JMU Sports 2018-19 Year in Review

Photo courtesy of JMU athletics communications

By Bennett Conlin

The 2018-19 athletic season was one to remember for JMU fans. The Dukes won five CAA titles and had a few teams making impressive postseason runs. Across the board, JMU athletics is trending upward. Given some of the returning athletes, the 2019-20 athletic season has a chance to be one of the best in JMU history. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, though, let’s take a quick look back at the 2018-19 season.

Women’s Sports

Women’s Basketball

Record – 29-6, 17-1 CAA

Top performer – Kamiah Smalls. The junior averaged 15.9 points per game to go with 5.2 rebounds per game. She’s the team’s leader and one of the CAA’s best players.

Best moment – Beating Virginia Tech and former head coach Kenny Brooks 70-66 in the WNIT. Nearly 3,000 people packed the Convocation Center to watch a thrilling battle between the two squads. It was a big win on an emotional night.

Worst moment – Losing to Hofstra in the second round of the CAA Tournament. The Dukes were without Kamiah Smalls and Lexie Barrier got injured just minutes into the game. The loss cost JMU a chance at the NCAA Tournament. It was a disappointing loss.

Season summary – The Dukes were the CAA’s best team, but they didn’t win the conference tournament. JMU fell short of postseason expectations, but a nice WNIT run helped the season end on a positive note.

Women’s Soccer

Record – 11-8-1, 7-1-1 CAA

Top performer – Haley Crawford. The junior led the team with nine goals and six assists. She’s a dynamic offensive weapon who got 29 shots on goal during the season. Crawford’s play helped the Dukes go on a late-season run.

Best moment – Winning the CAA regular season crown. The Dukes rallied after a rocky start to become the CAA’s top team heading into the conference tournament. JMU didn’t win the conference tournament, but the end of the regular season was impressive.

Worst moment – JMU started 1-6 before finding its groove to finish the year, but the first seven games were rough.

Season summary – The Dukes want to contend for CAA titles, and they did just that in 2018. After a rough start, JMU found its footing under first-year head coach Josh Walters, Sr. By finishing the year strong, the Dukes set themselves up nicely for a strong 2019 campaign.

Volleyball

Record – 22-7, 13-3 CAA

Top performer – M’Kaela White. While Bryn Recker and others played tremendously all season, White was a dominant presence. The 6-foot-4-inch junior led the team in blocks and ranked second in kills. She’s going to be critical next season.

Best moment – JMU raced out to a 17-3 start and 9-0 mark in CAA play before stumbling a few times down the stretch. It was an impressive start to the season, and the Dukes looked like the clear CAA favorite until the final weeks of the season.

Worst moment – Falling short in the CAA title game to Hofstra. The match went five sets, and the Pride beat the Dukes 15-10 in the final set.

Season summary – Lauren Steinbrecher has built something special in Harrisonburg. JMU volleyball is in a great spot under Steinbrecher, and contending for CAA titles is the norm. A 22-7 record and 13-3 mark in CAA play is a solid season.

Softball

Record – 51-10, 20-1 CAA

Top performer – Megan Good. The redshirt senior did it all in 2019, which was expected. She’s one of the best players in all of college softball and was a National Player of the Year candidate throughout the season. She smashed 16 home runs to go with 58 RBIs and a 1.62 ERA across 190 innings in the circle. Kate Gordon and Odicci Alexander deserve honorable mentions for great seasons.

Best moment – Beating Michigan twice in one day to win the Ann Arbor Regional. The Dukes needed a pair of victories to advance, and they got them in front of a national audience. Megan Good pitched all 14 innings and allowed just one run across the two victories.

Worst moment – While JMU had its fair share of disappointing losses, I’ll say the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. The Dukes were in the conversation for a seed, but ultimately didn’t earn one. That cost JMU a chance at hosting a Regional and playing NCAA Tournament games in Harrisonburg.

Season summary – It was another solid season in Harrisonburg. The program continued to stamp its place as a mid-major power deserving of a place in the national conversation. JMU is still without a WCWS berth since the program began in 2002, but the Dukes are getting closer to national relevancy each season. Ending the year in a Super Regional was a positive step for the Dukes.

Women’s Tennis

Record – 14-9, 3-1 CAA

Top performer – Emma Petersen. The senior became the winningest singles player in program history during the season and was a constant leader throughout the year. She played well and helped keep the team steady all year.

Best moment – Winning the program’s first CAA title. A 4-2 win over William & Mary gave the Dukes a bit of program history. After losing Liz Norman to NC State as a transfer and seeing former head coach James Bryce leave, the Dukes rallied together to win the conference crown. That’s a tremendous accomplishment.

Worst moment – Losing to NC State 6-1 on Feb. 16 to wrap up a three-game losing streak after starting the season 4-1. To add insult to injury, the Dukes had to go up against Norman, who won her singles match handily. Norman, a sophomore, would’ve finished her career as one of the best in program history had she stayed at JMU for her entire career.

Season summary – JMU won the first CAA title in program history in head coach Shelley Jaudon’s first season. It was a great year.

Image courtesy of JMU athletics communications.

Lacrosse

Record – 16-4, 6-0 CAA

Top performer – Hanna Haven. The senior led the team with 81 points and was a tremendous asset all season. Her offensive consistency stood out in nearly every game this season.

Best moment – Beating Hofstra 13-3 to win the CAA title. JMU destroyed the Pride to punch its NCAA Tournament ticket in style. It was a quality win against a competitive Hofstra team that took JMU to double overtime earlier in the season.

Worst moment – Losing to North Carolina 18-7 in the season opener. This game showed everyone that the Dukes likely weren’t a serious threat to repeat as national champs.

Season summary – JMU lost a lot of talent coming into the 2019 season. Finishing 16-4 with a CAA title and an NCAA Tournament berth after losing a handful of quality starters from a national title team is good. It was a solid year.  

Field Hockey

Record – 6-12, 2-4 CAA

Top performer – Lindsay Gippe. The senior led the team in points with 18 despite being a defender.

Best moment – Beating Richmond 4-3. This win capped off a four-game stretch when JMU was 2-2 with its two losses coming in relatively competitive showings against ranked teams.

Worst moment – Falling 8-1 to Delaware in the CAA Tournament. JMU opened the season ranked 17th nationally, but the Dukes struggled all season and couldn’t overcome an injury to Miranda Rigg. It was a rocky year that ended with an embarrassing loss.

Season summary – This was the first season since 2004 that the Dukes won fewer than nine games. It was a disappointing year for Christy Morgan and company.

Cross Country

Record – N/A

Top performer – Seniors Erica Jackson and Olivia Viparina were among the team’s top performers.

Best moment – Winning the JMU Invitational. The Dukes finished first out of seven teams in their September event.

Worst moment – JMU finished 27th out of 28 teams in the Penn State Open, but it was a strong field.

Season summary – The Dukes ended the year fifth in the CAA in the nine-team conference, which isn’t anything too spectacular, but it’s also not bad. The program remains competitive and had a few standout runners this season.

Track & Field

Record – N/A

Top performer – Sidra Morris. The senior thrower finished her career with her name across the JMU record books. Morris’ outdoor hammer throw was one of her strongest events of the year.

Best moment – Winning the three-team JMU Invitational in April.

Worst moment – Finishing sixth out of eight teams in the CAA Championships.

Season summary – The program had a few individual standouts, but probably hoped to finish higher than sixth in the CAA as a team. It was a fine season.

Swimming and diving

Record – 9-2-1, 4-0-0 CAA

Top performer – Bonnie Zhang. She qualified for the NCAAs and won CAA Swimmer of the Year honors for a tremendous junior campaign.

Best moment – Winning the CAA title. Nothing beats winning the conference crown.

Worst moment – The team really didn’t have a glaring worst moment, but we’ll go with losing to Liberty at home in October.

Season summary – Dane Pedersen is a highly underrated head coach, and he led the Dukes to another CAA title. The program has a lot to be proud of.  

Women’s Golf

Record – N/A

Top performer – Kate Owens. The freshman led JMU with the lowest stroke average on the team at 75.96. She’s a quality player, especially at her age.

Best moment – Winning consecutive match play tournaments to start the spring. The Dukes played well in the format and secured a pair of victories, which is no small feat.

Worst moment – Finishing sixth out of eight teams in the CAA Championships. The Dukes will want to improve that mark in the coming years.

Season summary – It was a good season, and the first year with Tommy Baker as the head coach. He’s a promising young coach with the potential to make JMU a CAA contender.

Men’s Sports

Football

Record – 9-4, 6-2 CAA

Top performer – Jimmy Moreland. The redshirt senior cornerback was one of the best players in the entire country. He tallied five interceptions and returned three of them for touchdowns. Moreland was electric at corner.

Best moment – Beating Richmond 63-10. People might debate this as the best moment — the win over Towson was more impressive — but the Dukes pounded an in-state rival 63-10 a week after beating William & Mary 51-0. JMU reached its peak in terms of hype and expectations and execution against Richmond. Everything went downhill from there.

Worst moment – Losing to Colgate in the second round of the FCS playoffs. Ben DiNucci threw five interceptions and JMU looked lost offensively. Despite struggling, the Dukes only fell 23-20 and had chances to win the game. The self-inflicted wounds, and the Mike Houston drama during the Colgate week, makes the loss sting more for JMU fans.  

Season Summary – An inevitable disappointment.

In hindsight, JMU fans and media members jumped the gun in assuming the Dukes were national title threats. JMU beat up on four awful teams in weeks 2-5 of the season and looked good because of it. There were always some questions at quarterback, and the offensive line never lived up to expectations. Every FCS loss seemed surprising, but really, the Dukes just weren’t as good as many thought.

Basketball

Record – 14-19, 6-12 CAA

Top performer – Darius Banks. I’m going with Banks despite good seasons from Matt Lewis, Stuckey Mosley and Dwight Wilson. To me, Banks was JMU’s most complete player. In terms of shooting, rebounding, passing and defending, Banks had the best season of any player on the team.

Best moment – Despite a losing record, the Dukes had some good moments. Beating Radford 73-66 early in the season and beating Hofstra 104-99 in overtime late in the season were the two biggest moments. A buzzer beater from Matt Lewis tied the game against the Pride and forced overtime. JMU went on to beat one of the CAA’s top squads. Lewis’ last-second shot against Towson to advance to the CAA Quarterfinals was another memorable moment.

Worst moment – Losing to Fordham 75-48 after 13 days off stands out, but losing the final two regular season games was worse. The Dukes had a chance to get out of the bottom four spots in the conference but lost to Elon and William & Mary at home. Ouch.

Season summary – The Dukes took baby steps forward, but it was still a disappointing 2018-19 season. JMU had the pieces to finish in the top half of the CAA, and finishing conference play with a 6-12 record just won’t cut it. Next season’s roster is loaded, but we’ve heard that before. Will 2019-20 finally be the year JMU men’s basketball lives up to its potential or will Louis Rowe’s seat grow hotter?

Baseball

Record – 31-26, 11-13 CAA

Top performer – The entire pitching staff. With four pitchers going in the 2019 MLB Draft, it’s too hard to settle on just one.

Best moment – Beating Cal State Fullerton twice in California stands out as the most memorable moment from the 2019 season, although qualifying for the CAA Tournament might be the best accomplishment.

Worst moment – While not quite one moment, JMU went on a nine-game losing streak during the middle of the year. That was by far the worst stretch for the Dukes.

Season summary – JMU took steps forward. A 30-win season is a good sign, but the Dukes need to take another step forward to become a CAA contender. A CAA title contender would boost attendance and invigorate a proud baseball town. It was a good season, but not a great one.

Men’s Soccer

Record – 15-5-3, 6-2 CAA

Top performer – Manuel Ferriol. When the junior was on the field, he was phenomenal. He led the team in points and is an athletic and gifted midfielder.

Best moment – The NCAA Tournament run. JMU beat High Point, UNC and Virginia Tech on the road to make the Elite Eight.

Worst moment – Losing to Michigan State in the Elite Eight was the most heartbreaking loss, but losing to Elon in the regular season finale was the worst loss on the resume.

Season summary – In his first season at the helm, Paul Zazenski led the team to the Elite Eight. That’s an incredible accomplishment. JMU men’s soccer had a great 2018.

Men’s Golf

Record – N/A

Top performer – Ignacio Montero. The sophomore played the most rounds of any Duke and finished the year with the lowest scoring average at 72.61.

Best moment – Winning the Jackrabbit Invitational in the spring. Ignacio Montero won the individual portion of the tournament and the team won by an astounding 24 strokes.

Worst moment – The Dukes finished 11th out of 14 teams at the Tar Heel Intercollegiate, although it was a stacked field.

Season summary – JMU finished third in the CAA and had a very productive season overall.

Men’s Tennis

Record – 17-8, 3-2 CAA

Top performer – Paul Mendoza. The junior had a solid season as both a singles and doubles player. Tennis supporters will miss watching the Mendoza-Tate Steinour doubles team next year.

Best moment – A win over Coppin State capped off a five-match winning streak and moved JMU to 9-2 overall. That was the team’s peak.

Worst moment – Losing to UNCW 4-1 in the CAA Tournament ended a promising season.

Season summary – JMU looked good, and the program continues to put together winning seasons. This year marked the third consecutive winning season following four straight losing seasons.

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