Basketball players gain postseason honors
Some good deeds do get rewarded.
While the 2013-14 men’s and women’s basketball campaigns didn’t feature the kind of postseason success that was hoped for, some St. Xavier University student-athletes nevertheless received individual storybook endings. And in a few instances, those rewards recognized them as both athletes and students.
Five Cougars, in fact, were feted for academics by being named as Daktronics Scholar-Athletes. Tabbed for honors in the NAIA Division II men’s basketball category were senior Brad Karp and junior Brandon Marren, while the trio of juniors Suzie Broski, Maloree Johnson and Morgan Stuut were similarly cited in NAIA Division II women’s hoops.
A total of 134 men and 244 women nationwide were chosen as Daktronics Scholar-Athletes. In order to be nominated by an institution’s head coach or sports information director, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum 3.5 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale, have achieved junior academic status and have completed at least one year at the nominating school.
Karp carries a 3.56 cumulative GPA while majoring in biology, Marren is at 3.65 while studying history with an emphasis on secondary education, Broski and Johnson both sport perfect 4.0 GPAs while pursuing their respective degrees in biology and management/accounting, and Stuut has a 3.87 GPA as a nursing major.
Stuut, who posted an NAIA-best total of 25 scoring-rebounding double-doubles this past season, wasn’t overlooked as a basketball player, either.
SXU’s top female performer was selected as a first-team member of the NAIA Division II women’s All-America first team for the second straight year and also repeated as an NAIA Player of the Year finalist, as chosen by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. Stuut averaged 20.6 points and 12.9 rebounds per contest and ranked among the top 15 nationally in seven different statistical categories, which also included total points (681), assists (145) and steals (83).
Stuut, one of just 10 first-teamers selected, also tied or established several Cougars marks during the season, including ones for most points in a game (40) and season, and most rebounds in a game (23) and season (427). She is a two-time Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year, won the conference Player of the Week award seven times during the 2013-14 season and was twice recognized as the NAIA National Player of the Week.
“With the season Morgan had, this award should come as no surprise,” SXU coach Bob Hallberg said. “She was our leader on the court and a large reason why we had such a successful season.
“Between this award and the fact that she is one of three finalists for the WBCA’s NAIA Player of the Year award, Morgan has definitely proven herself one of the best in the country for our level of play, and I could not be more happy for her.”
The NAIA Player of the Year award will be presented on Monday, April 7, at the Omni Nashville Hotel’s Broadway Ballroom as part of the WBCA national convention. Finalists along with Stuut are seniors Nicole Ballestero of Vanguard (Calif.) University and Deonica McCormick of the University of Mobile (Ala.).
National awards will also be handed out to the top female players in all three NCAA divisions, junior college and high school.
Karp matched Stuut by earning NAIA Division II All-America first-team honors on the men’s side. He previously was a two-time member of the All-America second team and received honorable mention after his freshman season.
Designated as an honorable mention performer this year was senior guard Michael Simpson. He was one of 30 players to achieve that status nationwide.
Karp concluded his Cougars career as the program’s all-time scoring leader and its No. 2 rebounder, and he was sixth in NAIA scoring average (25.3 ppg.), eighth in steals per game (2.4) and 13th in field-goal percentage (59.6) this past season. Karp, a seven-time conference Player of the Week as a senior, paced the CCAC in scoring, was second in steals and third in rebounding per contest (8.2).
Simpson was 23rd nationally and third within the CCAC in assists per game (4.9). His 2.2 steals per game was also the third-best mark among conference players, while his 16.1 points per game put him eighth in CCAC scoring.
Behind freshman Taylor Thompson’s sixth-place showing, the Cougars garnered that same position in the team standings at their spring opener in Arizona. Thompson fired a two-day score of 157 (78-79) on SXU’s behalf at the Embry-Riddle Spring Invitational.
That effort was good enough to net Thompson the first CCAC Player of the Week designation of the season.
Freshman Katie Reno carded a 175 (89-86) at the Antelope Hills South Golf Course in Prescott and was the Cougars’ second-best performer, while freshmen Courtney Dudgeon (182; 103-79) and Ashley Anderson (245; 130-115) completed SXU’s scoring by finishing 27th and 34th, respectively, among individual golfers. The Cougars’ team score of 759 was well off the pace set by triumphant California State University-San Marcos (619).
SXU is scheduled to take part in the University of St. Francis Invitational Friday and Saturday in Lockport. The event will be held at Prairie Bluff Golf Course.
Hannah Cruz, a native of Orange County, Calif., will join the Cougars program in the fall after recently signing a national letter of intent with SXU.
Cruz, who plans to pursue a degree in biology, was a standout golfer at Woodrow Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach. She was a four-time all-conference player and led her squad to a league championship each season. Cruz registered first-place finishes in both the Golf Pride Girls Championship and Southern California PGA Junior Tour’s Buenaventura Spring Classic.
“I’m very excited to have Hannah join our women’s golf program,” Cougars coach Mike Mandakas said. “Hannah has had a very successful high school and junior golf career, and I expect that trend to continue into her college career.”
Junior Kyle Bahnick’s rounds of 72 and 76 in the Cougars’ spring season-opener not only helped SXU finish third among five teams, but they enabled Bahnick to receive CCAC Player of the Week honors.
Bahnick’s two-day score placed him ninth overall in a field of 39 golfers. His round of 72 was the lowest shot by any SXU player in the Embry-Riddle Invitational, which was held in Prescott, Ariz.
The Cougars continue their spring season April 4 and 5 at the Ashford University Invitational, which will be played at the Blue Top Ridge Golf Course in Iowa.
The Cougars fortified their secondary with two more recruits, one of which is a junior college transfer.
Doug Ruggles was a two-year starter at Saddleback Junior College in Mission Viejo, Calif. He paced the Gauchos in 2013 with 90 tackles, 6 1/2 of which resulted in lost yardage and tied him for the team lead in that category. His 46 solo stops were only four shy of the school’s single-season standard.
In addition, Ruggles led Saddleback in pass breakups (eight) and was second in interceptions (five). For his junior college career, Ruggles — who was a unanimous selection to the All-Southern California Football Association National Division Southern Conference first team as a sophomore — recorded 146 stops, 13 1/2 tackles for loss, 14 pass breakups and six interceptions.
For good measure, he was also named to the 2013 SCFA All-Scholar-Athlete team.
“Ruggles was a two-year starter and the best defensive player at one of the top junior college programs in California last year,” SXU coach Mike Feminis said. “He’s a big-time player and will make an immediate impact for us in the secondary.
“An assist has to go out to [Richards athletic director and SXU alumnus] Ken Styler, who brought Doug to our attention. It turns out his niece is from Mother McAuley and friends with Doug at Saddleback, and she told him about SXU. It’s a crazy, but true story, and we are just happy to have him in the program.”
The Cougars’ other recruit is Christopher Thompson from V.O.I.S.E Academy in Chicago. A four-year starter in high school, Thompson was chosen as MVP among the defensive backs who took part in last summer’s Five-Star Central Showcase in Springfield, which was hosted by the National Underclassmen Combine.
“Chris is physically ready to play college football,” Feminis said. “He is extremely strong for his size and we feel he is athletic enough to play anywhere in the secondary, and possibly even our Sam linebacker position in nickel situations. To get a young man of his ability this late in the recruiting process is huge and, luckily for us, he wanted to stay close to home.”
Senior middle blocker J.T. O’Connell had a team-high six kills, but the Cougars were unable to parlay that performance into a victory last Thursday. Instead, host Cardinal Stritch University made off with a 25-14, 25-11, 25-16 Great Lakes Division win in Milwaukee.
SXU (5-14, 5-5) posted a negative team attack percentage as it registered more hitting errors (24) than kills (22).
Also playing well individually in a losing cause were sophomore middle blocker Sam Kull (four kills), redshirt freshman outside hitter Matthew Mead (four kills, two service aces, three digs) and senior right-side hitter Jacob Siska (two kills, 13 assists).
The Cougars completed their regular schedule this past Wednesday at NCAA Division III Lakeland (Wis.) College. The match was a makeup of one originally slated for Feb. 4, but postponed by a snowstorm.
While sitting through two postponements and waiting for area fields to dry out, the Cougars received news that sophomore pitcher Nicole Nonnemacher had been picked as the NAIA National Pitcher of the Week for the period running March 10-16. She also was feted by the CCAC as its top pitcher over that same span.
Nonnemacher’s honors followed a 4-1, one-save showing during SXU’s Florida trip, with three of the wins coming on no-hitters. She twice stymied Lourdes (Ohio) University and silenced Spring Arbor (Mich.) University once, and in all three outings Nonnemacher rang up at least 13 strikeouts.
She totaled 57 strikeouts for the week and walked only two over 35 innings while allowing just seven hits. Only one unearned run was generated against her. For the season, Nonnemacher ranks sixth in the NAIA in opponents’ average (.114), hits allowed (2.75) and strikeouts (11.5) per nine innings, and earned-run average (0.27).
The Cougars, currently ranked fifth nationally, went 8-2 in Florida.
The Cougars wrapped up their Florida trip with losses to Aquinas (Mich.) College (7-5) and St. Ambrose University (14-5). The defeats left SXU with a 4-12 ledger.
Sophomore Jim Augle went a combined 3-for-7 at the plate with a triple, two RBI and two runs to pace the Cougars’ offense. His run-producing three-bagger, plus senior Tom Keating’s RBI double boosted SXU into a 5-4 lead over Aquinas after three innings, but two errors undermined the Cougars in the top of the sixth.
Freshman pitcher Jesse Lopez took the loss.
Sophomore Alec Barnhart and senior Chris Klein both stroked a pair of hits against St. Ambrose, but the Fighting Bees had more than enough potency to offset those displays. Barnhart included a double among his hits and tallied twice, while junior Casey Papp doubled and finished with three RBI.
SXU went ahead 4-0 in the top of the first, as Papp’s hit served as the critical blow. However, St. Ambrose responded with eight markers during its first three at-bats to seize control of the contest. The Bees’ uprising pinned a setback on Cougars hurler Jack Surane.
Despite wintry weather conditions on Saturday, SXU (5-13) played two games in Grand Rapids, Mich., although only one of those proved satisfying. That would have been the back end of a doubleheader with host Davenport University, which the Cougars captured by a 4-3 score.
SXU dropped the opener at Farmer’s Complex, 4-2.
Keating and Klein were the Cougars’ big guns, as they collected five and three hits, respectively, on the day. Klein also notched the Game 2 pitching victory after scattering nine hits over seven innings and fanning five.
Senior Brad Myjak’s single and a couple of Davenport errors staked SXU to a 2-0 lead after two frames, but the hosts responded with a three-spot in their half of the fourth that put them in front to stay. Scott Vachon took the loss for the Cougars despite giving up only six hits.
After smacking two of SXU’s four hits in Game 1, Keating delivered three more in the ensuing contest, including an RBI single in the top of the third inning. Klein had slammed an RBI triple ahead of him.
Freshman Ryan Pellack’s infield single upped the Cougars’ advantage to 3-0 in the fourth, but Davenport pulled even by tallying three times over the fourth and fifth stanzas. However, freshman Bryan Polak’s fielder’s choice chased in Augle with the deciding marker in the seventh. Davenport stranded the tying run at third in the bottom of the inning.
SXU is scheduled to play a three-game CCAC series against Judson University this weekend in Jacksonville, Ill.