waste no time in making their mark. Therese Kozlowski ran a time of 17:34.9 to win the 1981 AIAW Individual National Championship in cross country while women's volleyball begins as a varsity program at LMU with the NCAA hosting as a championship in 1981. The banner year continued as the Women's Rowing Varsity Four team won the 1980-81 National Championship and the brand new Gersten Pavilion opened as home to the Lions and went on to host events with the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The year prior to the Olympics, the NCAA takes over women's sports as the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) is dissolved. In Women's Tennis, the Lions finished 12th in the nation in their division as Debbie Delgado is first recipient of All-American status.
Paul Sunderland, who played both volleyball and basketball at LMU, went on to earn All-America honors in volleyball at LMU and then played 10 years of the U.S. National Volleyball Team, earning U.S. Player of the Year honors three times (1978, 79, 82). He played in the 1978 and 1982 World Championships and then as a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, he helped the team to the Gold Medal.
Paul Westhead is hired as head coach of the men's basketball team, replacing Ed Goorjian, who coached from 1980-1985. In his first season, he leads the Lions back to the postseason for the first time since 1980. In 1985, US International and LMU begin a four-year series that would result in the highest scoring games in NCAA history. After defeating USIU 84-65 in January of 1985, the "track meets" would begin. In Westhead's first season in 1985-86, the Lions would defeat USIU 151-107.
The 1986 LMU baseball team had the best season in program history. It was also one of the best overall seasons of all time for LMU Athletics. Following a 1985 season in which the Lions did not have a winning record at 27-28, the program performed one of the best turnarounds in LMU athletics history. They finished the season with a program-best 50 wins and wrapped up the season at 50-15, a 23-game improvement from the previous year. LMU produced a 13-game winning streak from March 21 through April 11, and won 20 of 21 games in the middle of the season. With the winning streak came the nation's top ranking by the ESPN/Collegiate Baseball National Poll. The Lions never looked back, finishing tied with Pepperdine for first place in the West Coast Athletic Conference at 19-5, setting up a one game playoff to determine the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Regional. Played at Jackie Robinson Stadium on the campus of UCLA, the Lions defeated the Waves 14-9 to earn the bid to the NCAA West Regional. LMU would reel off its next four games, fighting through four separate elimination games to earn a bid to the school's first appearance in the College World Series. On May 30, the Lions opened up their first World Series trip with a 4-3 win over perennial power LSU, to earn a two-day rest and play in the winner's bracket. The Lions played the University of Arizona on June 2 and lost a heartbreaker 7-5 to drop to the elimination bracket to face Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were too much for the Lions, as they went on to an 11-5 win. Tim Layana was a member of the 1990 World Series Champion Cincinnati Reds. The Lions would return to the postseason in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
Concluding the 1985-86 season, men's basketball found themselves in the NIT for the first time in school history. Traveling to Berkeley, Calif., to face the Bears in the first round, the Lions would begin a successful end to the 1980s decade that made a habit of winning in the postseason. The Lions defeated Cal 80-75 to advance in a postseason tournament. LMU would fall to Wyoming 99-90 to end Westhead's first season at 19-11 and 10-4 in the WCAC (second).
Also in 1986, the women's volleyball team won the WCC and advance to the NCAAs, where they topped UCLA in first round action before falling to Stanford in the second round. The Lions finished the 1986 season 24-8 and 10-2 in WCC play in their final season under Coach Nancy Fortner.
One year later, the Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble era of Lions' basketball began with a 114-78 win over Tennessee Tech. The season would finish as the Lions' best in winning percentage, finishing with a 28-4 mark and a perfect 14-0 in the WCAC. The 1987-88 season would include a 25-game winning streak, the best in school history. The fast-break offense began to take hold, as the Lions scored in triple figures in all but nine of their 32 games. The Lions would clinch their first WCAC regular season championship since the `60s and their first Tournament Championship with a 104-96 win over Santa Clara in the WCAC Championship game. LMU advances to the NCAA tournament, and earns its first win in the "Big Dance," a 119-115 win over Wyoming, who two years earlier knocked the Lions out of the NIT. Playing in the West Sub-Regional in Salt Lake City, Utah, LMU would be a surprise opponent in the second round against power North Carolina. The Tar Heels would dismiss the Lions 123-97.
The Lions earned their second consecutive WCAC Tournament Championship in 1989 with another win over Santa Clara, 75-70. The Lions finished 20-11 on the season, following a 120-101 loss to Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament in the Midwest Region held at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.
The 1980s would conclude with another national title as the women's rowing varsity four took home their second national championship.
Months after basketball's historic run, baseball captured sole possession of the league title for the first time in 17 years, LMU breezed to its third consecutive postseason appearance. The Lions posted 45 wins, the second highest total in school history. LMU representatives were honored with WCC Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Coach of the Year accolades by the league.
In the fall of 1991, Gina Eron becomes the first Lion to win the West Coast Conference individual title by running a time of 19:15 and men's crew wins the Light Weight Four Pacific Coast Championship. Two years later, the women's volleyball accumulated a 23-7 overall record and finished second in the WCC (11-3). For the first time in program history, LMU entered the nation's top-25, ranked No. 24 in the AVCA Coaches' Poll and No. 22 by Volleyball Monthly. The glimpse of success in 1993 opened the door to the Lions dominating the WCC in women's volleyball for the next three seasons. In 1994, they garnered the first of three consecutive WCC Championships with a 19-10 overall mark and a 12-2 conference record, earning a NCAA tournament appearance. Head Coach Steve Stratos then led LMU to its second straight WCC title and NCAA tournament appearance in 1995 with a perfect 14-0 record, the first in school history.
A year later, Stratos and the West Coast Conference Champion Lions celebrated the most successful season in program history. The Lions had advanced to the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen and finished among the nation's top-10 in the final AVCA rankings. Dating back to the 1994 season, the Lions had racked up 31 straight WCC victories. LMU went a perfect 14-0 in WCC play for the second straight season in 1996, earning Stratos his third consecutive WCC Coach of the Year selection. He was the first coach in the history of the conference to earn the nod three straight years. He was also named the AVCA District Coach of the Year. Kim Blankinship joined Stratos in earning WCC accolades, as the Lions' senior was named the 1996 WCC Player of the Year. Tracy Holman and Sarah Noriega, along with Blankinship, were All-WCC first-team and AVCA All-District selections. The Lions finished the regular season 25-2 and earned a bye in the first round of the NCAAs. A second-round win over UC Santa Barbara sent the Lions to the Sweet Sixteen, where they faced a tough Washington State squad. Despite the efforts of NCAA Pacific Regional All-Tournament selections Blankinship (21 kills, 11 digs) and Noriega (30 kills, four blocks), the Lions fell 3-1. LMU finished the banner 1996 campaign with an overall record of 26-3, winning 16 of its final 17 matches and 26 of its last 28. The AVCA ranked the Lions ninth in the final 1996 poll, though LMU had climbed as high as sixth in the nation during the season.
In 1997, Sarah Noriega became the first player to earn AVCA All-America first-team honors as well as Volleyball Magazine All-America second-team accolades. She was the WCC Player of the Year in 1997 after being named an All-WCC first-team selection for the third consecutive season. Noriega was a three-time All-District VIII honoree, LMU's Female Athlete of the Year (1997-98), a participant at the U.S. Olympic Festival (1995), a World Games participant, and 2000 Olympian. In her final year as a Lion, Noriega was recognized as the AVCA National Player of the Week twice (Oct. 6 and Nov. 10). On November 7, 1997, Noriega set the NCAA record for most kills in a four-game match with 47 against San Diego, a mark which still stands today. Second-year Head Coach Frank Cruz guided the Lions to their first WCC title in eight years in 1998. With the nation's 16th best recruiting class, nearly all of which were freshmen. LMU edged rival Pepperdine by a half game for the conference crown earning the NCAA automatic bid to the West Regional at Stanford. Freshman Michael Schultz nearly no-hit Stanford in the first round (Stanford was ranked No. 2 in the nation) shutting out the Cardinal through the seventh inning. Schultz and freshman catcher Scott Walter were named WCC Pitcher and Player of the Year, the first time in WCC history freshmen from the same school garnered the awards. With their youth, the Lions would become the Lions third team to claim titles in three straight years. They successfully defended their conference crown, defeating Pepperdine in a three-game series for the WCC Championship at Page Stadium. The victory helped LMU win back-to-back titles for the first time in program history. LHP Billy Traber led the team and the WCC with 135 strikeouts while earning first-team All-WCC honors. Anthony Angel also earned first-team honors, the only member of the squad to do so in two consecutive seasons.
In 2000, women's volleyball continued their pursuit of excellence by starting the season on a seven-match winning streak which propelled them to a season-best No. 21 AVCA ranking (Sept. 4). Success of the program has carried over into individual honors as well. Among the program's top athletes and graduates, Stratos coached Loyola Marymount's two AVCA All-America first-team honorees, Sarah Noriega (1994-97) and Sarah McFarland (1997-00). As a member of the U.S. National Volleyball team that qualified for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Sarah Noriega became the third Lion to participate in the Olympic Games. Noriega became a key member of the U.S. National team in 1998. She was named team MVP for her efforts that season in 1999. As a member of the 2000 Olympic squad, Noriega finished the summer fourth on the team with 185 kills and a .393 kill percentage. Her serves wreaked havoc for opponents throughout the Summer Games as her 17 service aces ranked second best on the team.
In 2001, women's basketball earned the program's first postseason tournament bid with an invitation to the NIT, setting up future success for the team. In addition, Edit Pakay won the West Coast Conference with a time of 17:58 in women's cross country and women's water polo, who was in just their fourth year of competition at LMU, finished with the program's first 20-win season and its first-ever WWPA title thanks to a 7-6 win over UC Davis in the championship game. The win set in motion the most successful stretch by any program in LMU history. The Lions would go on to win five straight titles - 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 - reaching the NCAA National Championship game in 2004 thanks to a win over Stanford in the NCAA semifinals. It was the first time in program history to play in a national championship game at the NCAA Division I level.
That same year, men's soccer earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The Lions compiled a seven game winning streak during the season, including a 1-0 victory at #11 UCLA. It marked the program's first win over UCLA, who it would face again in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, falling in a heartbreaking 3-2 double overtime decision. The Lions were ranked as high as #16 in the polls and finished the season with a 9-7-2 record.
Also making waves in 2001 was men's water polo as they won their first Western Water Polo Association Championship by defeating UC San Diego 4-2 in the final of the annual tournament. The Lions went on to the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship at Stanford and lost to UCLA 7-5 in the semifinals. They defeated UMass 14-6 in the consolation final to finish third. The men were as dominant in the pool as the women, winning four titles in six years - 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005.
In 2002 the women's soccer team earned their first bid to the NCAA Tournament and women's tennis won the program's first West Coast Conference Championship by knocking off nine-time defending champion and rival Pepperdine. The conference crown gave the Lions the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Also in 2002, the Lions earned their second straight invitation to the NCAA Tournament after winning 14 games in the regular season, including a 2-0 win over #3 UCLA. LMU started the season with an 11-0-2 record, climbing to #7 in the national rankings. As a result of a strong regular season, LMU hosted its first ever postseason game, with the Lions picking up their first NCAA Tournament victory with a 1-0 win over Cal State Northridge. Andres Murriagui and Arturo Torres became the first All-Americans in program history and Jeff Kovar was named an Academic All-American. The Lions returned to the NCAAs again in 2003 and 2004.
In 2004, women's basketball claimed the programs first West Coast Conference Championship, earning its first trip to the NCAA tournament. They finished the season 24-6 overall and 13-1 in the WCC action, winning the final 15 games of the regular season, including the WCC tournament. The WCC tournament champions lost to Baylor in the NCAA regional as Kate Murray was named WCC Player of the Year and WCC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Adrianne Slaughter was the MVP of the WCC tournament while Head Coach Julie Wilhoit was WCC and Region 8 Coach of the Year.
After women's basketball reached a milestone in March of 2004, three months later, women's water polo added to LMU's history. The Lions earned a 5-4 win over second ranked Stanford in the semifinals of the 2004 NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship to advance to the national title game. It was the first time any LMU team in more than 90 years of intercollegiate sports played in a title game sponsored by the NCAA. The Lions went on to drop a heartbreaker to USC, 10-8, to finish second. The Lions advanced to the NCAA tournament thanks to their fourth straight WWPA title, earning a 7-3 win at the Burns Recreation and Aquatics Center on the LMU campus on April 25. Devon Wright earned WWPA Player of the Year honors while Head Coach John Loughran claimed his fourth straight Coach of the Year title. Teresa Guidi became the first women's water polo player to earn first-team All-American honors. That summer a pair of Lions participated in the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Christine Robinson and Rachel Riddell both played for the Canadian Olympic team that season.
As 2004 continued, men's water polo earned back-to-back WWPA titles thanks to a 6-3 win over Redlands in the WWPA tournament held at Davis, CA. The Lions finished with the second most wins in program history at 21-11, defeating Princeton 6-5 to finish third in the NCAA Championships. Endre Rex-Kiss was named MVP of the WWPA while also earning second-team All-America honors. They then became the fourth team in LMU history to earn three straight conference titles, defeating UC San Diego 7-6 at the Burns Center in the WWPA Championships. The Lions fell to Stanford at the NCAA Championship in a heartbreaker, 7-6 but responded to defeat St. Francis in the third place game, 10-6. They finished the season 19-16 overall and Endre Rex-Kiss earned second-team All-America honors after finishing second in LMU history with 261 career goals.
In the spring of 2005, softball won the program's second PCSC title in three years and this time earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the program's first trip to the postseason. Also that spring, women's water polo team set the record for wins, posting an impressive 30-7 overall record as they won their fifth straight Western Water Polo Association championship. No team in LMU history has won five straight conference titles. LMU would advance to their fifth straight NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship
The 2005-2006 season saw LMU win its first-ever West Coast Conference Commissioner's Cup for best overall athletics program in the conference. Part of that season saw Laura Mickelson placed fourth in the NCAA West Regional in the 5,000-meter to qualify for the NCAA Track Championships. She placed 22nd overall. Men's basketball, in the first season under Head Coach Rodney Tention, advanced to the program's first WCC Tournament Championship since 1989, with three players earning first-team All-WCC honors. The Lions finished the WCC season at 8-6, defeated Saint Mary's in the WCC Tournament Semifinals to advance to the WCC title game where they fell to fourth-ranked Gonzaga at the buzzer, the ninth game of the season decided on the final play or overtime. Senior Wes Wardrop and juniors Brandon Worthy and Matthew Knight all earned first-team All-WCC honors for leading the Lions to the WCC Basketball Championship game.
Further history was made in 2005-06 when men's golf won their first-ever West Coast Conference Championship. Freshman Brian Locke was the first Lion to win the individual championship as he was also named Freshman of the Year in the conference. The Lions would then place sixth in the NCAA West Regional to earn the program's first trip to the NCAA Championships as they placed among the top 30 programs in the country. Matching golf that spring was women's rowing with their first WCC Championship. In the fall of 2006, women's soccer returned to the NCAA tournament for the second time in program history, led by WCC Defender of the Year Joslyn Slovek. Laura Mickelson was at it again as she won the individual WCC Cross Country Championship by more than a minute. That year also marked the 30th year Anniversary for women's tennis, the longest running women's program in LMU history. Since championships were created by the NCAA in 1981-82 for women's programs, LMU women have won 20 of LMU's 36 conference titles and have earned 21 NCAA tournament bids.
The Lions most recent success was seen from their softball program as they finished its 2007 season with a program best 47-18 record, claiming their third PCSC title. In addition, the Lions won their first and second ever NCAA Tournament games, knocking UC Santa Barbara and UCLA out of the Los Angeles Regional before falling to Hawaii in the Regional final. LMU destroyed the competition in the PCSC, winning the conference with an 18-2 record, 6.5 games ahead of second place. Christine Foley was named Player of the Year, Tiffany Pagano was named Pitcher of the Year, Melissa Dykema was named Freshman of the Year and Gary Ferrin was named the Coach of the Year.
Capping 2007 was women's water polo as the Lions won their sixth WWPA Championship in seven years and finished the season ranked seventh in the nation. Senior Stacia Peterson is named WWPA Player of the Year, Third-Team All-American and becomes just the seventh student-athlete overall and just the second female to earn CoSIDA Academic All-American honors.
In the fall of 2007, the LMU men's water polo team won their fifth WWPA title in seven years despite the youngest roster in program history. The Lions defeated UC Davis 7-6 in the title game as freshmen Tibor Forai and Andy Stevens, along with junior Mark Milovic, earned All-America honors.
Also in the 2007-08 season, the women's swimming program overcame a huge deficit to claim their first Pacific Coast Swim Conference Championship. The Lions completed their first perfect season at 9-0 while Rebecca Plume, Alex Wike and Alicia Witter earned individual conference titles. All told, 11 swimmers earned All-PCSC honors in 2008.
Capping the year was Reid Priddy (`00) capturing the gold medal for Team USA at the 2008 Summer Olympics. He joins Paul Sunderland, who won gold in 1984, as gold medalists in men's volleyball.
In 2008-09, the water polo programs added to their tradition of titles as the men claimed the 2008 title and the women in 2009. It was the sixth for the men and seventh for the women, all coming in the last 10 years. For the women, senior Nicole Hughes earned second-team All-American honors and re-wrote the LMU record book. She set the record for goals in a game (8, twice), in a season (129) and a career (320). She is the first player to score more than a 100 goals in a season and 300 in a career.
The decade would come to close as the LMU men's water polo team added their seventh title in nine years, advancing to the NCAA tournament once again. Men's soccer would also return to form, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, hosting a first-round game against Sacramento State. It was the fifth NCAA appearance for the Lions.
Updated: December 9, 2013