The 2014-15 year was a great one for Gorilla Athletics! Collectively, the Gorillas earned four MIAA regular season titles, one MIAA Tournament Title and made several NCAA Championship appearances. The track and field teams each posted top five NCAA finishes. Pitt State team sports won 122 games, while the track and field and cross country teams had many individual champions at meets throughout their competition seasons, including two Outdoor National Champions.
To celebrate the success, Gorilla Athletics has put together the top 10 moments of the last year. Those moments follow in no particular order.
Plaster Center opens
Without a doubt, one of the greatest accomplishments of the 2014-15 year was the opening of the Robert W. Plaster Center (feature story on pg. 16).
Track & Field teams earn three MIAA titles
The men earned both the 2015 MIAA Indoor and Outdoor titles, while the women’s team earned the 2015 MIAA Outdoor title. It was the fourth straight outdoor title for the men and the first for the women since 2004. It was the second straight indoor title for the men. The teams’ successes helped head coach Russ Jewett earn the MIAA Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Coach of the Year and the Women’s Outdoor Coach of the Year honors. The Gorillas carried their outdoor titles into the NCAA Championship, where each team finished fifth. Each team had one National Champion, Garrett Appier in the men’s shot put, and Antqunita Reed in the women’s triple jump.
Football claims share of the MIAA title
The football team lost only one regular season game on its way to claiming a share of the 2014 MIAA title. The title was the 12th MIAA title in school history for the program. That success catapulted the Gorillas to an appearance in the NCAA playoffs. The team made a dramatic comeback in the opening round against Harding before falling to Minnesota State Mankato in overtime on the road. The team finished the season with an 11-2 record, and Coach Beck was named the MIAA Coach of the Year.
Softball reaches championship
The softball team battled injuries and adversity to a No. 2 seed in the MIAA Tournament. The team won its first three games to earn its way into the championship game to face regular season champion Central Missouri. The Jennies were able to take two from the Gorillas to win the tournament title. The championship game appearance was only the fourth in school history and the first since 1995. The Gorillas finished the season with a 36-19 record, the first 30-win season for the program since 2009.
SAAC raises $7,546 for Make-A-Wish
At the beginning of the year, the Gorilla Student-Athlete Advisory Committee set a goal to raise more money than it ever had for Make-A-Wish. The group raised three times more money than they had ever raised. The group held several events throughout the year, including Gorillas Got Talent, Bring a Dollar to the Game, Kids Day In and a Dodge Ball Tournament.
MIAA honors Gorillas
For the second consecutive year, Pittsburg State had both a male and female finalist for the MIAA’s Ken B. Jones Award. Football player Keeston Terry was a men’s finalist. He was a third-team All-American and a two-time Capital One Academic All-District honoree. Women’s basketball student-athlete Lizzy Jeronimus was the Gorilla’s women’s finalist. She was a four-time All-American and set Pitt State records for career points, rebounds and free throws, while also setting the single season scoring record. She also earned Academic All-America honors. The Pitt State SAAC group was also recognized as they took home the SAAC Cup for the third consecutive year.
Women’s basketball makes history
For the first time since the ‘90s, the Gorilla Women’s Basketball team reached the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years. Coupled with the men’s basketball team’s NCAA tournament appearance, it was the first time since 1997-98 that both teams made the NCAA field. The women made it to the regional semifinal before falling to Emporia State. The team finished with a 27-7 record, tying the school record for most wins in a season. The senior class finished their careers as the most accomplished class in program history, winning 94 career games with only 24 losses and never losing more than 10 games in a season.
Men’s Basketball brings home MIAA tournament title
The Pitt State men’s basketball team became the first No. 5 seed to win the MIAA Tournament title, as they earned a lopsided, 91-65, win over rival Missouri Southern in the MIAA Tournament Championship. MIAA Co-Coach of the Year Kevin Muff guided the Gorillas to be the first team to go 4-0 in the post-season tournament since the field expanded to 12 teams. Junior Trey Starks was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, while sophomore Josiah Gustafson was also named to the All-Tournament team. The win gave the Gorillas an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they made the program’s first appearance since 2007. The Gorillas finished the season with a 20-12 record, their first 20-win season since 2004-05.
Individuals earn special honors
Several student-athletes earned unique honors throughout the 2014-15 school year. Football player Deron Washington was the first student-athlete in NCAA history named to the NCAA Division II Management Council as part of his participation on Division II SAAC. Senior men’s basketball player Sam Pugh enjoyed a trip to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in Indianapolis after being named to the Allstate Good Works Team. Pugh was one of only 10 players in all divisions of collegiate basketball to receive this honor. Football player Anthony Abenoja finished fourth in the balloting for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the highest honor given in Division II football. Abenoja finished his senior campaign with 3,871 yards and 32 touchdowns. He set an NCAA record with 314 consecutive passes without an interception. Freshman softball player Emmie Robertson made a splash in her rookie campaign. Not only was the right-handed pitcher named the MIAA Freshman and Pitcher of the Year, she was also one of the top three finalists for the inaugural National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II Freshman of the Year Award. She posted a 26-10 record in the circle, tying the school record for single season wins, while also setting the single season strikeouts record with 238.
In addition, two Gorilla Alumni received Hall of Fame recognition in 2015. Women’s basketball great Leslie (Dudley) Murrow was inducted into the MIAA Hall of Fame while All-American football player and track and field star Brian Moorman was tabbed for the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (see page 10 for more).
Thirteen Pittsburg State athletes earned Capital One Academic All-District honors during the 2014-15 season. Four of those, track athletes Jessica Macy and Hannah DeVries, softball player McKenzie Rynard and women’s basketball player Lizzy Jeronimus, went on to earn Academic All-America honors. Additionally, the Gorillas had 184 student-athletes named to the MIAA Academic Honor Roll, 22 MIAA Scholar-Athletes, 11 earned the MIAA Award for Excellence and 66 earned the Division II ADA Academic Achievement Award.
The Pitt State men’s basketball team became the first No. 5 seed to win the 2015 MIAA Tournament title.