Banner year leads to highest Sasser Cup finish ever

Published 3:26 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Records, championships, academic success and all-around excellence propelled Longwood athletics to the program’s best year as an NCAA Division I institution.

All of the success paved the way to the program’s best finish in the Big South Conference George F. “Buddy” Sasser Cup Standings: fourth. The Sasser Cup is awarded to the Big South member institution with the most successful year athletically, based on an average points system.

Longwood’s fourth-place finish, an institutional best that shattered the previous high-water placement of eighth, came in a season that saw three teams claim at least a share of the regular season conference title along with a host of all-conference honors and playoff spots.

“I’m so proud of the success across the board in our department,” said Longwood Athletic Director Michelle Meadows. “It is a testament to all the hard work that so many people have poured into their programs. To see how our teams have embraced the opportunity and cheered each other on throughout the year has been really special. The best part is that the future continues to be bright for Longwood athletics.

“This is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen without an incredible amount of work by our student-athletes, coaches and staff, and I’m grateful for all that they do. They are tremendous ambassadors for Longwood.”

In the fall, both the men’s and women’s soccer teams finished in the top three of the league to earn home games in the Big South Championship tournament. The women’s soccer team advanced to the Big South semifinals for the third time in four seasons.

Meanwhile, the Lancer men’s third place finish tied for the program’s best finish in team history since joining the Big South. That finish paved the way for the team to host a first-round playoff game for the first time in team history.

Field hockey, while not factored into the Sasser Cup standings since the Big South does not sponsor field hockey, made a run to the Mid-American Conference Championship game for the first time in program history. The runner-up finish marked the best finish since joining the MAC, and the Lancers finished third in the regular season before upsetting the second seed, Kent State. The Lancers also had the MAC Freshman of the Year for the third time in the past five years.

Cross country peaked at the Big South Championships with the men’s and women’s teams combining to post 11 personal bests. In addition, the teams hosted the first home meet since 2014 and raised over $2,000 to support breast cancer awareness through the “Lancer Pink Mile”.

The men’s and women’s basketball programs pulled off dual sweeps of both the regular season and conference tournament titles, both representing firsts in program history.

The Lancer men’s team ripped off a program-record 15 conference wins and went 15-1 in Big South play to earn the top overall seed outright. The team was unbeaten at home in Big South play and went 26-7 overall, topping 20 wins for the first time in the team’s Division I history.

During the Big South Tournament, Longwood won three straight games, including a 79-58 win over Winthrop to claim the conference crown and an automatic berth into the NCAA National Tournament. In 2022, Longwood went 19-1 in its final 20 games prior to a first-round matchup against No. 3 seed Tennessee. The men also had three all-conference selections, and two first-teamers, for the first time in program history while head coach Griff Aldrich was named the Big South Coach of the Year. The Lancers also had the Big South Tournament MVP for the first time in program history.

The Lancer women also claimed a share of the Big South regular season title before three straight dominating wins in the Big South Tournament. In the championship game, the Lancers cruised past Campbell 86-47 to earn a spot in the NCAA National Tournament.

While at the national tournament, the Lancer women took down Mount St. Mary’s 74-70 in the inaugural edition of the First Four for the women to earn the program’s first NCAA Tournament win at the Division I level.

The team’s 22-12 overall record was the best at the Division I level, and the Lancer women ended on a tear by winning 15 of their final 17 games. Akila Smith shattered a variety of records on the way to being named the Big South Player of the Year and Big South Defensive Player of the Year, and the Lancer women had three all-conference selections for a second straight season. It marked the second straight year the team has done so. In addition, the team also had the Big South Tournament MVP for the first time.

In the spring, the Lancer softball team claimed a share of the Big South regular season title on the strength of a 34-24 record that saw them play a whopping 13 teams in the top 50 in RPI in the nation. Against teams in the top 25 or receiving votes, the Lancers went 4-7, including a win over then No. 25 Wichita State as part of the toughest non-conference schedule in the Big South and one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation.

Once conference play rolled around, the Lancers went 21-6 in conference action including back-to-back sweeps to close the year that helped the team earn their share of the regular season crown.

In addition, Longwood hosted the Big South softball tournament and advanced to the Big South championship game. The Lancers won the first championship game after making a run through the lower bracket to force a winner-take-all final game before ultimately finishing as the runner-up in the Big South. The Lancers had the Big South Pitcher of the Year in Sydney Backstrom as well as the Big South Freshman of the Year in Jaden Pone, and five players earned all-conference honors, with three first team selections.

The Lancer lacrosse team finished tied for the final playoff spot in the Big South, but had a three-way tiebreaker go against them after battling injuries to critical positions throughout the season.

Lancer baseball was in the thick of the conference playoff race down to the final day of the regular season, as the team won more than 20 games for the first time since 2016. The team also had two all-conference selections while ranking among

The Lancer tennis teams both finished with the most wins since the 2018-19 season while the women earned the program’s first all-conference honors since the team joined the Big South, as Emma Nurgazieva and Karina Rizvanova were named to the All-Big South Second Team Doubles.

Both golf programs also put together strong seasons, with the men and women carding third-place finishes during the regular season. Ester Choi was the program’s first Big South Freshman of the Year on the women’s side as one of two to earn all-conference honors. On the men’s side, Nick Rakes earned an all-conference nod as one of two all-conference selections.

Plus, the Lancers aced it in the classroom, as the programs combined to post a record-breaking 3.21 cumulative GPA for the year. Thirteen programs had a GPA at 3.00 or better on the year. In addition, 96 student-athletes earned either Dean’s List or President’s List honors.

The Sasser Cup Trophy is named for former Big South Commissioner Buddy Sasser (1989-96) and is awarded to the Big South member institution with the most successful year athletically, based on an average points system. Points are awarded for both regular-season and tournament finishes in each of the League’s 19 championships, and the average of the combined total is used to determine the overall point allocation in the respective sport. One bonus point is added to the average total for each Conference Champion/AQ representative, as well as any teams that receive at-large NCAA Championships berths. Teams tied in regular-season or tournament play split the points earned. Each member’s overall point totals are then divided by the number of sports sponsored by that school to determine the average.