Top 10 moments of the 2015-2016 year in FAU Athletics

Multiple records were broken and a national championship was won.


Photo courtesy of FAU Spirit Facebook page.


Florida Atlantic athletics experienced a rollercoaster year in 2015-2016.

Many programs — who experienced losing seasons such as the football team (3-9), men’s soccer team (2-12-2) and men’s basketball team (8-25) — are still building a foundation. Others, such as the softball team and baseball team have been nationally ranked. The cheerleading team even brought home a national championship.

Here are the 10 best FAU sports moments from this past academic year:

Honorable Mentions:

  • During a meet on Sept. 4, senior men’s cross-country runner Michael Vidal broke FAU’s school record for the fastest 5K, running it in 15:25.30. Freshman Conor Fitzgerald also completed the course in 16:24.42, the sixth fastest in FAU history.
  • Women’s soccer coach Patrick Baker earned Conference USA’s co-coach of the year after leading his team to a record of 12-8-1.
  • Florida Atlantic coaches tried out their entertainment skills outside of the sports world. Following video courtesy of FAU Athletics:
  1. Baseball tops the No. 1 ranked University of Miami

After having to wait three weeks because of a weather postponement, head baseball coach John McCormack’s team finally got its opportunity to play the nation’s top ranked University of Miami Hurricanes on April 20.

The Owls struck for two runs in the eighth inning to erase a tie ball game and take the lead. They allowed one run in the bottom half of the inning, but held on for the 4-3 victory. Junior pitcher David McKay started the game and allowed two runs over six innings of work.

“It’s really good for the committee later in the year that you show you can go on the road to the No. 1 team in the country and win,” McCormack said after the win. “It was a top 25 matchup and it lived up to the billing.”

  1. Spring athletes receive national attention

Baseball’s junior shortstop CJ Chatham earned a spot on Louisville Slugger’s Preseason All-America Team. He currently is listed in Conference USA’s top five in batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored, doubles, triples and RBIs.

Not to be outdone, softball junior pitcher Kylee Hanson has earned a national honors twice this season. The National Fastpitch Coaches Association named Hanson a national co-pitcher of the week in March and ESPNW named her the national player of the week after her performance in the first week of the season.

Her ERA of 0.66 is .01 away from the best mark in the NCAA. She also appears in the country’s top 10 in strikeouts, wins, hits allowed per seven innings and leads the country in shutouts with 12 (three more than the second best).

  1. Shula bowl victory

FAU took home the 14th edition of the Shula Bowl — the annual meeting between FAU and Florida International football — beating the Golden Panthers 31-17 on Oct. 31.

The Owls have won two of the last three meetings between the two rivals and lead the all-time series 10-4.

“It feels great,” said coach Charlie Partridge after his first Shula Bowl win. “Our kids were passionate to get that trophy back.”

  1. Ali Gorrell’s farewell performance

The senior guard led FAU women’s basketball team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes played during the 2015-2016 season. However her most impressive feat of her career occurred in her final collegiate game.

In the Owls conference tournament game against the University of North Texas on March 8, Gorrell was held scoreless in the first half as her team went into the locker room trailing.

FAU fell short, but not without Gorrell’s last stand. The senior guard exploded for 30 points in the second half, outscoring the rest of her teammates 30-16. The 30-point performance tied a career high for Gorrell.

  1. Women’s soccer set records

Two members of the women’s soccer team achieved school records during the course of last season.

Senior forward Claire Emslie broke the program record for goals scored in a career when she kicked in her 29th on Nov. 4.

Redshirt junior goalie Sydney Drinkwater tied an FAU record by collecting 10 shutouts during the season. She now has 18 career shutouts, seven away from the school record of 25 set by Molly Keating in 2003.

  1. Three-point crazy

“We want to take 3s,” head women’s basketball coach Kellie Lewis-Jay said in December about her team. “That’s who we are, it’s what we’re about.”

The team made 294 3-pointers this past season, a team and Conference USA record. FAU held the previous conference record with 264 back in the 2013-2014 season.

Junior guard Kat Wright led the way for the Owls 3-point attack, making 87 on the year on 40.1 percent shooting, the third best mark in the conference. She also set a conference record for 3-pointers made in a game, making 11 at Charlotte on Jan. 30.

Sophomore forward Sasha Cedeno led Conference USA in 3-point shooting percentage at 44.2 percent.

  1. Trey Hendrickson goes sack crazy

Defensive end Trey Hendrickson entered his junior season with 6.5 career sacks under his belt. In 2015, he more than doubled his career total, sacking the opposing quarterback 13.5 times, the second most in the FBS and a new FAU single-season record.

His 20 sacks also sets an FAU record for the most in a career, with the previous record of 15.5 being held by former defensive lineman Ramon Rickards. Hendrickson will have one more season of eligibility to build on his record.

“[Hendrickson] continues to mature in so many ways … and that’s carrying over to his play on the field,” said Partridge after his defensive end tied the record.

  1. Academic success

Florida Atlantic student-athletes set school record for GPA, reaching a collective 3.012 GPA. It marks the first time in FAU’s history the student-athletes reached a 3.0. Fifty-five percent of the students had at least a 3.0, while 20 student-athletes earned a 4.0

“This is a department defining achievement by our student-athletes,” said Pat Chun, FAU’s vice president and director of athletics, in a press release. “A culture of academic achievement has been created by our student-athletes, coaches and academic support staff. The bar has been set to its greatest height ever and now we will reach even higher next semester. Congratulations to all of our student-athletes for their hard work, dedication and commitment to doing something extraordinary.”

  1. Men’s basketball escapes Louisiana Tech’s Trapp

The Owls entered their Jan. 16 meeting with Louisiana Tech having lost nine of their previous 10 games. That trend appeared to grow when head coach Michael Curry’s team entered the locker room down 20 points.

His team battled back and found itself trailing by one with less than 10 seconds left, when freshman guard Nick Rutherford found senior guard Jackson Trapp free at the top of the 3-point line …

“I wasn’t sure if it was going to go in because I thought [the defender] fouled me,” Trapp said on the game winner.  “I was hoping [the referees] would call a foul if it hadn’t gone in.”

The Owls won 63-61.

  1. National champions

One FAU team won a national championship this season. Not football, not basketball, but cheerleading.

FAU’s cheerleaders took first place in the 2016 National Cheerleaders Association Collegiate National competition. This marks the cheerleaders second national championship in program history, with the first back in 1999.

“This is one opportunity that is solely for them as a team,” coach Claudia Soto said prior to the competition. “A lot of the time during the school year they’re supporting basketball and football and everyone within the sports athletics here, and this is something that is just for them so it allows them to be competitive.”

“The hard work that goes into it really brings them together, really shows where they started and how far they’ve come, how they motivate each other and just push each other,” she continued.