Hopes were high for success across the board as IUPUI began the 2018-2019 athletic year. And why wouldn’t they be? The women’s soccer team was coming off of the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance. The volleyball team reached the NIT in 2017-18. The women’s basketball team seemed to have all the pieces in the right place for a deep tournament run. The men’s basketball team, though disappointing in 2017-18, had some talented transfers finally eligible to play. The women’s golf team entered this season as reigning Horizon League champions. This athletic season certainly wasn’t a disappointment for IUPUI, but it was underwhelming given last season’s success.
The women’s soccer team saw a significant drop from last season. The Lady Jags won just six games, compared to last season’s 10, finishing with a 6-10-3 record and a seventh place finish in the Horizon League. Though leading goal-scorer Valentine Pursey returned, the absence of key role players like Krissy Kirkhoff and Hayley Shelton was felt. The Lady Jags went from an NCAA Tournament berth to failing to receive an invitation to the Horizon League tournament. IUPUI scored just 21 goals this season and endured a brutal offensive drought to end the season, scoring zero goals in four of their last five games.
The men’s soccer team, however, saw some much needed improvement from the 2017-18 season. While they won less games than the women, finishing 5-10-4, it was infinitely better than last season’s 0-15-2 mark. Their conference season opener against Detroit Mercy was their first win since 2016. A major part of the struggle last season was how young coach Barnett’s squad was. With a year of experience under their belt, this season’s squad, largely the same as last year’s, showed improvement. An overtime victory over Northern Kentucky in the last game of the season even secured them an appearance in the Horizon League tournament, where the downed Green Bay before being outed by UIC.
A down year for the volleyball team was punctuated with a truly heinous end. Typically a powerhouse, the Lady Jags stumbled out of the gate, finding it was hard to adjust to life without outside hitter Kori Waelbroeck, who graduated after last season, and middle blocker Abby Boatman, who was injuring during a season-opening exhibition against Notre Dame and was lost for a majority of the season.
Junior defensive specialist/setter Maggie Gibson stepped into a leadership position, hammering home a team-high 228 kills while also delivering the second most assists with 452. Gibson was aided by junior Haley Hoffman’s monster season. Hoffman, a middle blocker, blocked a team-high 116 kill attempts this season while also recording 174 kills, third best on the team. The season came to a gruesome end when head coach Steve Payne was arrested for possession of child pornography in November. Despite an inspiring 4-game win streak to end the season, the 8-game losing streak that preceded it proved to much to overcome as the Lady Jags missed the postseason entirely.
The precedent for success at IUPUI has been set by the women’s basketball team, so much so that a 20-12 record and WNIT appearance can be considered a disappointment. That’s just what the Lady Jags accomplished this season. But, in the preseason, the dream of reaching the NCAA Tournament was not far fetched. Queen of the post Macee Williams was back for her sophomore season after winning Horizon League Player of the Year as a freshman. She was surrounded by enough talent on the wings that the sky seemed to be the limit for IUPUI. Knock-down shooters like junior Holly Hoopingarner and senior Sydnee Hall, coupled with drivers like Florida Atlantic transfer Katelyn O’Reilly and Bradley transfer Tamya Sims looked to be a tremendous starting five.
The Lady Jags secured the No. 4 seed in the Horizon League tournament based on their regular season success. They downed Northern Kentucky only to run into Wright State, the No. 1 overall seed and eventual Horizon League champions. Still, their regular season performance was enough to secure an invitation to the WNIT. There, the Lady Jags fell to Middle Tennessee State University in the first round. Williams averaged 16 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and still has two years of eligibility remaining. The window is certainly not closed for the Lady Jags to capitalize on their incredible amount of talent.
IUPUI was treated to a splash of excitement in what proved to be another mundane season for the men’s basketball team. This spark came from Vanderbilt transfer Cameron Justice. A 4-star recruit out of high school, he was by far the most naturally gifted athlete the men’s basketball team has had since the legendary George Hill. Justice led the team in scoring, averaging 18 a game. The pieces were there around him for a good season, it just never materialized. D.J. McCall garnered Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year honors for his elite defensive efforts. Jaylen Minnett was voted Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year for his 12 points per game he averaged off the bench.
While the backcourt was exceptional this season, the problems with this season’s squad came in the frontcourt. Senior Evan Hall was the best of the bunch but often found himself in foul trouble. 7’2” Manhattan transfer Ahmed Ismail was even more notorious for fouls, leading the team with 92 on the season. This left the post in the hands of inexperienced and undersized players like Elijah Goss and Jack Hansen. The men’s squad did secure some impressive victories on the season, such as their win over Boston College in November or their victory over Northern Kentucky, the eventual Horizon League champions, in February. Their 16-16 regular season record proved enough for a CIT invitation, where they were bounced in the first round by Marshall.
Men’s and women’s golf proved to be staples of success in the IUPUI athletic department for the 2018-19 season. The best golfer in the Horizon League for both men’s and women’s golf competed for IUPUI. Senior Austin Crowder was voted Horizon League Men’s Golfer of the Year while junior Marion Debove took home the award for Horizon League Women’s Golfer of the Year. Additionally, Men’s Golf head coach Jamie Broce was named Horizon League Coach of the Year. The individual awards didn’t end there as Nick Beinz was honored as first team All-Horizon for the men and Amelie Svejda was voted second team All-Horizon.
As for team play, however, it was the women’s team that dominated. The Lady Jags repeated as Horizon League champions, finishing with a final score of 930 (311-316-303), a whopping 13 strokes above the next closest team. The men’s team was unable to overcome a rough first day of the Horizon League tournament, posting a final score of 903 (310-298-295) to finish fifth.