FGCU’s top-10 sports moments of 2015
It was an incredible year for FGCU athletic teams. Just nine years into its Division I status and five years of postseason eligibility, that small school from the humid swamps of Florida is quickly becoming a team opponents circle on their schedules.
Since the men’s basketball team’s Sweet Sixteen run in the 2013 NCAA tournament, landing FGCU the moniker of Dunk City, FGCU has gained both popularity and notoriety in its athletics in the following years. But, athletes in across all sports hit the fast forward button in 2015, sending us years ahead of ourselves and bringing the school more success than ever anticipated.
Two teams won their first-ever NCAA games in epic fashions, teams achieved program-high rankings, brought home a total seven conference titles and an athlete earned a gold medal back to Dunk City.
10: Women’s cross-country earns highest ranking in program history (Nov. 5, 2015)
In its best season to date, the FGCU women’s cross country team finished its season with its highest ranking in program history and program-best finish in the Atlantic Sun Conference Cross Country Championships.
FGCU finished the season ranked in the South region’s No. 12 spot in the latest USTFCCCA poll released on Nov. 2 with three other A-Sun teams in the women’s regional rankings, including Lipscomb (No. 3), UNF (No. 11) and Jacksonville (No. 14).
FGCU senior Lauren Tarovisky is fast. Real fast. The 5-foot-8 West Virginia native led the Eagles to a program-best third place finish at the A-Sun Championships and crossed the finish line first for the Eagles for the fourth time this fall in conference competition. Taroviskyr finished eighth overall with a personal-best time of 17:48.14.
Her time was not only an FGCU season-best by more than 30 seconds but also registered as the third-best 5K time in program history. Her eighth-place finish is the second-best conference championship finish for an Eagle, ever.
9: FGCU men’s tennis in first-ever NCAA team appearance
(May 8, 2015)
After earning first-ever A-Sun Championship and A-Sun regular season title last April, the FGCU men’s tennis team took its first team trip to the NCAA tournament this season.
The Eagles competed against No. 16 UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament in California but fell to the Bruins by a 4-0 score to end FGCU’s run in the tournament. FGCU finished its season with a program-best 17-6 record and earned wins over Miami, Liberty and IC Irvine.
8: Alico Arena gets an upgrade (July 2015)
Alico Arena added a new centerpiece to the home of Dunk City: a new, four-sided, 12-by-8 LED scoreboard. The new scoreboard replaced the old 10-foot scoreboard that the athletic program has outgrown since its days as a new Division II program just a few years ago.
Alico underwent several other renovations this summer: two secondary scoreboards for opposite ends of the main arena, two scoreboards for the auxiliary gym, nine time clocks for home, visitor’s and official’s locker rooms and a new sound system are also on the list of new amenities in the 4,500-seat arena.
To follow, a new video scoreboard and renovated press box and suite for the softball complex will arrive before the spring 2016 season.
7: Top recruit joins Dunk City (Nov. 14, 2015)
FGCU’s recruiting class this season may be the best that the men’s basketball program has ever seen. The four-star, top 100 recruit Rayjon Tucker joined the roster this season the highest-rated recruit in the school’s history.
Tucker was ranked the No. 1 sleeper in the nation by USA Today from the early 2014-15 signing period. He is joined at the top of this list as the other four recruits attended top programs such as Ohio State, Notre Dame, Baylor and South Carolina.
The 6-foot-5, 205-lbs guard has already made an impact this season, shooting 53 percent from the field and contributing 86 points, including his career-high 15 points against UMass where he introduced himself with a dramatic last-minute game-winning and-one.
6: Preston Kilwien’s insane 89th minute, 34-yard game-winning goal against Princeton (Sept. 9, 2015)
Another FGCU freshman made a statement in his collegiate debut. Preston Kilwien made national headlines in his first minutes against Princeton University in September. With the game tied at two and winding down into its last few seconds, the forward delivered a left-footed, 34-yard volley narrowly missing the hands of Princeton’s goalkeeper to give FGCU an incredible game-winner in the 89th minute. Kilwien’s goal grabbed the attention of Fox Sports’ talk show, “The Buzzer,” following the win that broke Princeton’s nation-best 10-game win streak. His goal also landed the No. 3 spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 that night.
Although the goal was his only for the season, the 6-foot-4 forward provided a strong attack for the Eagles, taking 10 shots and averaging 53 minutes in seven games, including a full 110 minutes against FAU on Oct. 13.
5: FGCU women’s basketball breaks into top 25 rankings (March 9 – Nov. 2, 2015)
Amidst a record-breaking season and en route to its first-ever NCAA win, the FGCU women’s basketball team broke into and maintained positions in the Top-25 rankings in several polls. For the final two weeks of the season, FGCU maintained the No. 20 spot in the AP Top-25, just six points shy of No. 19 George Washington, and caught the No. 21 position in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
As the season began winding down, FGCU earned a program-best RPI of 13, earning notable wins that season over George Washington, Wichita State, Clemson and Quinnipiac.
FGCU finished the regular season with an FGCU Division-I-best win-streak of 22 games, with 26 wins in its last 27 games at the end of the regular season. FGCU’s run is the fourth best in the nation, only shorter than No. 1 Connecticut, No. 13 Princeton and No. 17 Chattanooga.
Going into the 2015-2016 season, FGCU also received a Top-25 preseason ranking from espnW’s Preseason Poll, landing the No. 22 spot. On Dec. 3, FGCU defeated George Washington, which was ranked No. 20 in espnW’s Preseason Poll, with a second-half comeback.
4: FGCU alumnus Chris Sale inducted into Atlantic Sun Conference Hall of Fame (Oct. 13, 2015)
Former FGCU baseball stand out and four-time All-Star White Sox pitcher Chris Sale added another accolade to his impressive résumé this fall when he was inducted into the Atlantic Sun Conference Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class.
Sale became the first athlete to represent FGCU in a hall of fame of any kind.
In Sale’s career as an FGCU Eagle, he had a 2.52 ERA, went 20-4 in 52 appearances and led the Eagles to three consecutive A-Sun Conference championships.
Sale joined five other former Atlantic Sun Conference athletes: former Mercer women’s basketball player and former WNBA player Andrea Congreaves; former Stetson University pitcher and current Cleveland Indians pitcher Cory Kluber; former Centenary College golfer and former PGA tour golfer Hal Sutton; former Jacksonville University track and field runner, Monique Tubbs and former Stetson University men’s basketball coach Glenn Wilkes Sr.
After winning Collegiate Player of the Year in his junior year, Sale was drafted 13th overall by the Chicago White Sox where he became one of six players in history to enter the starting rotation within the year of being drafted.
Now a four-time all-star, Sale has become a dominant pitcher in MLB, already excelling past the 1,000 career strikeouts milestone. This past season, Sale broke the White Sox franchise record for strikeouts in a season with 274, surpassing the previous record held by Ed Walsh’s 269 strikeouts set in 1908.
3: FGCU swimming qualifies for program-high four NCAA events (March 19-21, 2015)
For the first time in program history, the FGCU women’s swim team became one of the few mid-major programs to qualify for relays in the NCAA championships. They qualified four. All relays also had times falling in the top 30 in the nation.
FGCU qualified in the 200 yard medley, swam by Kira Toussaint, Emma Svensson, Katie Armitage and Rebecca Derogatis; the 400 yard medley, swam by Toussaint, Armitage, Svensson, and Yee Wong; the 200 yard freestyle, swam by Svensson, Toussaint, Derogatis and Kristin Julien; and the 400 yard freestyle swam by Armitage, Toussaint, Svensson and Sara Hamilton.
The relay qualifiers joined three swimmers qualify for seven individual events.
Svensson led the team with three individual race qualifications: 50 yard free, 100 yard free and the 100 yard fly. Armitage and Toussaint also qualified for a pair each: 100 yard breast and the 200 yard breast for Armitage; and the 100 yard back and 200 yard back for Toussaint.
FGCU finished the championships with a mid-major best No. 26 finish.
2: Julian DeBose brings home gold in World University Games (July 13, 2015)
First an ESPY. Now a gold medal.
FGCU men’s basketball player Julian DeBose joined the Kansas Jayhawks this past summer to represent Team USA in the World University Games in South Korea. DeBose joined SMU’s Nic Moore as the only non-Jayhawk to represent the United States and became FGCU’s only gold medalist.
The 6-foot-4 senior guard finished the tournament averaging 4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 10.8 rebounds and 10.8 minutes per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor. His nine offensive rebounds earned him the second most on the roster. DeBose also scored a team high of 18 points during Team USA’s final group-round game against Switzerland.
Team USA defeated Team Germany 84-77 in double overtime to win the gold in the 2015 World University Games. With the victory, Team USA capped a perfect 8-0 record in the tournament and claimed its first gold in the WUG since 2005 and its first WUG medal since bronze in 2009.
T1: FGCU women’s soccer earns first-ever NCAA win, holds footing against College Cup runner-up Duke in second round (Nov. 14 – 20, 2015)
Winning an NCAA game has been a dream that the FGCU women’s soccer team’s seniors have had since they were freshman. This year, they finally did it.
After three years of unsuccessful attempts at claiming its first-ever NCAA win, the No. 1 FGCU women’s soccer team defeated No. 22 USF with a 2-1 decision in Tampa. In its three previous years of NCAA participation, the women’s soccer team has never scored a goal in an NCAA game. In the first round of the NCAA tournament, they scored three.
Following the team’s win, FGCU held No. 3-seeded and College Cup runner-up Duke scoreless for the first 64 minutes of the second round game before giving up two unanswered goals.
T1: FGCU women’s basketball wins first-ever NCAA game in epic rematch in Tallahassee (March 21, 2015)
FGCU was meant to win this game.
Returning to the venue of its first NCAA Division I tournament appearance and facing the opponent that took their second-round berth dreams in overtime last season, FGCU was ready for this one.
The FGCU women’s basketball team’s historical season was capped with the program’s first-ever NCAA win with a rematch against Oklahoma State in Tallahassee. No. 7-seeded FGCU avenged a 61-60 overtime loss in 2014 to Oklahoma State in West Lafayette, Indiana with a 75-67 victory over Oklahoma State to secure the first victory for the FGCU women’s team in the NCAA tournament.
Kaneisha Atwater with 26 points led the floor with the help of Whitney Knight’s double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to give the Eagles their first-ever NCAA win.
The No. 7-seeded Eagles, who finished with a Division-I-best 31 wins, fell to two-seeded Florida State in Tallahassee 65-47 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.