Lake Forest teams combined to turn in the highest overall and conference winning percentage since joining the Midwest Conference, claimed three league/association titles, and competed in four NCAA Division III Championships in 2017-18.
The Forester softball team clinched a Midwest Conference title at the end of April and men's golf captured another a week later to extend the athletic department's league championship streak to 10 years. Both teams also earned spots in their respective NCAA Division III Tournaments, joining men's soccer from the fall and NCAA Division III Diver of the Year Heath Ogawa in the winter in NCAA championship competition. In addition, the men's handball team claimed another national title, the 51st in program history.
As a department the Foresters posted 177 victories, nine more than the previous school record set in 2014-15. Their combined overall winning percentage of .625 (177-105-5) is the highest at the College since the football, men's basketball, and baseball teams finished at .633 (28-16-1) in 1950-51. Lake Forest was especially successful in league play, breaking an 18-year-old school record with a winning percentage of .737 (99-34-4) and adding seven runner-up finishes in conference championship events.
Successful teams tend to feature award-winning individuals and that was certainly the case for the Foresters in 2017-18. Sixty Lake Forest athletes were named all-conference, three earned conference player/diver of the year honors, and six garnered All-American accolades. Three freshmen were selected as their league's newcomer of the year and three more to all-freshman teams. The Foresters set or tied 76 program records and were named conference player/performer of the week 40 times.
The performance of the College's student-athletes in the classroom in 2017-18 was also impressive. The 23 Northern Collegiate Hockey Association All-Academic Team members between the men's and women's squads combined are easily the most in the history of the programs and the 15 sports that compete in the Midwest Conference are expected to surpass the school record for Academic All-MWC honorees when the league releases the list in July. Individual honors also include an MWC Elite 20 award, given to the athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average at each sport's championship competition. In addition, a record-breaking 82 student-athletes were invited to the A-Team Dinner in April, which rewarded those Foresters who earned an A in all of their classes in either of the previous two semesters.
A sport-by-sport account of the 2017-18 academic year begins with the men's soccer team's third MWC Tournament title and appearance in the NCAA Playoffs in the last five years. Lake Forest was 12-7-1 overall and finished third in the MWC standings at 7-2-0 in league play. Senior defender-turned-forward Elyas Ingram tied for the team lead with 19 points, earned First Team All-MWC and Second Team All-North Region honors, and graduated ranked fourth in program history with 28 career assists. He was joined on the all-conference teams by fellow first team senior midfielder Seton Trostle (17 points) and second team senior forward/midfielder John Cappuccitti (14), junior forward/midfielder Gaston Aubert (19), and sophomore forward Lucas Geib (18).
The Forester women's soccer team was 5-2-2 in conference play with ties against the top two teams in the league but missed out on the four-team MWC Tournament by a single point in the standings. The team was 7-8-2 overall and was led in scoring by freshman midfielder Cassidy Hoyt's seven goals and 17 points. Senior defender Shari Jacobson was named First Team All-MWC for the second year in a row and junior defender Molly Major earned second team honors.
The fall was also highlighted by the football team's fourth 8-2 season in six years and the Foresters finished second in the MWC South Division standings with a league mark of 4-1. The offense gained a school record 452.2 yards per game and was led by senior First Team All-American running back Joey Valdivia, who was also named MWC Offensive Skill MVP after shattering his own program record with 1,809 rushing yards, including at least 100 in all but one game and 200 or more five times. Valdivia led the nation with 18 points per game for the second straight season and ranked second in the country in rushing and all-purpose yards per game. The 2016 Foresters were the highest-scoring team in school history and also set a single-season program record for total yards. With 71 tackles and a pair of blocked kicks, senior safety R.J. Pompey was named First Team All-MWC South at defensive back and on special teams. Junior quarterback Jagan Cleary, wide receiver Chris Edomwande, and offensive lineman Andrew Johnson joined Valdivia as First Team All-MWC selections on offense while sophomore defensive lineman J.W. Windsor and linebacker Johnny Laponte added to Pompey's First Team honor on that side of the ball. Six other Foresters garnered Second Team All-MWC accolades.
One of the most significant contributors to the Foresters' combined winning percentage was the women's tennis team, which finished the fall 14-1 overall and 8-1 in conference play. The team also won nine of 11 matches in the spring to finish with a school record 23 victories against just three losses. Lake Forest's 13-match winning streak, which started in early September and did not end until Spring Break, is the second-longest run in program history. Freshman Julie Lord played at the top of the singles lineup and also partnered with sophomore Leeza Bodnar to claim a conference title at #1 doubles. Junior Allison Watts and freshman Grace Gould added championships at #2 and #5 singles, respectively, and Watts tallied a team record 51 victories on the season in singles and doubles combined. The season concluded with the program's fifth runner-up finish in the last eight years at the MWC Tournament in late April.
Both Forester cross country teams placed among the top half of teams at the MWC Championships for the fourth year in a row with the men taking home third place and the women fifth. Senior Jonathan Stern and junior Jorge Villanueva earned all-conference status for the third time in their careers by placing seventh and ninth, respectively, at the meet and sophomore Philip Wilson is now a two-time All-MWC honoree after moving up five places from last year to 15th in 2017. Freshman Yaneli Guajardo was 12th in the women's race and added MWC Newcomer of the Year to her list of awards. She was joined in the top 20 by senior Cassie Lira (19th place), who earned all-conference honors for the third time. Stern and Lira went on to record the fastest 8-kilometer (25:04.5) and 6-kilometer (22:38.7) times in program history as both squads finished 18th at the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional. The teams combined to make 17 new entries on the lists of the program's top 25 men's 8K and women's 6K times.
A few weeks before Guajardo was named MWC Newcomer of the Year in women's cross country, fellow freshman Faith Jung earned the same honor in women's golf. Jung was one of three Foresters to finish in the top 10 and earn all-conference honors at the MWC Championships. Her 260 at the tournament was the second-lowest 54-hole score in the team's four-year history and put her in a tie for fifth place at the event. Sophomore Kaitlyn Gray (8th place) and freshman Amanda Lee (tied-for-9th) joined Jung as all-conference honorees and associate head coach Tamlyn Tills was voted MWC Coach of the Year for the first of two times in 2017-18 (more to come on that). Lake Forest posted seven of the top 10 rounds in program history, including a record 327 at the Judson University Invitational in the spring, and the team's 18-hole scoring average of 350.29 was nearly 15 strokes better than the year before.
Joining the long list of all-conference athletes in the fall was junior volleyball player Grace Larson, who was named Second Team All-MWC for the third straight year despite switching positions during the season. After reaching double figures in both kills and digs six times early in the season, Larson moved to the back row full-time and finished with a team-high 313 digs on the year. Freshman Olivia Grimmer nearly matched Larson with four double-doubles and led the squad with 194 kills while team-high honors also went to fellow freshman Hannah Nauert with 645 assists and senior Maxie Mottlowitz with 82 blocks overall and a league-leading 0.92 blocks per set.
For just the second time since women's hockey became a varsity sport at the College in 2000, Lake Forest advanced to (at least) the conference tournament semifinals in men's and women's basketball and hockey in the same year. Women's hockey led the quartet of teams with a 20-9-0 overall record and 15-3-0 mark in Northern Collegiate Hockey Association contests. The Foresters advanced to the NCHA Slaats Cup Championship Game for the fourth time in five seasons and set or tied 18 program records, including their 145 goals, which are 31 more than the previous mark. Senior forward Olivia Spellmire was named NCHA Player of the Year after leading the league with 23 goals, 28 assists, and 51 points and was joined on the All-NCHA Team by senior defenseman Kayla Griffith, junior forward Amy Budde, and sophomore forward Lexi Morgan. In addition, forward Megan Lyke and defenseman Jordan Trapp were named to the NCHA All-Freshman Team. Spellmire (First Team) and Griffith (Second Team) also garnered West All-American honors from the American Hockey Coaches Association and Spellmire was a finalist for the Laura Hurd National Player of the Year award.
The Forester men's hockey team also turned in a successful 2017-18 season, posting a 15-11-2 overall record and finishing in third place in the NCHA South Division standings with a league mark of 10-6-2. Lake Forest won a Harris Cup quarterfinal series on the road at Concordia University Wisconsin before falling at league champion Adrian College in the semifinals. Junior goaltender Louis-Philippe De Courcy was named All-NCHA after tying for second in the nation with four shutouts and ranking among the top 20 in the country with a 2.15 goals against average and .928 save percentage. Senior forwards Charlie Izaguirre and George Gerasimou led the team with 11 goals and 17 assists, respectively, and forward Aaron O'Neill was named to the NCHA All-Freshman Team after racking up 17 points on nine goals and eight assists.
Lake Forest was nearly as successful in the gym as on the ice this winter. The men's basketball team's 17 victories (against nine losses) are the third-highest single-season total in program history and the Foresters finished fourth in the standings at 13-5 in conference contests. The Foresters made a third consecutive appearance in the four-team MWC Tournament for the first time since joining the league but were eliminated in the semifinals. Senior guard Eric Porter was a Second Team All-MWC selection after leading the squad with 16.4 points per game and shattering the previous program record with 97 three-pointers on the season, 22 more than the previous mark. Junior forward Danny Sotos recorded a team-high 6.3 rebounds per contest and freshman guard Sean Espinosa's 132 assists on the year were just eight shy of the school record.
After being named MWC Coach of the Year in women's golf in the fall, Lake Forest's Tamlyn Tills earned the honor again in women's basketball this winter. Coming off a 6-17 season, she led the 2017-18 Foresters to a 13-14 overall record, a 9-7 league mark, and their first MWC Tournament appearance since 2012. Lake Forest prevailed 78-75 at co-champion Ripon College in the semifinals before falling in the tournament final. The team was led by freshman guard Kelsey Burton's 14.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per contest and Burton was named first team all-conference, MWC Newcomer of the Year, and D3hoops.com Central Region Rookie of the Year. Sophomore forward Molly Schoenlein set a team record with 44 blocked shots and the Foresters' .734 free throw percentage was also a school record.
In addition to the runner-up conference tournament finishes posted by the women's basketball and hockey teams, the Lake Forest men's and women's swimming and diving teams were also second at the 2018 MWC Championship Meet. Senior David Bunting claimed individual titles in the 200-IM and 200-freestyle while classmate Lily McCarthy also posted a pair of victories, touching the wall first in the 500-freestyle and capturing her third consecutive championship in the 1650-freestyle. Freshman Susan Guo broke a 30-year-old school record while winning a league title in the 100-butterfly (57.74 seconds) and additional victories were earned by sophomore Lizzie Johns in 1-meter diving, freshman Corrynn Christjansen in the 200-freestyle, and freshman Ethan Hare in the 100-breaststroke. Junior Heath Ogawa's 567.70 points in the 1-meter competition and 599.75 points off the 3-meter board were the highest marks in the history of the conference and earned him a second straight MWC Diver of the Year award. He went on to earn NCAA Division III Men's Diver of the Year honors after capturing a title in the 3-meter event and placing third off the 1-meter board in his third appearance at the national championship meet.
The Foresters' first team title of the year occurred in dramatic fashion at the United States Handball Association National Collegiate Championships at Missouri State University. After dropping the first game 21-16 in the Men's Open Singles final, Lake Forest senior Leo Canales took the second by the same score and won the tiebreaker 11-8 to claim his first career title and give the Forester men's team a one-point victory over the hosts. The Lake Forest men have now claimed 21 national championships to go with 11 women's and 19 combined team titles under Mike Dau '58, the head coach since the start of handball at the College in 1968. Canales also partnered with fellow senior Ricardo Palma on a runner-up finish in Open Doubles and they were both named All-American. The Forester women were fourth in the standings and Lake Forest was the runner-up in the combined team category.
While most of the winter sports were adding to their history, another was participating in championship competition for the first time. Forty-five years after men's track and field at the College was discontinued, men's and women's indoor and outdoor distance-only track was added to the slate of varsity sports in 2017-18. The Foresters participated in the first indoor meet in school history on January 20 and competed in the MWC Indoor Championships for the first time at Ripon College in late February. Yaneli Guajardo was the league's runner-up in the 800-meter run and finished fourth in the mile while freshman Darrian Lockett accounted for the top performance on the men's side with a fifth-place finish in the 800.
The track season continued outdoors in the spring and the program's first individual MWC title was turned in on May 12 by Lockett when he won the 800 in 1:56.57, nearly a full second faster than the runner-up. Guajardo was extremely successful again, finishing third in the conference in the 800 a day after placing seventh in the 1500-meter run. Villanueva added a third-place finish in the grueling 10,000-meter run. The trio of top-three finishes in the final meet of the season helped provide a solid foundation as track at the College looks to grow in the future.
While one re-born team was experiencing conference championship competition for the first time, another was capturing a league title. Forester men's golf returned to varsity status after a 43-year hiatus in 2014 and, in just its fourth season back, the team finished first at the MWC Championships with a three-day score of 918 on May 5. Sophomore Jacob Krugman, the team's scoring leader on the year at 75.50 strokes per round, finished in a tie for third place in the league while senior Davis DeKorte was tied-for-sixth and junior Ricky Schmidt 10th. All three were All-MWC honorees a season ago and DeKorte was also in the top 10 in 2016. Along with the league title came an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships, where the Foresters placed 33rd out of 42 teams and DeKorte carded back-to-back rounds of 75 to finish the first two days of the event in a tie for 56th place out of 217 competitors.
The Forester softball team was 29-13 in 2018 and also claimed a conference championship with a 17-1 record in league play. The title was the team's fourth in the last five years and despite falling twice in the MWC Tournament, Lake Forest became the first softball team in the conference to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. A pair of losses to highly-ranked teams in the regional ended the Foresters' season but not before the team posted the fourth-highest victory total in program history. Junior centerfielder Maria Zepeda led the team with 44 hits, 43 runs scored, and a .538 on-base percentage while sophomore Missy Dieckman-Meyer led a deep pitching staff with a 12-5 record and 1.69 earned run average. Sophomore catcher Sydney Wyatt joined Zepeda and Dieckman-Meyer as First Team All-MWC honorees while sophomore first baseman Riley Frisbie, freshman shortstop Hannah Kalnicky, and freshman pitcher/first baseman Shaye Gauthier and were named Second Team All-MWC. In addition, senior infielder Kat Beall was the MWC Elite 20 Award winner for the third time as the owner of the highest grade point average of any player at the four-team conference tournament.
The seventh and final conference runner-up finish by a Forester team came in men's tennis, which posted an overall record of 14-8, won seven of eight regular season conference matches, and blanked Lawrence University 5-0 in the semifinals of the MWC Tournament before falling in the final. Sophomore Nick Zazove was undefeated at #1 singles in league play and backed that up by winnning the title at that position at the MWC Individual Tournaments. It marked just the second time in program history that Lake Forest players won titles at each of the top two spots in the singles lineup. O'Brien's 36 victories in singles and doubles combined are the sixth-highest total in team history while Zazove's 35 are tied-for-seventh.
The final awards of the year were handed out at the annual Senior Honors Convocation at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest on May 11. Beall, who finished her four-year career with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, was presented with the Senior Scholar/Athlete Award and DeKorte received the Nicholas J. Wasylik Senior Athletic Award, which is given to the senior athlete who best emulates the positive, outgoing attitude as well as the drive and determination of the College's Athletic Director from 1959-73. In addition, Griffith was Lake Forest's NCAA Woman of the Year nominee for her performance on the ice, accomplishment in the classroom, leadership on campus, and service in the community.