By Brooke Ortale | UTA Athletic Communications Assistant
ARLINGTON, Texas – As we ring in the new year, it's time to put 2016 in the rearview mirror with one last look back at some of the highs UTA Athletics has seen since the start of the school year.
The fall athletic season for the Mavericks started off with a bang as the UTA men's cross country team ran away with its second-straight Sun Belt Conference championship. The Mavs boasted an individual winner for the second-straight year as Craig Lautenslager's 8k time of 24:20.9 was five seconds ahead of the races runner-up.
Building off their success at the SBC championship, the Mavericks men's cross team placed third in the NCAA South Central Regional meet, marking the highest team finish ever. Not only did they perform historically as a team, but the Mavs dynamic duo of Craig Lautenslager and Michael Guerrero became the first UTA runners to qualify for the NCAA Championship individually since 1998. The pair went on to finish 175th and 245th, respectively, at the NCAA Championship meet.
Track and Field
Making his second appearance as a member of Team USA, UTA track and field star Tobi Fawehinmi placed fifth in the long jump at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The Mansfield native's best jump amongst his six was 7.01 meters (23 feet), with the winning distance was 7.41m and bronze medal jump was 7.11m. Fawehinmi was the second-highest finisher on Team USA, behind gold medal winner Roderick Townsend.
After the loss of senior captain and libero Caitlyn Cooney to graduation, questions arose as to who take over the coveted position. The questions would quickly be erased as freshman Taylor Murata donned the alternate colored jersey from the opening game and never looked back. Murata highlighted her stellar freshman campaign by breaking a record held for more then a decade. In a 29-dig performance at ULM, Nov. 12 became the Mavs' all-time leader on the freshmen digs list, previously held by Amber Pack with 516 in 1999. Murata finished the season with 566 digs.
Hosting the first Sun Belt Championship since opening College Park Center in 2002, UTA played host Sun Belt Women's Volleyball Championship Nov. 18-20. Competing for a berth into the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship, the Mavs welcomed the top eight finishers in the SBC, with the Mavs earning the four seed.
Going down as one the biggest golf accomplishments in program history according to head golf coach Stuart Deane, senior Zach Galliford captured the Welsh Amateur Championship in 2016. Galliford concluded play with a championship performance to defeat his opponent by a 2-up tally in a 36-hole match play tournament at Southerndown Golf Club. During his path to lifting the Welsh Amateur trophy, his run included a 2-up victory in the opening round before a 3&2 win in the second.
The UTA women's tennis team asserted itself as a power in the Texas Region after a strong performance in the UTSA/ITA Regional Championship. Agustina Serio, the 2015-16 Sun Belt Player to Watch, highlighted the tournament for the Mavericks with a strong showing in singles and doubles. Serio knocked off the No. 1 seed (No. 15 in the nation) Saska Gavrilovska of Texas A&M in the second round in straight sets and marched into a quarterfinal appearance. Joining up with Angeles de los Rios, the pair navigated the consolation bracket in doubles to claim the championship.
Starting their season off on the right foot, UTA women's basketball opened the year 5-0 for the first time since 1977, highlighted by claiming the title at the SHU Thanksgiving Classic in South Orange, NJ. After downing San Diego State 64-58 in the first round, the Lady Mavs found themselves in finals against a familiar opponent in Seton Hall. Looking for redemption after a 61-54 loss at home to the pirates a year ago, the Lady Mavs did that and more dominating Seton Hall, 86-61. Rebekah VanDijk was named the tournament's MVP after a 34-point performance in the finals, Cierra Johnson joined her on the All-Tournament team.
Last but certainly not least is the UTA men's basketball program. Entering the season as the Sun Belt preseason favorites and boasting the preseason Player of the Year in Kevin Hervey, the Mavs have not failed to meet expectations, but soared past them with two monumental wins for the program. With the help of Hervey's 11th career double-double, UTA defeated Texas 72-61 for the first win over the Longhorns in program history.
Five days after their convincing win over the Longhorns, the Mavs shocked the world again with their first ever win over top-25 opponent, claiming a 65-51 win over No. 12 Saint Mary's on the road. The Mavs pushed their win streak to seven games at the time and have since gone on to defeat Bradley, Loyola Marymount and Coastal Carolina to end 2016 on a 10-game winning streak.
The fall provided so many top moments for the UTA athletic program but it's time to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017.
"If we can top 2016, that's going to be one of the best years in school history," UTA men's basketball coach Scott Cross said." But I couldn't ask for anything more in 2016. What these guys did, especially ending it winning 10 straight against the competition we faced is really a testament to these guys."
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