June 24, 2002
By Simit Shah – A stellar spring capped a banner year for Georgia Tech athletics. The school reached new heights in both team and individual success, as 15 of 17 teams participated in postseason competition and a school-record of 63 athletes earned all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.
Three teams captured conference titles, and five coaches were named ACC coach of the year. Two athletes were selected ACC player of the year in their sport, while five others were rookie of the year.
Here are some highlights of the past year:
Bruce Heppler’s golf team narrowly missed winning an NCAA Championship, finishing second to Minnesota. Junior Troy Matteson became the first Yellow Jacket to capture the NCAA individual crown.
Ranked number one in the final poll, the squad won a school-record seven tournaments, including the ACC Tournament and the NCAA East Regional. The individual hardware included five all-America nods and three all-ACC berths. Freshman Chan Wongluekiet won the ACC rookie of the year award, and Heppler was named both ACC and national coach of the year.
This season was tabbed as a rebuilding year for the Georgia Tech baseball program, but Danny Hall instead led a team with 17 freshmen to the College World Series. Five Jackets made the all-ACC team, and sophomore pitcher Kyle Bakker was named all-America. Freshmen Eric Patterson and Jeremy Slayden made the Freshman all-America team, while Patterson also earned third-team all-America honors.
The biggest surprise of the spring was the women’s softball team. Coach Kate Madden led her team to a school-record 52 wins and its first-ever ACC championship. The Lady Jackets also made their first trip to the NCAA Championships, came within a win of reaching the College World Series, and completed the year ranked 18th in the nation.
Sophomore shortstop Tara Knudsen emerged as an offensive force, earning all-ACC and all-America honors. Freshman pitcher Jessica Sallinger was the ACC rookie of the year, while catcher Lindsay Wood also earned all-ACC honors and Madden was the conference’s coach of the year.
Georgia Tech’s track teams continued their tradition of excellence, as the women won their first-ever ACC indoor title. Alan Drosky’s squad pulled off a monumental upset of nine-time defending champion North Carolina in February. The team was anchored in both indoor and outdoor seasons by Renee Metivier, who earned four all-America honors this year.
Metivier also led the women’s cross country program, coached by Drosky, to its most successful season ever, including the NCAA South Regional championship and a 26th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The sophomore from Highland Village, Texas, was the NCAA runner-up in cross country.
For the men, Brendon Mahoney was the ACC’s outstanding performer for indoor track and freshman Brian Ford was the outstanding rookie. Mahoney (mile) and Chris Sinotte (javelin) were named all-America. The men and women combined for 37 all-ACC perfomances, while Drosky and Grover Hinsdale were ACC coach of the year for indoor track.
The volleyball team made its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Senior Maja Pachale was the conference player of the year, while Lauren Sauer was the rookie of the year.
The football team earned its fifth-straight bowl bid, and then survived a tumultuous December to defeat Stanford in the Seattle Bowl. The Jackets finished the season with an 8-5 record, and the bowl win re-established Georgia Tech as the nation’s winningest bowl team with a 20-10 record and a .667 winning percentage.
Georgia Tech is one of just six schools in the nation to be ranked in the Top 25 in the final Associated Press football poll each of the last five years.
Defensive end Greg Gathers had a record-setting season and was named to the all-America team. Eight Jackets were selected to the all-ACC team.
Paul Hewitt’s men’s basketball team rallied in the second half of the season and just missed a postseason invitation. Freshman Ed Nelson was the ACC rookie of the year, and Tony Akins made the all-ACC team in his final season. Nelson and fellow freshman B.J. Elder were also tabbed to the ACC All-Freshman team.
The women’s basketball team showed signs of improvement, securing its third consecutive postseason invitation. The all-ACC team included four Lady Jackets, the most in school history.
Both tennis teams garnered NCAA Tournament invitations. Women’s coach Bryan Shelton was named ACC coach of the year en route to leading his squad to the second round. The women’s program, which earned its third straight NCAA berth, also achieved the highest national ranking in school history, climbing to No. 18. Individually Roger Anderson and Jaime Wong earned selection the NCAA Individual Championships. Wong’s selection was the first ever by a Tech female.
Coach Seth Baron led the men’s swimming team to an impressive second place finish at the ACC Championships. Five swimmers earned all-ACC honors, and junior Shilo Ayalon made all-America for second straight year.
The women’s swimming program had a strong showing in its inaugural season, as freshman Cara DeVinny qualified for the NCAA Championships.
There was also plenty of success off the field, as the athletic program also produced five academic all-Americans: Dan Dyke (football), Kyleen Bell, (volleyball), Matthew Boggs (baseball), Olivier Deigni (track) and Laura Ozolins (tennis).
Overall, the 2001-02 campaign will go down as one of the most successful in school history. Tech won’t eclipse its best Sears Cup finish of 45th place in 1993-94, but there’s no doubt that the across the board achievements of its programs this year have set a high standard.