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Kane’s Korner: The greatest 72 hours in FGCU athletics

Last week I wrote about how FGCU should consider the possibilities of moving to a bigger, better conference. This weekend solidified how much this program is growing and how FGCU is on the rise.

This weekend was probably the greatest weekend in the history of FGCU athletics.

“I can’t speak for my predecessors since I haven’t been here since day 1,” FGCU Athletic Director Ken Kavanagh said. “But it’s hard to fathom a better weekend.”

It all started Friday on the diamond when junior Ricky Knapp threw a complete game as FGCU stunned the Gators in Gainesville, 8-2.

That first win was only the second against Florida in FGCU’s history as the Eagles beat Florida 17-5 in 2009.

Also on Friday, in the second day of the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA) Conference Championship, FGCU continued its dominance and took a 166-point lead. The team took home five of a possible seven first-place finishes to stay in first place. After two days, the Eagles set four new program and CCSA records. The Eagles also won 10 of a possible 13 events during the first two days.

Friday was just a warm up. Think of it as a salad before the steak.

Time for the main course on Saturday.

Early in the afternoon women’s basketball traveled to DeLand to take on Stetson, arguably it’s toughest A-Sun foe, rematched with the Hatters after beating them 74-55.

This should be a closer matchup, right? Wrong. Head coach Karl Smesko owns Stetson (11-2 all-time against the Hatters) and his team won 72-55. With the win the women clinched a share of the A-Sun regular season title.

It wasn’t until later in the day they learned that Mercer, lost giving FGCU its third straight A-Sun title. It’s also the fourth in the last five years, clinching the No. 1 seed in the A-Sun tournament (Mar. 6-9).

During that time, the final day of the CCSA championships, FGCU asserted its dominance by winning its fifth straight CCSA championship. The team took home three of a possible seven first-place finishes on the final day and beat second-place Liberty by 103 points.

After the match, coach Neil Studd was named Coach of the Year for the fourth time, while first-year diving coach David Boyko received Diving Coach of the Year. Sophomore Emma Svensson garnered Most Outstanding Female Performer of the Meet, winning the 50-free, 100-free and 100-back events. Senior Maegan Butler collected Most Outstanding Diver of the Meet for the second consecutive year. Butler won both the 1-meter and 3-meter board, and set a meet record in the 3-meter event.

Later in the day baseball started game 2, looking to capitalize on the win from the day before. Florida got out to an early 1-0 lead and held FGCU scoreless until the fifth inning.
During the baseball game, men’s tennis had the biggest match of the year against Big XII foe Oklahoma State.

The Eagles fell behind 2-0, but took four of the last five singles matches to pick up their second consecutive win over a BCS opponent, just a week removed from a 7-0 sweep of UConn.

Sophomore Tianyu Bao was the deciding point as the match was tied 3-3. Bao took the first set, 7-5, but fell 5-7 in the second set after dropping three straight games to finish.
The reigning A-Sun Freshman of the Year regrouped and jumped out to a 5-3 lead in the final set before finishing off the 6-4 win. The last three points of the match came on broken serves.

By the time the match was over, baseball got the best of Florida once again winning 8-3. This secured the series win for FGCU and left them one win away from a three-game sweep, a feat that hasn’t happened by any team in Gainesville since 2009.

Oh, and softball went 2-0 on the day beating Villanova and Albany.

Here comes Sunday. Time for some chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.

Softball went 2-0 against Michigan State and St. Bonaventure.

The Eagles baseball team got the best of Florida once again, this time defeating the Gators, 7-4, in 11 innings, completing the first three-game sweep by any team at UF since Miami did it in 2009.

The sweep sent shock waves into the national spotlight. Baseball America ranked FGCU 23rd in the country. Collegiate Baseball’s and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s Top 30 polls both tabbed FGCU at 25th and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association tabbed the Eagles at 27.

“From a national standpoint we gained credibility with Chris Sale,” Kavanagh said. “But what our program is starting to gain now is the fact that we can beat anybody at anytime, as it was proven last year against Miami and Florida State.”

Kavanagh also said, “The reason we have Division-I athletics at this school and the reason we’re given such good support from the students is that it’s an investment into great camaraderie and pride moments in addition to also getting our name out there.”
Welcome to the big time, FGCU. You’ve deserved it.

In case you missed it…

As if a sweep wasn’t good enough, junior right-hander Ricky Knapp earned Pitcher of the Week honors and redshirt senior Brooks Beisner garnered the Player of the Week selection by the A-Sun. Knapp improved to 2-0 on the year after allowing just two runs on six hits while striking out four hitters in a 92-pitch performance last Friday against the Gators. Beisner has led the offensive charge this season, hitting .520 with a 1.120 slugging percentage, adding 11 RBI, six runs scored, and four home runs with a .571 on-base percentage.

After clinching the A-Sun regular season title, the FGCU women’s basketball team received one vote to rank No. 38 in this week’s AP Top 25 that was released on Monday. FGCU has won 17 straight games gained their first national votes of the year after being ranked as high as 29th last year. Also on Monday, redshirt junior Sarah Hansen earned College Sports Madness A-Sun Player of the week honors for the fifth time this year.

The FGCU women’s swimming and diving team earned the No. 18 spot in College Swimming Coaches Association of America All-Academic List, announced by the media outlet on Monday. As a team, FGCU had a cumulative GPA of 3.46. They were the only team from Florida ranked inside the top 100 and one of two teams from the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA) ranked inside the top 20 (Gardner-Webb No. 4).

The FGCU softball team received one vote to rank them No. 38 in this week’s ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll that was released on Tuesday, February 26.
The vote marks the fifth time that the Eagles have earned at least one vote in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate national poll. The last time the Green and Blue made the list was March 31, 2009, when the Eagles collected 11 votes and were 37-5 in their second season among the Division I ranks.

The FGCU women’s tennis team took down St. John’s 5-2 at the FGCU Tennis Complex on Tuesday afternoon, to improve to 4-2 on the spring dual match season. Congrats to junior Bettina Botha, freshmen Johanna Sterkel and Elizabeth Means. Each won their matches in straight set sweeps. The three singles victories put FGCU up 3-2 in the dual match. With two singles matches still in action, senior Morgan Bechtel sealed the victory for FGCU winning 6-2, 5-7, 6-1.

Redshirt junior Sarah Hansen was named Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week for her performance in FGCU’s, 72-55, win over conference rival Stetson last week, the conference office announced on Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 26).

About The Author

Justin Kane

Entering his fourth year on the Eagle News staff and final year at FGCU, Justin Kane is Eagle News’ editor-in-chief. Kane is an Orlando native majoring in communications with a passion for sports. Kane is a published sports writer for news outlets like Naples Daily News, The News-Press and Florida Citrus Sports. Kane is a founding father of FGCU’s Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, avid EDM listener and loves Scarface. (Follow Justin on Twitter: @ByJustinKane)

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