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Big successes, historic firsts highlight UVU sports Top 10 stories of 2018

January 2, 2019
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The Utah Valley University cross country team competes in the NCAA Cross Country Mountain Regional in Provo, Utah on Friday November 9, 2018. Pictured, Hannah Branch (center in Utah Valley uniform) led the way for the women's team by placing 51st.

The Utah Valley athletic department might not have quite reached all of the goals it wanted to in 2018 — but much of that was due to having loftier expectations with every passing year.

The Wolverines still have plenty to be proud of as they look back at the year that just came to a close on Monday.

Here’s a look at the Top 10 Stories for UVU sports in 2018:

1. Men’s basketball sets record for wins as a Division I team

The Wolverines wanted to really make some big strides in the 2017-18 season and while the WAC tournament title and NCAA tournament bid eluded them again, they still made history.

Led by a talented starting lineup and with crucial contributions from the reserves, UVU set a school record with 23 wins, finishing with the best end-of-season KenPom.com ranking in Wolverine history (No. 91).

The mark was set with an 87-65 home win over Eastern Washington in the College Basketball Invitational, surpassing the record set by the 2006-07 team that won 22 games.

2. Taylor LaMont’s No. 7 seed at NCAA Wrestling tournament leads historic Wolverine charge

UVU put together an impressive 2017-18 season, culminating with the school sending more wrestlers than ever before to compete in the NCAA tournament: Taylor LaMont (133), Demetrius Romero (165), Kimball Bastian (174), Tanner Orndorff (197) and heavyweight Dustin Dennison.

LaMont had the best seed of any Wolverine wrestler in history, coming in as the No. 7 seed. He won his first two matches to be the first UVU grappler to reach the quarterfinals, but he lost his final two matches to end up just short of reaching All-American status.

LaMont finished his impressive redshirt freshman campaign with one of the best season records in school history, going 27-5 on the year.

3. Wolverine men’s cross country wins fourth WAC title, women get second

The UVU men’s cross country team earned its fourth WAC Championship while the women’s team followed suit with a runner-up finish at the 2018 Western Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships on Oct. 27 at Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle.

Junior Kevin Lynch helped propel the men’s team to the team championship by winning the 8,000-meter in a time of 24:02.10. Lynch earned WAC Men’s Athlete of the Year honors with the victory.

The Utah Valley women captured a second-place finish behind California Baptist, with 61 overall points in the 6,000-meter competition.

4. UVU announces new six-year contract for coach Mark Pope

The Wolverines announced in the summer that men’s basketball coach Mark Pope signed a new contract that will keep him with UVU through the 2023-24 season.

The new contract is a six-year agreement that replaces Pope’s previous five-year deal that was set to expire in 2020.

Pope has already guided the Wolverines to a lot of improvement, helping UVU jump from being at No. 343 in the KenPom.com rankings in 2015 to a school-record No. 91 ranking in 2018 — the biggest three-year jump in the nation during that time period.

5. Wolverine men’s soccer reaches 50th win plateau

A second-half goal from Austin Buxton helped UVU to earn the program’s 50th win, a 1-0 shutout at California Baptist University on Oct. 5.

In five years under head coach Greg Maas, the Wolverines have enjoyed a lot of success. Maas has already accumulated a 53-36-7 record, taken UVU to the NCAA Tournament, and won a WAC regular season title. He also earned his first WAC Coach of the Year after leading the Wolverines to the conference championship in 2016, following an 8-1-1 WAC season.

Hitting the 50-win mark as a program was just another stepping stone in the continued success of this team.

6. UVU baseball steals opener at No. 21 Mississippi State to get season highlight in March

The Wolverines had some ups and downs in 2018 but the biggest win came when UVU traveled across the country to play at No. 21 Mississippi State.

In the opening game of the series, the Wolverines tied the game in the ninth inning and then scored the game-winner in the 11th. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the ninth, David Modler hit the second of two doubles in the game and later scored the tying run when Callahan Moltzan drove him in on a fielder’s choice.

In the 11th, Trevor Howell walked to lead off and after a sacrifice by Modler and a wild pitch, stood at third with one out. Trevor Peterson walked before Jackson Overlund drove Howell in to give the Wolverines the 2-1 lead and eventually the upset win.

7. Wolverine basketball stars graduate, others transfer in

With the end of their college basketball careers, UVU players like Kenneth Ogbe, Brandon Randolph and Akolda Manyang looked to continue their careers playing pro basketball.

Randolph signed in August to play in Romania, while Ogbe signed in June to play in Germany and Manyang tried out for the NBA’s G-League for the Canton Charge.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines looked to replace the players who graduated with newcomers like Connor MacDougall, transferring from New Mexico, and Baylee Steele, arriving from Eastern Michigan.

8. Daven Russell sets UVU record, five Wolverines reach NCAA preliminaries

It was a great year for junior Daven Russell, who closed his 2018 outdoor campaign in May with a school record in the shot put competition in the finale to the NCAA West Preliminary held at Sacramento State.

Russell finished just three spots and 0.09 meters shy of an NCAA Championship qualifying spot in 15th place with a new school record of 18.46 meters in his final meet of the year. The two-time WAC shot put champion, Russell broke his own program top mark for the second time this season, surpassing his prior best this season by 0.61 meters.

He was one of five UVU athletes to reach the NCAA preliminaries, as senior Alena Gillespie, sophomore Albert MacArthur, sophomore Adrian Jones and junior Jordan Carder also made the cut.

9. UVU women’s golf gets superlative performances

It was another good year for the Wolverines on the links as the women had some impressive showings both early and late in the year.

In February at the GCU Invitational, Carly Dehlin tied for first through 54 holes to earn her first collegiate win, while Ana Raga finished the tournament in third. The team ended up in second place overall.

Later in the year, the team finished just two shots back to earn second-place honors at the season-opening Hobble Creek Fall Classic in September at Hobble Creek Golf Course in Springville, ending up with a three-round school-record tally of 27-over-par (879).

10. Wolverine volleyball pushes BYU to set tone for solid season

The UVU women’s volleyball squad had a lot of question marks coming into 2018 as it only had one senior with nine newcomers. Getting to start with an exhibition against perennial powerhouse and crosstown competition at BYU was a quick litmus test.

The Wolverines didn’t hold back and gave the Cougars a challenge before losing in three sets. BYU would go on to be the No. 1-ranked team in the nation for 11 weeks and reach the Final Four, sending a message to the UVU squad that if it continues to improve it can play with anyone.

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