Five postseason appearances highlight 2023-24 athletics campaign

The University of the Pacific women's basketball team advanced to the second round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament.

The University of the Pacific women's basketball team advanced to the second round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament.

Under first-year Director of Athletics Adam Tschuor, the Department of Athletics showed signs of long-term success as five programs competed in postseason play, resulting in three postseason victories.

Women’s basketball, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s tennis all accepted bids to National Invitational Tournaments, while men’s swimming raced in the National Invitational Championship. The men’s tennis program made the deepest run after reaching the finals, while women’s basketball knocked off Cal Poly 77-62 in a first-round home game at the Alex G. Spanos Center.

That success capped a year that also featured the women’s water polo program playing in the semifinal match of the Golden Coast Conference Tournament and the men’s and women’s tennis teams reaching the semifinals of their respective West Coast Conference Tournaments.

“I’m proud of how all our teams competed this year, but I feel it was just a glimpse of what we’re capable of accomplishing as a department,” Tschuor said. “The postseason tournaments were great experiences for our student-athletes and a strong building block toward our championship vision. I am excited for the upcoming seasons as we pursue conference titles.”

Pacific garnered nearly three dozen All-Conference honorees. Men’s tennis coach Robin Goodman was named the WCC Coach of the Year as he guided the Tigers to a No. 47 ranking nationally after going on a 14-match winning streak. He coached Pacific to wins over Eastern Kentucky in the quarterfinals and Liberty in the semifinals of the National Invitational Tournament.

Women’s basketball saw three student-athletes surpass the 1,000-point plateau in their careers. Anaya James ’25, who was named to the All-WCC First-Team, netted 1,071 points in three years. Elizabeth Elliott ’25, an All-WCC Second-Team honoree, registered 1,043 points and 530 rebounds in three years and Liz Smith ’24 recorded 1,029 points in four years. The Tigers recorded their best winning percentage at home since 2012-13 with a 12-5 (.706) mark.

Softball racked up four All-Conference selections in head coach Brian Kolze’s final season before retirement. That included All-WCC First-Team honors for seniors Rian Dirmeyer ’24 and Avery Croxall ’24 as they went out winners by defeating Santa Clara 7-2 on the final day of the season. Kolze spent 32 seasons as the head coach and compiled an 824-797-2 record.

The women’s water polo team finished 16-11 overall, which marked their fourth straight season with a .500 record or better. They reached the Golden Coast Conference semifinals after topping Azusa Pacific in a 14-13 thriller. The Tigers finished the year ranked No. 23 in the nation. The men hosted the inaugural Pacific Cup tournament and invited several of the top programs in the country to compete in a one-of-a-kind tournament.

Also turning in a big spring was the track squad after breaking 10 school records. Ella Leroy ’25 broke back-to-back school records in the javelin and shot put, and Pacific also broke the record in the distance medley (12:26.33) at the Mike Fanelli Track Classic. The cross country team placed second in two meets in the fall.

Looking ahead, the women’s soccer team will carry over a 14-match unbeaten non-conference home streak into 2024. It comes after their third consecutive season of .500 or better with a 9-9-1 mark in 2023.

Pacific will have new faces leading the way for the department in 2024-25, notably Dave Smart as the head coach of the men’s basketball program. Widely regarded as the most successful Canadian college basketball coach of all time, Smart took over in March. He racked up a 591-48 record as the head coach at Carleton University in Canada before spending last season as an assistant coach at Texas Tech, where he helped the Red Raiders advance to the NCAA Tournament.

The 2024-25 year will begin in August with cross country, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball. Schedules will be posted in the upcoming months on