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A Look Back at 2018 The Lutes excelled both on and off the field in 2018

The Pacific Lutheran University athletic department had a banner year in 2018, capturing seven Northwest Conference titles, claiming one individual national champion, and continuing to set the standard in the classroom and in the community.

Things got rolling in February with women’s swimmer Kaycee Simpson winning NWC titles in the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststrokes, en route to NWC Freshman of the Year honors. The Graham, Washington native continued her season into March, becoming the first female Lute swimmer to qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships, competing in the 100 individual medley, 200 breaststroke and the 200 butterfly.

The baseball team won a school record 12 in a row en route to the NWC regular season title

The baseball team caught lightning in a bottle in March, winning a school record 12 straight games in the month. The Lutes secured the NWC title and finished the season with a 25-17 record.

PLU men's golf captured its second straight NWC title before netting its best ever finish at the NCAA Championships.

It wasn’t just baseball securing league titles in the spring with men’s golf and women’s rowing winning NWC titles on the same day on April 22. The men’s golf squad won both the NWC Spring Classic and the NWC Tournament to win the league title for the second straight season while the women’s rowing team won the varsity eight race to hoist the NWC crown for the third year running.

Women's Rowing earned its third consecutive NWC crown

Both squads carried that success into the postseason at the national level with the men’s golf squad placing 16th at the NCAA Championships, the best finish in program history, while women’s rowing placed seventh, logging a top seven finish for the second time in three years.

Capping off a strong spring was Machaela Graddy. A two-sport athlete (women’s soccer and track & field), the senior closed out her collegiate career in style, winning the NWC title in the javelin before becoming PLU’s first individual national champion since 2001 after winning the javelin at the NCAA Championships with a school record throw. Graddy was later recognized in July by Sports Illustrated for her athletic exploits, earning a spot in the famed magazine’s “Faces in the Crowd.”

While competing at nationals, Graddy, along with five other national qualifiers in women’s rowing and men’s track & field missed their chance to walk across the stage at the PLU graduation ceremony at the Tacoma Dome. That didn’t stop the six student-athletes from having their moment on stage however, with the six Lutes participating in a special ceremony on Memorial Day at the Karen Hille Phillips Center for Performing Arts.

The end of the semester saw the Lutes shine in the classroom. A record 60 student-athletes were inducted as members of Chi Alpha Sigma while 154 total Lutes won NWC Scholar-Athlete honors. PLU’s department-wide success in the classroom included the women’s basketball team earning recognition as part of the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. The Lutes boasted the ninth-best GPA in the nation among 450 NCAA Division III institutions.

The Lutes were active across the community, giving back with over 3,200 hours of service

Beyond success in the classroom, the Lutes racked up over 3,200 hours of community service. That included hosting the annual Youth Sports Clinic and several events in conjunction with Special Olympics Washington. The PLU swimming teams project with Special Olympics garnered nationwide attention in the fall, earning a grant from the NCAA after winning the August Division III Special Olympics Spotlight Poll.

That success spilled back over into the competitive arena in the fall with the Lutes winning a share of four of the six NWC Championships in the fall.

Olson Gymnasium was a daunting place for opposing volleyball teams to play at in 2018

Volleyball won the conference outright for the second straight season, finishing the conference slate with a 14-2 record and ending the season with a 21-4 record. Among the highlights of the season was Head Coach Kevin Aoki notching his 400th win in September at the Spike it Up Classic in Colorado. Powering the strong performance was the team’s blocking ability, finishing the season ranked No. 1 in Division III in blocks per set.

Volleyball won the NWC yet again and made its second straight NCAA Tourney appearance

Women’s soccer (13-3-4, 12-2-2 NWC) claimed a share of its third consecutive NWC title, posting 11 shutouts on the season while the senior class wrapped up their careers in the black and gold with an impressive 61-10-12 record on the pitch.

The women's soccer senior class finished with an impressive 61-10-12 record on the pitch, winning three NWC titles

Men’s soccer won a share of its second straight conference title, earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. The Lutes finished the season with a 13-5-2 record and a 9-3-2 record in NWC play.

The men's soccer team collected a share of its second straight NWC title this fall

Men’s cross country completed its meteoric rise under the direction of Head Coach Adam Frye, winning a share of the program’s first conference title since 1997 and ending the season by placing fifth at the NCAA West Regional. The Lutes quest back to the top came after finishing ninth at the NWC meet in 2014 and fifth the following season. PLU was second in both 2016 and 2017 before finally breaking through this fall.

Men's Cross Country won its first league title since 1997

In addition to winning championships, Lutes found the time to support other Lutes, including the men’s cross country team running the game ball from campus to Sparks Stadium prior to football’s win over Pacific University.

The men's cross country team ran nearly 11 miles from campus to Sparks Stadium this fall

Under the direction of first year Head Coach Brant McAdams, the Lute football team knocked off eventual Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges in the home opener at Sparks Stadium while launching the Kinship Alumni Mentor Program to reconnect gridiron alumni with first-year Lutes.

Head Coach Brant McAdams and the Lutes celebrate winning the home opener against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps

Football wasn’t the only team on campus providing leadership and real life skill development for student-athletes on campus with the fall kicking off year three of the wildly successful Lutes LEAD program. Providing distinct leadership tracts for first years, sophomores-juniors, and seniors, the program provides workshops, guest speakers, and networking opportunities for those involved with the program.

Women's Soccer Head Coach Seth Spidahl speaking at Lutes LEAD

Bjug Day this fall turned out to be the best one yet for Lute athletics with the department raising $70,500 during the campaign. Those dollars directly impact the student-athlete experience of each sport program and were matched dollar for dollar by the University towards the general scholarship fund.

Lute Legion making some noise inside Olson Gymnasium

Heading into the new year, both men’s and women’s swimming remain undefeated in NWC duals and in the hunt for conference titles while men’s and women’s basketball have gotten off to promising starts heading into the second half of the season.

2018 By the Numbers:

1 Individual National Champion

6 NWC Coach of the Year Award Winners

7 Northwest Conference Championships

25 NWC Athletes of the Week and 2 National Athletes of the Week in the Fall/Winter of 18-19

60 Chi Alpha Sigma Honorees

154 NWC Scholar-Athletes

233 Total Athletic Donors on Bjug Day

415 Career wins at PLU for Volleyball Coach Kevin Aoki

3,200 Hours of Community Service

70,500 Money Raised for Athletics on Bjug Day

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