It was a good year to be an Anteater sports fan in 2011, and 2012 promises to be the same, if not better. Here are 10 stories to follow.

UC Irvine Athletics logged another successful campaign in 2011, winning conference titles in men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s tennis and women’s water polo and having six top-25 teams. UCI’s student-athletes also excelled, with 15 gaining All-America honors in their sports. Charles Jock even ran the 800 meters in the world track & field championships. For the year, UCI placed second nationally among non-football-playing athletic programs (78th overall) in the Directors’ Cup final ratings. It was a good year to be an Anteater, and 2012 promises to be the same, if not better. Here are 10 stories to follow:

Jock sets his sights on an NCAA title and Olympic Games berth. After consistently logging some of the fastest 800-meter times among elite U.S. runners and earning a spot on the U.S. team for the IAAF World Championships last August, he aims to complete his senior year by winning the Big West and NCAA championships, races in which he finished second last year. Furthermore, Jock looks to realize his dream of running in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, which begin July 27. His quest to make the U.S. team will be the big story of 2012. UCI men’s and women’s track & field programs kick off the year by hosting the annual All-UC Meet on March 12 at Anteater Stadium.

Women’s water polo seeks its fourth consecutive Big West title. Since the Big West began sponsoring women’s water polo in 2009, UCI has dominated the league, winning all three conference titles. Coach Dan Klatt’s powerhouse program — which alsois striving for a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance — returns Danielle Warde, the first freshman to score 60 goals in a season for the ’Eaters, and Jessy Cardey, a two-time All-American. They start their season Jan. 28 at the UC Santa Barbara Gaucho Invitational.

Baseball enters its second decade as a national force since being reinstated. In 2011, the Anteaters advanced to their second super-regional showing under Hall of Fame coach Mike Gillespie, and the team takes the field this spring as a favorite to win the Big West, one of the most competitive conferences in the country. Seniors Ronnie Shaeffer and D.J. Crumlich hope to lead the ’Eaters back to the NCAA postseason. Their year gets under way Feb. 4 with the annual alumni game at Anteater Ballpark.

Men’s volleyball makes another NCAA championship run. Ranked second in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation coaches’ preseason poll, the Anteaters bring back two-time All-American Carson Clark and add the talents of Kevin Tillie, a member of the French Junior National Team. The MPSF is the nation’s toughest league, and two of its teams regularly qualify for the NCAA Final Four tournament. Head coach John Speraw’s squad will host perennial power Brigham Young Jan. 13 and 14 in the Bren Events Center.

Men’s tennis aims for a Big West title three-peat. Bringing back the glory of the ’80s and early ’90s, when UCI men’s tennis won 10 conference titles in 13 years, head coach and Anteater alum (class of 1990) Trevor Kronemann’s crew has won the league crown for two consecutive years and is looking to top the Big West again in 2012. The home schedule kicks off Jan. 26 against UNLV.

UCI soccer stars are tabbed for the professional draft. Seniors who led UCI’s winning men’s and women’s soccer teams will find out their professional futures Jan. 12, when both Major League Soccer and Women’s Professional Soccer hold their annual drafts. Certain choices include first-team All-American midfielder Miguel Ibarra, who participated in the MLS player combine, and first-team All-American defender CoCo Goodson, considered among the top 10 female prospects. Goalkeeper Andrew Fontein has been slotted by many mock MLS drafts to go in the second round. Scouts have also recognized the professional potential of Anteaters Judy Christopher, Jimmy Turner and Christian Hernandez.

Women’s basketball shoots for a scoring record. Head coach Molly Goodenbour’s runnin’ Anteaters are aggressive, athletic and accurate —they’re now ranked 16th in the nation in field-goal percentage. They’re also on pace to become the highest-scoring team in UCI history, averaging more than 72 points per game so far this season, which would smash the current record of 67.3 in 1994-95. Five straight home games at the Bren Events Center commence Jan. 18 against Cal State Fullerton.

Men’s basketball readies for the Big West tournament. In college basketball, Cinderella stories begin in March, and the UCI men’s team aims to write one of its own at the Big West tournament March 8-10 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Head coach Russell Turner has been guiding his squad – the youngest in Division I – to peak at the right time. The Anteaters start a string of five home games at the Bren Events Center on Jan. 21 against intercounty rival Cal State Fullerton.

Anteater family gears up for the Summer Olympics in London. UCI alums Jeff Powers, Ryan Bailey and Tim Hutten will play for the U.S. men’s water polo team, and Klatt will be coaching on the women’s side. Former UCI All-American Brian Thornton will try out in May for the defending gold medal-winning men’s volleyball team, which includes Speraw as an assistant coach. UCI women’s volleyball coach and former Olympian Paula Weishoff will be an assistant coach for the U.S. women’s team. And, of course, senior Charles Jock hopes to secure a spot on the men’s track & field team.

The Bren Events Center celebrates its 25th anniversary. The Bren Events Center opened Jan. 8, 1987, as Orange County’s finest multipurpose arena with one of the greatest Anteater athletic performances: UCI legend and Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks poured in 43 points to lead the men’s basketball squad to a 118-96 victory over Utah State. Since then, the center has been the centerpiece of UCI’s indoor sports venues and the site of numerous noteworthy events: concerts by such top bands as R.E.M., visits by the Dalai Lama and other luminaries, and sports championships such as the 2008 NCAA men’s volleyball Final Four. Top Bren Center memories will be spotlighted on the UCI Athletics Facebook page and website.

 

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