Big Ten Spring Season in Review: Part 3

June 19, 2008

by Jeff Smith

In our final of three installments looking back at the Big Ten's Spring Season, today focuses on the NCAA Championship and All-America success each sport had last spring. Of the nine Big Ten spring sports, the conference recorded six NCAA top-10 team finishes and five individual national championships. In addition, three student-athletes posted second-place results in their respective sports.

Penn State took home fourth place and Michigan was seventh to lead the Big Ten contingent at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The Nittany Lions and Wolverines scored 39 and 29 points, respectively, while Minnesota was 13th with 15 points. Michigan's seventh-place result extended its streak of top-10 finishes to four. Tying for 31st was Illinois (8) and Wisconsin (8) and Ohio State (5) and Purdue (4) tied for 46th and 53rd, respectively.

Just was the case at the Big Ten Championships, Penn State senior Shana Cox dominated the gold-medal scene with wins in the 400 meters (50.97) and the 4x400-meter relay (3:27.69). The Wolverines gained first-place points from juniors Geena Gall (2:03.91) and Tiffany Ofili in the 800 and 100-meter hurdles, respectively. Illinois' Angela Bizzarri finished second in the 5,000 meters (15:46.08) and Minnesota's Liz Roehrig was runner-up in the heptathlon (5811 points). In that same event, Michigan's Bettie Wade (5738) and Penn State's Gayle Hunter (5709) finished third and fifth, respectively. Also earning the bronze was PSU's Bridget Franek in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (9:58.74), while teammate Aleesha Barber (13.18) was fourth in the 100-meter hurdles. Fifth-place finishers included Minnesota's Heather Dorniden in the 800 (2:05.86), Purdue's Kara Patterson in the javelin (53.93m) and Wisconsin's Katrina Rundhaug in the 10,000 meters (34:00.62).

Of the four women's golf teams to be selected to NCAA Regional competition, only one advanced to the national championship and the Purdue Boilermakers ended their season by placing fourth. Purdue, which finished second (871) at the Central Regional, was the lone conference squad to earn a bid at nationals as Ohio State (T-8th, 892, lost in playoff) and Michigan State (11th, 893) also competed in the Central Regional, while Indiana (18th, 933) did not advance out of the East.

Led by Central Regional co-medalist Maria Hernandez, Purdue placed fourth at nationals after a final-round surge of 283 - the team's best score of the tournament. The final round helped the Boilermakers (298-304-303-283--1,188) improve six positions in the final day and earned them their third-straight top-10 NCAA Championship finish. The result also extended the Big Ten's streak of having at least one top-10 finisher at the NCAA Championships to seven straight years.

Christel Boeljon recorded the Boilermakers' best score of 293 (73-77-75-68) to finish 12th individually. At the 2007 NCAA event, the junior took home national runner-up honors and helped guide her squad to a second-place team finish.

National Golf Coaches Association All-America honors were awarded to four conference golfers. Hernandez, the Big Ten Player of the Year and Mary Fossum Award winner, was named a first-team All-American, while teammate Boeljon was selected to the second team. The Boilermaker duo was also named to the Central All-Region team. Receiving honorable mention was Michigan State's Sara Brown and conference Freshman of the Year Maude Aimee-LeBlanc of Purdue.

Three Big Ten rowing squads earned top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, led by conference champion Michigan State in sixth with 38 points. Ohio State (34) finished seventh and Wisconsin (25) placed 10th.

Notable performances in the Grand Finals included a runner-up time by Ohio State in the Second Varsity Eight (6:44.87), a fifth-place showing by Michigan State in the Varsity Four (7:34.56) and a sixth-place outcome in the First Varsity Eight (6:40.26). Michigan's First Varsity Eight competed for an individual title and finished fifth in the Petite Final.

Seven conference rowers were tabbed 2008 CRCA Pocock All-Americans. First-team honors went to Michigan's Karen Colwell, Michigan State's Anne Cowan, the Big Ten Athlete of the Year, Minnesota's Jennifer Barnes and Ohio State's Gabriele Albertaviciute. Second-team selections included Indiana's Ellie Benson, Michigan's Lori Gordon and Michigan State's Joanna Brown.

Indiana's Jorge Campillo finished runner-up at the 2008 NCAA Men's Golf Championships after carding a score of 289 (75-70-72-72).
Seven men's golf teams were selected to compete in NCAA Regional competition and three advanced to the national championship, which was held at Purdue. Making it out of regional play was Illinois (3rd, 891), Penn State (T-8th, 898) and Indiana (10th, 901) in the Central Regional, while Michigan (T-12th, 904) and Ohio State (T-16th, 911) did not advance. Big Ten champion Michigan State (11th, 851) in the East and Wisconsin (14th, 894) in the West also did not make the top-10 cut in their respective regions.

At the NCAA Championships, Illinois (302-302-312--916), Indiana (313-310-297--920) and Penn State (315-298-313--926) missed the 15-team cutoff, finishing tied for 17th, 21st and 25th, respectively. Wisconsin's Dan Woltman (82-71-77--230), who competed as an individual, also failed to make the cut.

However, all eyes were on Indiana's Jorge Campillo and Penn State's Kevin Foley in the individual race. While Foley (75-73-74-81--303) tied for 23rd overall, the Big Ten's Player of the Year missed out on the national championship by a mere three strokes. Campillo tied for national runner-up with his four-round score of 289 (75-70-72-72). He was one of only two golfers in the event to record three rounds of even-par or better and was one of only five players to fire off even-par in the windy final round.

Three conference golfers were honored as All-Americans by the Golf Coaches Association of America. Campillo received first-team accolades while Foley and Michigan State's Ryan Brehm were named to the honorable mention squad.

Of the six conference teams to earn bids to the 2008 NCAA Men's Tennis Championships, three reached the Round of 16 and one advanced to quarterfinal competition. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin were selected to the field of 64, and the Buckeyes defeated the Illini, 4-3, in the Round of 16 before falling themselves in the quarterfinals. Michigan also advanced to the Round of 16 with wins over Western Michigan and Texas Tech before falling to top-seeded Virginia.

Big Ten champion Ohio State fell to No. 7 Texas, 4-2, to end its season, but charted the winningest season in school history. The second-seeded Buckeyes finished the 2008 campaign 35-2.

Ten conference standouts were also chosen to compete in the singles and doubles portion of the event. Among the notables, OSU's Justin Kronauge and Steven Moneke advanced to the quarterfinal round of the singles bracket and Big Ten Player of the Year, Bryan Koniecko, played his way to the Round of 16. In doubles, Koniecko and Moneke advanced to the round of 16 as Drew Eberly and Kronauge played into the quarterfinals. All four student-athletes were tabbed ITA All-Americans.

Five Big Ten teams earned the right to battle for the NCAA Championship this past spring, including top-ranked Northwestern. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, a trip to the Round of 16 was as close as they got. NU earned its way there with a pair of 4-0 sweeps over Illinois-Chicago and Indiana. The Wildcats then went on to defeat No. 16 Fresno State, 4-1, but a 4-2 loss to No. 8 California in the quarterfinals ended their season at 29-2 - the most wins in school history.

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State also competed in the tournament. Indiana and Michigan each won first-round matches in the team portion, but fell short in second-round play. The Hoosiers defeated Louisville, 4-3, before falling to Northwestern in the second round. The Wolverines prevailed over Furman before bowing out to No. 13 Clemson, 4-1. In first-round competition, Illinois fell 4-0 to Tennessee and Ohio State dropped a 4-3 thriller to Auburn.

Along with these five squads, five Big Ten student-athletes were selected as singles and doubles participants in the championships.

In the singles portion of the championships, Michigan's Chisako Sugiyama joined Northwestern's Maria Mosolova, Lauren Lui, Samantha Murray and Georgia Rose in competition. In doubles, NU's Lui and Rose was the only doubles tandem from the Big Ten participating. Mosolova, the Big Ten's Athlete and Freshman of the Year, played into the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championship bracket, but her bid for an NCAA title fell short as Baylor's Zuzana Zemenova won the quarterfinal matchup, 6-4, 6-4.

Both Mosolova and Rose were named ITA All-Americans. Mosolova was also tabbed the Midwest Region Rookie of the Year and National Player to Watch by the ITA. Northwestern head coach Claire Pollard was named National ITA Coach of the Year and her assistant, Dave Mullins, was named Assistant Coach of the Year. Wisconsin's Erin Jobe was named the Midwest's recipient of the Arthur Ashe Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship.

Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion Michigan represented the conference in NCAA Regional competition and earned the right to host for the first time since 1986. The bid also marked the first time since 2001 that a Big Ten school served as a regional host site and just the fourth time overall since the NCAA began naming regional sites after host schools in 1999.

The Wolverines were unable to make it out of regional action as they fell to Arizona, the No. 1 seed in the region, 4-3, and were then eliminated by Kentucky, 12-6. The NCAA bid was the 21st in Michigan's history, second only in the conference to Minnesota's 28 appearances.

Named 2008 Pro-Line Athletic National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-Americans were second-team selections Josh Phegley of Indiana and Zach Putnam of Michigan.

Four Big Ten teams - Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern and Purdue - were selected to compete in the 2008 NCAA Softball Championship, with Big Ten co-Champions Michigan and Northwestern advancing to super regional play.

The Wildcats hosted regional action and quickly earned victories over Western Illinois and DePaul, winning both games by a score of 6-0. NU then met the Blue Demons again in the regional championship with DePaul winning Game 1, 3-2, to force a second game. The Wildcats prevailed in the finale to move on the super regionals, however back-to-back losses to eventual national champion Arizona State ended NU's season.

Michigan outscored Wright State, Notre Dame and Kent State a combined 26-5 to advance to super regional play. U-M took Game 1 over Virginia Tech, 1-0, but the Hokies rebounded the following day to win two straight to advance to the Women's College World Series.

Louisville Slugger/NFCA first-team All-America honors were awarded to Michigan's Samantha Findlay and Northwestern's Tammy Williams, while Michigan's Jordan Taylor and Alessandra Giampaolo were selected to the second team. Third-team honorees included Michigan's Nikki Nemitz and Ohio State's Brittany Vanderink and Sam Marder.

Wisconsin led all Big Ten men's teams with a 21st-place finish, having garnered 12 points at the NCAA Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Michigan totaled five points to tie for 42nd, while Ohio State's four points were good enough to tie for 50th. Indiana and Minnesota both recorded three points each to finish tied for 56th.

Individually, the Big Ten saw its best performance in the 1,500 meters. Wisconsin's Jack Bolas (3:42.57) and Craig Miller (3:42.57) finished third and fourth, respectively, while Ohio State's Jeff See (3:43.14) placed fifth. In the 4x400-meter relay, Michigan garnered a fourth-place finish with a time of 3:04.64.