UNIVERSITY PARK, IL – The 2016-17 school year marked the second season of varsity athletics at Governors State University as the level of play and competition escalated. The most significant development was the start of league action for the Jaguars, who became the newest members of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC).
GSU completed its second season of varsity competition and its first as a member of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC). Over the course of 242 days (from August 30 through April 28), a total of 69 student-athletes, representing seven teams, appeared in 132 athletic contests.
• Stephanie Clarkson became the first GSU student-athlete to qualify for a national championship, taking part in the NAIA Women's Cross Country National Championships. She also became the school's first All-CCAC selection.
• Freshman Amber Brooks led the country in offensive rebounding, recording 13 double-doubles
• Men's basketball defeated fifth-ranked St. Francis by 18 points, and recorded a 139-132 victory over Asbury in the highest scoring game in the NAIA
• Men's golf registered the first victory in program history
• Women's volleyball recorded the most regular season wins (12) of any GSU athletic team
• Women's golf compiled a team GPA of 3.73 during the school year, earning an Academic National Championship (for NAIA) from the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA).
• The men's and women's cross country teams scored in all six regular season meets
• Six student-athletes earned NAIA-Daktronics Scholar-Athlete honors
A closer look at how each athletic squad fared:
Men's Basketball (11-19 overall, 8-13 CCAC, 6th place-South Division)
Employing an up-tempo style of play, the Jaguars finished as the fourth-highest scoring team (83.1 points per game) in league play. In a feat that may never be duplicated, the Jaguars made 20-of-26 three-point attempts in a road win at Roosevelt. Jalen Miller earned All-CCAC Honorable Mention honors, becoming the school's first 1,000-point scorer in the process. Senior Torrey Oliver closed his career by sinking a buzzer beater in the season finale. University Park was the site of seven games that were decided in the final 30 seconds.
Women's Basketball (7-22 overall, 6-15 CCAC, 7th place-South Division)
Playing in arguably the toughest league in the country, GSU recorded six wins during its inaugural CCAC campaign. The Orange and Black reached the 100-point mark for the first time in a loss to Olivet Nazarene and defeated Roosevelt in the Electric Line Rivalry. GSU played nine opponents ranked in the Top 25 nationally and squared off against eight teams that qualified for the NAIA National Tournament. Rookie forward Amber Brooks set school records for points and rebounds while senior Zaporia Smith walked away with four career records.
Men's Cross Country (14th place-CCAC Championships)
GSU doubled its roster size from a year ago and fielded the necessary five runners to score in all six meets. Head Coach Kevin Kredens brought in a pair of recruits who established themselves as the team's top two runners. Alejandro Montes finished as the Jaguars' fastest runner on five occasions, setting a school records in the 5K (18:14.8) and 8K (28:44.45). Senior Richie Gray was named to the CCAC All-Academic Team.
Women's Cross Country (12th place-CCAC Championships)
Stephanie Clarkson finished 10th at the CCAC Championships and 155th at the NAIA National Championships along with capturing the school's first-ever individual race title (at the Skyhawk Invitational). She recorded five Top-15 finishes and was the first GSU athlete to claim a CCAC Runner of the Week Award. Senior Dominique Hunt served as team captain for the second straight year and will do so again in 2018.
Men's Golf (1-0 overall, 10th place-CCAC Tournament)
GSU made an immediate impression in its first CCAC Tournament appearance, finishing ahead of four teams at TPC Deere Run. A beefed-up schedule saw the Jaguars play an NCAA Division I tournament at Western Illinois, shortly followed by the team's first-ever victory — a dual match held at Calumet St Joseph. Freshman Casey Domke shot a school-record, 2-under-par 70 at a fall tournament while teammate Matt Contey won the program's first individual tournament title and finished with team-low 77.6 scoring average.
Women's Golf (9th place-CCAC Tournament)
An inexperienced women's golf team still managed to record its first-ever score, generate a record-low round (386 strokes) and produced its first individual medalist. After playing just two events during its inaugural season, GSU took part in 10 tournaments this past season, which included three home dates at Lincoln Oaks. Emily Bell, recently introduced to the sport, turned in a school-record 88 to earn all-tournament accolades at the Jaguar Illiana Shootout. Graduate student Anne Best joined the team late in the season and became the first GSU golfer to claim medalist honors.
Women's Volleyball (12-24 overall, 3-16 CCAC, 6th place-South Division)
First-year Head Coach Pedro Gonzalez led the Jaguars to a 10-win improvement over last year, recording victories over NCAA Division III schools Wilmington (OH) and Concordia (IL). GSU also swept the season series (3-0) against arch rival IU Northwest, extending its winning streak against the RedHawks to five matches. Ashley Pickert, a transfer from Kentucky Wesleyan, broke five school season records, including standards for kills (403), attack percentage (.238) and total blocks (94). Five squad members were named CCAC All-Academic.
Just as importantly, GSU Student-Athletes excelled in the classroom, finishing the 2016-17 school year with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.01. A total of 36 student-athletes qualified for the GSU Athletics Honor Roll during the 2016 Fall Term, compiling GPAs above 3.00. For the 2017 Spring Term, 34 student-athletes were honored. GSU student-athletes also accumulated 17 terms of perfect 4.00 work.