Three LMU women’s athletics teams made promising NCAA tournament runs in 2021-22 and are hoping to continue that momentum in the coming seasons. As they look back on their success, the student-athletes and coaches in women’s tennis, softball, and beach volleyball have been at work to return to their respective tournaments.
“Our expectations are very high because of last season,” said Eva Marie Voracek, a graduate student on the women’s tennis team. It was a similar view from the diamond. “The team is excited to get the 2023 season going,” said DeBord, a senior on the softball team.
Women’s tennis received their first-ever at-large bid after an 18-4 season and 8-1 in the West Coast Conference. The softball team won their first WCC championship, earning an automatic bid to the 2022 NCAA championship. And the beach volleyball continued their run of tournament appearances with their second-consecutive trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Enhancing LMU’s reputation as a hub for elite women student-athletes, these teams also placed several members on the leagues’ academic lists.
LMU women’s tennis saw their season come to a close on May 6 after losing in the opening round of the NCAA Championships in the Berkeley regional to Texas Tech. The Lions finished the season 18-4 (8-1 in the conference), with the second-most wins in program history. The only team to achieve more victories was the 1995 team with 22 wins. The team was named the nation’s fifth-best mid-major women’s tennis team by the International Tennis Association.
LMU received its first-ever NCAA team at-large bid after finishing second in the conference. The WCC coaches also voted Lions coach Agustin Moreno as the Coach of the Year.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced the 2022 Division 1 Women’s ITA Scholar-Athletes and All-Academic Teams, and LMU women’s tennis won the team award. Individual awards went to Wiktoria Rutkowska, Sofia Booth, and Stefania Rogozinska-Dzik for attaining a GPA of 3.5 or higher for the current academic year. The Lions also achieved the team award with a GPA of 3.2 or above; all student-athletes are listed on the institutional eligibility form, and all varsity letter winners are factored into the cumulative team GPA.
“Last season we did really, really well, we ended up beating UCLA, who was ranked No. 4 at that time, and we ended up top 30 in the ranking,” said Voracek. “I know that everyone on my team was practicing every day and doing fitness, doing conditioning, everything that we needed to do, right now, obviously we continue going to the weight room.”
The LMU softball team was selected to the NCAA tournament for the third time in program history; after earning the West Coast Conference’s automatic bid, the Lions played in Los Angeles for regionals. After defeating Mississippi in their opening game, their season ended on May 22 as LMU was eliminated in Game 5 by the Running Rebels. The Lions had erased an early deficit by scoring twice in the sixth inning before falling in seven, 4-2.
For the first time since joining the WCC for softball, LMU celebrated a conference championship. The 4-2 victory over Santa Clara clinched LMU’s co-championship with BYU. However, by winning the season series over the Cougars, the Lions got the automatic bid into the 2022 NCAA Championship.
Six softball players, including four first-teamers, made the all-academic team for the WCC. Georgia Blair, Alyssa Daniell, Morgan DeBord, and Megan Dedrick were selected for the first team. Paulina Johnson and Taylor Keinath were recognized as honorable mentions.
“We have a good, tough schedule that will push us to play our best softball,” said DeBord. “We are striving to win the WCC again this year and make it to a regional, and then go farther into postseason than we did last year.”
Women’s Beach Volleyball
For the second consecutive season, LMU beach volleyball made the trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and finished their season as one of the top teams in the NCAA championships. The No. 4 Lions opened play with a 3-1 win over No. 10 Georgia State, and defeated No. 8 Florida Atlantic and No. 10 Georgia State, before being eliminated by No. 5 Florida State and finishing as one of the last four teams remaining.
The West Coast Conference included five Lions on its all-academic team for the 2021-22 season. The list includes beach volleyball players Avery Poppinga and Megan Rice, and Marine Kinna, Jacinda Ramirez, and Reka Orsi Toth were named honorable mentions.
“We don’t talk or think about expectations a whole lot,” said John Mayer, the beach volleyball coach. “Our goal is to win a national championship, but that result isn’t in our control. What we focus on is being great learners, a connected team, and we strive to set a standard for excellence. We do that by challenging the athletes everyday with relevant problems to solve and give them the space to explore solutions.”