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The year that was: Top five athletics stories in 2016-17

Records and milestones highlight a successful season in athletics

Baseball

Baseball

Senior pitcher Justin Dillon threw the first no-hitter in Sacramento State’s Div. I history in a 2-0 shutout of Northern Kentucky. He issued just one walk and had a career-high 13 strikeouts, facing just two batters over the minimum with a walk in the fifth inning and a Hornet fielding error in the ninth. Dillon struck out at least one batter in six of nine innings, including two strikeouts in the ninth. In all he got 10 ground ball outs, three fly outs and a soft line out to shortstop to go with his 13 strikeouts. After his milestone, Dillon was named the Div. I National Pitcher of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, Perfect Game and College Sports Madness and was the first player on Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Week list. He also earned Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week honors.

Golf

Golf

The Sacramento State men’s golf program dates back to 1950-51 and has seen its share of success—several conference titles and some of the top golfers in Northern California. Despite the strong history, only one golfer has posted an average below par during a season. Aaron Beverly first performed the feat last year, averaging 71.83 to set the school single-season record. That year he was the Big Sky Conference Men’s Golfer of the Year and qualified for the NCAA West Regional. This year, the senior is averaging 70.91 with 17 of his 23 rounds being 72 or lower. The Fairfield, Calif., native has finished among the top five eight times during his career and is all but guaranteed to return to the NCAA postseason in May.

Gymnastics

SloinwodaFloor

Four Sacramento State gymnasts were able to carry on the program’s long tradition of competing at an NCAA regional. The quartet, which was comprised of all-arounders Caitlin Soliwoda and Lauren Rice and specialists Julia Konner and Courtney Soliwoda, represented Sacramento State at the NCAA Seattle Regional, which also included top-ranked Oklahoma, Kentucky, Washington, Stanford, BYU and Utah State. All four gymnasts earned first team all-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) honors during the regular season. Junior Caitlin Soliwoda enjoyed a breakout season, leading the team with an average of 38.965 after having never competed in the all-around during her first two years. Soliwoda went on to score 39.350 at the MPSF Championships to finish second overall and was also the individual champion on bars. Her all-around score is tied for the third best in school history. Konner capped her career by making her third NCAA postseason appearance on vault. Rice qualified for the second consecutive season and Courtney Soliwoda made her first trip.

Track and Field

Armstead

It took Darius Armstead just six months to leave his mark on the Sacramento State record book. The Visalia, Calif., native transferred to the Hornets from Fresno City College prior to the fall semester after a successful junior college career which saw him place third in the triple jump at the 2016 state championships. Armstead had little trouble making the transition, winning the Big Sky Conference individual title in the triple jump at the indoor championships. At that meet, he jumped 51-feet, 2.75-inches to set the school record. Less than a month later, Armstead crushed the field at the Hornet Invitational with a leap of 51-feet, 11.25-inches to shatter Ray Price’s ’72 (Social Work), MS ’75 (Counseling) school record which had stood since 1970, by 4.25 inches. That mark currently places Armstead 11th in Div. I this season and is the best in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets will host the Big Sky Outdoor Championships in May at Hornet Stadium.

Volleyball

Volleyball

During the fall indoor season, Sacramento State Volleyball was crowned the Big Sky Conference’s South Division champions after posting a 13-3 league record. In addition, the Hornets secured their 29th season with at least 20 overall wins, and the program has won 18 straight home matches against conference opposition. Five players were named all-Big Sky, tying the program record. Kennedy Kurtz was selected first team along with second team choices Madeline Cannon, Courtney Dietrich, Lexie Skalbeck and Shannon Boyle. The Hornets won each of their final eight matches of the regular season to clinch the South Division title, and increased that winning streak to nine straight with a Big Sky Tournament win over Eastern Washington. The team has now combined for 46 overall wins and a 25-7 mark in league spanning the last two years. In the classroom, 11 of the 16 players on the roster have grade point averages above a 3.0.

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