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Crusader Athletics

BaseballIt might have been modesty. It probably was a certain amount of discomfort with public speaking. For sure it was a ton of appreciation for coaches and teammates when Ricardo “Kiki” Lara was called upon at a year-end dinner for Crusader student-athletes.

You see, Mr. Lara was being introduced as the Incarnate Word Student-Athlete of the Year for 2002-2003. He was asked, quite unexpected by him, to say a few words in response. And in a very few words he replied that “it has been a good year.” Period. All the while blushing and shuffling his feet behind the podium.

The Las Cruces, N. M. native is a man of action, not public speaking. On the soccer field and in the classroom this past year, he garnered just about every award available for one person.

The National Soccer Coaches Association of America named him to its All-American first team for his performance on the field. Then, that same organization voted him a first-team All-America Scholar. He maintains a 3.88 GPA in the UIW School of Education.

Now, about exclusivity. He was one of only three NCAA Division II players to be on the academic team which includes all divisions. Then, he was one of only two players in the entire nation to be first-team both times.

It was a good year. Mr. Lara was the Heartland Conference Player of The Year and he was All-Midwest Region. If all that weren’t enough, he was voted UIW Male Athlete of the Year.

At that same dinner, sophomore guard Amy Mueller of Duncanville was announced as the UIW Female Athlete of the Year. During the season, she played her way onto three different all-tournament teams, and twice she was Heartland Conference Player of the Week.

At season’s end, Ms. Mueller was elected to the All-Heartland team after ranking among the conference’s top 10 in five different statistical categories including being second in scoring average at 15.4 a contest.

BaseballFor the second consecutive year, and the sixth time in seven seasons, the Crusaders won 30 games. Finishing with a 30-27 mark, UIW was runner-up in the Heartland Conference tournament for the second straight time.

Along the way junior righthander Andy Chevalier rewrote the record book for pitching. Nine straight times, he pitched a complete game for a school record. He won eight of those for another record. He went from March 1 to May 8 without absorbing a loss. His final mark was 9-2 with an ERA of 3.39.

Mr. Chevalier was one of four Crusaders named to the All-Heartland Conference team. The others were junior infielder John Elia, senior infielder Jerod Fikac, and junior catcher Jeff Tondre.

It basically was a roller coaster ride for the Crusader men’s team. A high mark for the team was a third place finish at the prestigious East Central Oklahoma Spring Classic.

On the individual side, junior Dustin Lozano earned an invitation to the NCAA Division II Super Regional Tournament in May. This was the second straight spring the Crusaders had a player in that tournament. Mr. Lozano and freshman Gatlyn McDonald were named to the All-Heartland Conference second squad.

On the women’s side, the spring was cut short by illnesses and injuries. Along the way, however, the Crusaders hosted their own tournament at San Antonio’s Woodlake Golf Club. The event included two teams from Minnesota.

SoftballNew Coach Kevin Jannusch came to Incarnate Word during the summer. Despite a late start on the recruiting trail, he forged together a squad which featured outstanding pitching in the persons of junior Casey Gross and sophomore Jennifer Benavides. The Crusaders fought their way to the Heartland Conference tournament only to be eliminated in the early rounds.

Ms. Gross led the team with her nine pitching victories. She was voted to the All-Heartland team as the utility player based on, what else, her hitting. She led the Crusaders with a .329 mark at the plate.

Only two years of competition and already the impact has been remarkable. This year’s version of the Crusader synchro team went to the US Collegiate Championships and brought home a sixth-place team finish. And with a four-person squad, the Crusaders were not that far from third place. Ohio State won the team title.

Individually, the Crusaders were outstanding. Sophomore Jessica Brown was All-America. Sophomore Jennifer Holmquist, a Canadian, was honorary All-America because of her citizenship. And those two, along with teammates sophomore Rebecca Williams and freshman Laura Davis, were on the academic All-American team.

The Crusader men got to the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament for the second straight year. They won their way to the regional finals before losing to Drury, the nation’s number three team. For their individual efforts, seniors Juan Barrio and Jose Pablo Hours were voted All-Heartland.

Men's Tennis Women's Tennis

The Crusader women, like the men, were runners-up in the Heartland tournament but missed out on another invitation to the regional meet. Junior Kristina Jones and sophomore Cosette Reyes were named to the Heartland’s A-l team.

The Crusaders had a first this spring. Sophomore pole vaulter Francisco Leon reached the NCAA Division II National Championships held in Edwardsville, Ill. He is the first UIW athlete ever to achieve this status.

He earned his way to the national meet with a season best vault of 16’-6” which not only got him the invitation but was also a school record. A year ago, Mr. Leon, of Lima, Peru, missed the national event by one inch. This year’s meet featured the top 18 Division II vaulters in the nation.