By Giancarlo Santoro, Sports Writer
As Pacific Lutheran University’s frigid winter sports season comes to a close, spring sports are right around the corner, and student-athletes participating in track, baseball, tennis, golf and softball are gearing up to play. Rain or shine, fans will be out in full force to enjoy the array of talented student-athletes. With that being said, here is the preview to the spring sports season.
Coming off of a 22-18 overall record and a 12-12 split in Northwest Conference play last season, the men’s baseball team is looking to improve. The team opened the 2014 season at home to NAIA foe Concordia, and took off only a few days later to play four games in the Arizona Desert Classic. The team is 3-2 in preseason action and will look for senior Dominic Courcy, junior Curtis Wildung and sophomore Drew Oord to lead the team.
The men’s tennis team opens its spring season in the coming weeks at home, as it will play in the Sprinker USTA tournament. Eleven Lutes from both the men’s and women’s teams played at the 2013 USTA/ITA Regional’s this fall, hosted at Lewis and Clark for the women and Whitman for the men.
Junior Sam Angel and first-year duo James Okubo and Sam Stadter all won their first-round matches before falling in the second. With five first-year players, Angel and senior Neal Berg will lead the team, trying to better its 11-8 overall and 9-3 conference records last spring.
After going 7-0 overall and 5-7 in conference play last year, the women’s tennis team sent four returners and four first-years to compete in the ITA regionals near Portland, Ore. Sophomore Samantha Lund won a pair of games and senior Leah Newell picked up a first-round win as well. The women’s side has a new look to it this year, and the seven newcomers will aim to make a winning start in 2014.
The men’s team begins its 2014 campaign at home in March at the PLU Invitational. Senior Dustin Hegge, along with sophomores Justin Lee and Seth Nickerson, will want to start this season strong after good performances at the NWC Fall Classic.
The women’s team opens its spring season with a trip to Fircrest, Wash., where it will participate in the Puget Sound Invitational. Following a sixth-place finish at the NWC Fall Classic, the women hope their top finishers — senior Julie Heffernan and first-year Jeankie-Jhen Aczon — will continue to stay below par for the Lutes.
The softball team is coming off of a good 2013 season where it finished second in the Northwest Conference with a record of 18-10 and 27-17 overall. The Lutes will look to take first place back from champion Linfield, and the team has a good mix of youth and experience. Seniors Samantha Pryor, Spencer Sherwin, Katie Lowery, Lindsey Matsunaga and Shelby Hasse will hope to make it to the National Tournament in their final season as Lutes and open the season at the Northwest Cup in Portland, Ore.
Track & Field:
Starting in March, the men and women’s track teams will open the spring season at the Erik Anderson Memorial Icebreaker in McMInnville, Ore. Seniors Kyle Peart and Alan DenAdel are the most experienced members of the men’s team, and look to lead a balanced team group to the D-III Championship. On the women’s side, sophomores Amanda Wilson, Madison Guscott and Karolyn Ranten will help senior Taryn Dee outscore the competition.