It was a banner year for Saint Joseph's Athletics in 2016. With championships being won, awards being earned, and wins piling up all year long, there were dozens of nominees to choose from, but in the end, here are the top 10 stories from the year in Saint Joseph's athletics.
10. Individual Honors Pour In – It wasn't just Hawk teams that found success in 2016, as more than a dozen Saint Joseph's student-athletes earned individual awards or All-America honors.
9. Baseball Enjoys Record-Breaking Weekend – The Saint Joseph's baseball team took two out of three at La Salle over the first weekend in May, keeping the momentum rolling toward an eventual third-place finish in the Atlantic 10 standings. That weekend was chock full of milestones, however, as senior John Brue hit his 25th career home run to tie the program's all-time record in a 10-2 win on May 7. The win was also the 185th in an SJU uniform for head coach Fritz Hamburg, making him the program's all-time leader in coaching victories.
A day later, Brue set a new program record with his 26th career longball – he would eventually finish with 30 – in the top of the sixth inning. The previous batter, sophomore Deon Stafford, Jr., had just broken Brue's single-season home run mark (set a year earlier) with his 14th home run of the season. Stafford went on to finish the season with 18 home runs.
8. Women's Lacrosse Returns to the Postseason – The Hawk women's lacrosse program returned to the postseason for the first time since 2009 this year. After a loss to #20 Massachusetts in the team's first Atlantic 10 game of the season, the Hawks ripped off six consecutive conference victories, ultimately finishing at 7-2 in league play and tied for second in the A-10.
Seeded fourth, the Hawks topped Davidson, 10-7, in the quarterfinals before falling to the eventual champion Minutewomen in a hard-fought semifinal the following day. The Hawks finished the season with nine wins, the second highest total in program history, and were the only team in Division I to go from winless in league play in 2015 to a winning conference record in 2016.
7. Track Stars Hit the Big Stage – The Saint Joseph's men's and women's track and field teams sent six Hawks to the NCAA East Regional Preliminary Rounds in Jacksonville, Florida, in June. On the men's side, Saint Joseph's 4x400m relay of David Henderson, Chris Banks, Torey Doaty, and Alec Peabody placed 16th among the top 24 teams east of the Mississippi River in a school-record time of 3:08.55. Peabody also went on to place 15th in the 400m, while Doaty placed 42nd in the 400m hurdles. On the women's side, Claudine Andre tied for 27th in the high jump, while Dannah Hayward took 40th in the 400m hurdles.
6. DeAndre' Bembry Selected in the First Round of the NBA Draft – Men's basketball junior DeAndre' Bembry became the sixth first round selection in Saint Joseph's history when the Atlanta Hawks called his name with the 21st overall selection on June 23. The reigning Atlantic 10 and Big 5 Player of the Year is the 33rd Hawk to be chosen in the NBA Draft; he is the first Hawk to be selected since Ahmad Nivins was a second-round choice of the Dallas Mavericks in 2009, and the first Hawk to be selected in the first round since Jameer Nelson (20th) and Delonte West (24th) were chosen by Denver and Boston, respectively, in 2004.
5. Softball Reaches Atlantic 10 Title Game – After clinching a berth in the Atlantic 10 Championship for the eighth time in nine seasons on the final day of the regular season, the fifth-seeded Hawks won their first three games at the tournament, including a 1-0 win over top-seeded Fordham, to reach the championship round.
Unfortunately for the Crimson and Gray, Fordham won the first game of the day in extra innings before coming away victorious in a winner-take-all final game. The championship game appearance is the fifth in program history, and the fourth under head coach Terri Adams.
T2. Men's Lacrosse Claims Third Consecutive Regular Season NEC Crown, Reaches Second Consecutive Title Game – With a 12-5 win over Mount St. Mary's on April 30, the men's lacrosse program earned a share of the Northeast Conference regular season title and the top seed in the NEC Championship for the third consecutive season. The Hawks also reached their second championship game in as many years, falling to Hobart on May 7.
The Hawks won 12 games, matching a program record set in 2000, while head coach Taylor Wray tied Paul Perdue atop the program's all-time coaching wins list. SJU has posted a 17-1 regular season record in its three years in the NEC.
T2. Women's Soccer Wins Atlantic 10 Regular Season Championship in Season For the Ages – The women's soccer team won a program-record 18 games in 2016, claiming its first-ever Atlantic 10 regular season title with a 9-0-1 mark. The Hawks dominated the league's regular season awards, pulling in four of the five that were awarded, and earned the top seed in the conference tournament.
SJU earned a dramatic 1-0 double-overtime victory over host Rhode Island courtesy of a Taylor Ryan header; one night later, a five-goal outburst against George Mason saw the Hawks through to their first-ever conference title game. A loss to Dayton ended the campaign, but a final record of 18-2-2 and a 19-match unbeaten streak will long be remembered in Hawk history.
T2. Field Hockey Runs the Table in Conference Play, Reaches A-10 Title Game – A season after returning to the Atlantic 10 Championship for the first time since 2009, the Saint Joseph's field hockey team posted a perfect 8-0 record in conference play to earn the program's first regular season Atlantic 10 title since 1995. The Hawks claimed a trio of regular season awards, as sophomore Anna Willocks became the first student-athlete in 20 years to earn consecutive A-10 Offensive Player of the Year honors.
The Hawks entered the postseason ranked 20th in the nation and defeated Saint Francis (Pa.) in the semifinals to set up a much-anticipated rematch with Massachusetts. The Minutewomen came away with a 2-1 win in the championship game to cap off one of the finest seasons in SJU field hockey history.
1. Men's Basketball Wins Atlantic 10 Championship, Reaches NCAA Tournament Second Round – For the second time in three years, the Saint Joseph's men's basketball team was crowned champions of the Atlantic 10 after Bembry's 30 points led the Hawks past VCU, 87-74. SJU's run to the title almost ended before it began two days earlier as George Washington led by as many as 16 in the first half of a quarterfinal matchup. The Hawks rallied to outscore the Colonials 51-31 in the second half en route to an 86-80 win, the 400th victory of Phil Martelli's career.
After a semifinal win over top-seeded Dayton, the Hawks clinched their second trip in three seasons to the league title game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the win over VCU locked up the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Seeded eighth in the West Region, the Hawks headed to Spokane, Washington, for a matchup with ninth-seeded Cincinnati. A back-and-forth affair came down to the wire, but senior Isaiah Miles had his signature moment as his three-pointer with eight seconds remaining gave the Hawks a 78-76 win and booked SJU a trip to the Second Round.
The Hawks' magical run came to an end against top-seeded Oregon two nights later. SJU grabbed a late lead, but the Ducks used a 10-2 run to go ahead in the final two minutes. The disappointing result in the season's final game did nothing to dim the light of a championship season that featured 28 wins, the second-most in program history.