Welcome to my latest of On The Mark and another outstanding issue of “Dare” magazine to close out the 2011-12 year/season. You can download the new issue by clicking here. The two words above say it all - it was a year of records and milestones and another year of showcasing our patented “Gaucho Heart” to the world.
This past year we saw remarkable student-athletes and coaches reach some milestones put in place by legendary figures.
• With grace and determination Orlando Johnson, in only three seasons, became the all-time points leader in men's hoops and was a role model as someone who took life's challenges and turned them into opportunities.
• Orlando’s coach, Bob Williams, is now the all-time wins leader with every victory came with that sense of class that Bob displays.
• Chelsey Lowe now owns the single season digs record for our storied women's volleyball program.
• On the softball diamond, milestones were reached with the team achieving its best league record (15-6) ever and Shelby Wisdom breaking the school record for wins and strikeouts in a season.
• Baseball’s Andrew Checketts won the most games by a rookie baseball coach, surpassing our newest Hall of Famer Al Ferrer who drove the program to new heights during his career, and Brett Vertigan grabbed the most triples in program history.
National powerhouse men's soccer had two Major League Soccer first round draft choices - Luis Silva to Toronto FC and Sam Garza to San Jose Earthquakes – for the second time in program history.
• The crowds rocked this past year too, with soccer leading the nation in attendance for the fifth straight year and men's basketball seeing the first multi-game sellouts in the Thunderdome in almost 25 years.
• In the water, our swimmers keep breaking school records, which seemed unreachable before.
And then there was Barbara Nwaba who set Gaucho and Big West records in the heptathlon and finished second at the NCAA Championships. Barbara is such a point of pride for the campus, not only for the records she shattered, but also the humble manner in which she achieved them. Those are the reasons we wanted her to grace the cover of this issue.
Along with Barbara, Ryan Martin and Derek Masterson, track and field set the Big West and nation on fire and competed for National Championships at the NCAA’s in Des Moines, Iowa. Their coach, Pete Dolan, earned not just one Coach of the Year award but three (Big West men’s and women’s, NCAA West Region) and led the Gaucho men to their first-ever Big West title.
There were incredible stories as well. Usually it takes a few seasons for a new coach to reach the NCAA promise-land. Not with Carlene Mitchell. In her first year as head coach she brought experience, trademark tough defense and a will to win, earning women's basketball its 14th – yes, 14th - NCAA appearance.
Academically, the NCAA now tracks us at an all-time high 85% student-athlete graduation success rate, second among the tough UC system. Collectively, we also gave 5,000 of hours in community service and outreach this year.
So to sum it up we broke records, touched lives and soared even higher in the classroom.
The mission of the Gaucho Fund is to provide resources for these essential life-changing opportunities for our student-athletes. This past year, over 800 donors made a gift - an investment really – for these athletes to succeed, grow, and reach goals.
Thank you for making their life-changing journey possible and showcasing their heart to the world. It's a wonderful investment.
Mark W. Massari
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics
PS - Looking forward to next year, we are excited about what's coming in men's soccer with UCLA, Stanford, Harvard, Cal Poly and the rest of the Big West heading to Harder Stadium. Hurry! More record crowds are expected and season tickets are on-sale now (805-893-UCSB). Season tickets will secure your spot for that Sept. 21 match versus UCLA which is trending as a possible sellout. Almost 20,000 strong. How about that!