On the final day of the Conference USA season, the No. 14 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs had a chance to secure the C-USA Western Division title with a home victory over UTSA and a Southern Miss loss at Florida Atlantic. A pregame Senior Day celebration of LA Tech’s six seniors, all of which returned for an extra season after a COVID-19-shortened season in 2020, was capped off with a run-rule, walk-off double from senior Hunter Wells.
The Bulldogs beat UTSA 17-7. Down in Florida, the Golden Eagles fell 9-6 a couple of hours before Wells’ slicing double fell in for the division-clinching base hit.
And just like that, the Bulldogs took home the Western Division title and the No. 2 overall seed in the Conference USA Tournament, which will be held at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park on May 26-30.
The 2021 C-USA West Division crown marks the first division title for Bulldog Baseball since 1992, which is when LA Tech captured a Sun Belt West Division title with former head coach Mike Kane leading Tech from the home dugout. LA Tech’s 2021 West Division title comes just a little over two years after an EF-3 tornado destroyed its home ballpark on April 25, 2019.
Bulldogs Win C-USA Title, Make NIT Run (and defeat COVID)
Raise your hand if you thought the Louisiana Tech men’s basketball team would have more games canceled because of a snowstorm than COVID.
If you did, your name must be Nostradamus.
Aside from the two-game series at Middle Tennessee getting axed due to Snowmageddon, miraculously the Bulldogs played 32 times during the 2020-21 season.
The total number of games played ended up being normal. Nothing else really was though. The average audience was about 1,100. Then there were the countless testing protocols, the constant mask wearing, no team gatherings for meals, playing back-to-back days against the same opponent, and more.
Despite all of the non-normality, man was it was a fun basketball season.
The ’Dogs rattled off a 24-8 overall record (25 wins if you count defeating COVID).
For a second straight year, it was the most victories of any Conference USA team and any other Division I Louisiana team.
Half of those wins came during league play, which resulted in LA Tech earning the C-USA West Division title. (Not too shabby for a team picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll).
Heartbreak hit again in the conference tournament; Tech fell in the semifinals. However, the squad earned a postseason berth for the first time since 2016. The Bulldogs received an at-large bid to participate in the National Invitation Tournament … and showed out on national television.
The ‘Dogs upset the Ole Miss Rebels in the first round, then claimed a de facto conference championship by defeating Western Kentucky to advance to the NIT Final Four for the second time in program history.
After a loss to Mississippi State, LA Tech had the rare opportunity to play a consolation game. It was an opportunity they took full advantage of by taking down No. 1 overall seed Colorado State in a 76-74 thriller.
Guided by C-USA Coach of the Year Eric Konkol, the success of the team was rooted in the blend of its experienced seven seniors and the rise of the young core – C-USA All-Defensive Team member Cobe Williams, All-Conference USA selection Isaiah Crawford, and C-USA Freshman of the Year Kenneth Lofton, Jr.
LA Tech will be one of the very few teams taking a winning streak into next season. Which, fingers crossed, will be normal … and even more fun.
Highs, lows, and goodbye to a steady trio
When Louisiana Tech walked off the floor of The Star in Frisco in mid-March following its 77-71 loss to Middle Tennessee in the quarterfinals of the 2021 Air Force Reserve Conference USA Championships, it culminated the end to a long, challenging 12 months.
At least this time the Lady Techsters were able to walk off knowing they had a say in the end to their season … unlike in 2020 when COVID-19 made the decision for them and for most of college athletics.
Head coach Brooke Stoehr and Co. ended with a 14-10 record, 8-8 in C-USA play. It was a season that saw the Lady Techsters pull off a rare feat: they did not lose a game due to COVID-19 issues within their locker room.
There were some highs. There were some lows. But at the end of the season, the group had battled through adversity and crossed the finish line.
Tech said goodbye to a trio of seniors. Four-year letterwinners (and three-year starters) Raizel Guinto and Amber Dixon walked off the floor in a Techster uniform for one last time. As did two-year letterwinner Monette Bolden.
Guinto finished her Tech career ranked No. 3 in career three-pointers. Dixon did so as one of the most versatile players in Conference USA (she was just one of three C-USA players who had 10 or more points, rebounds, and assists in a single game).
Junior Keiunna Walker took another stride forward by earning second team all-Conference USA honors after averaging 16.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while night-after-night defending the top perimeter scorer from the opposing team.
Sophomore Anna Larr Roberson put the rest of the league on notice that she will be a force to be reckoned with for the next few seasons. The Ruston product averaged 11.3 points and 7.1 rebounds in just her second collegiate season and at times looked like the best post player in C-USA.
Walker and Roberson join Lotte Sant and Robyn Lee as the only four returning players for 2021-22 as the Lady Techsters have already added three Division I transfers and six incoming high school signees for next season.
Bulldogs go bowling for seventh straight season
The Louisiana Tech football team ended its season with a 5-5 overall record, including a 4-2 finish in Conference USA play. Tech made its seventh straight bowl game appearance in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against Georgia Southern Dec. 23.
LA Tech opened the 2020 season with a thrilling 31-30 comeback victory at Southern Miss as the ’Dogs overcame a 17-point third quarter deficit Sept. 19. With the Bulldogs down 30-24 with 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter, quarterback Luke Anthony connected with wide receiver Griffin Hebert in the back of the end zone. The call on the field was incomplete, but upon further review, Hebert’s foot was inbounds to secure the Tech victory.
Tech followed that game with a dominating 66-38 victory over Houston Baptist in its home opener Sept. 26.
One of Tech’s most memorable games of the year came in the UAB Halloween match-up in Ruston. Tech took an early 10-0 lead and led 17-14 at halftime. UAB turned around to lead 31-17 heading into the fourth quarter. However, the Bulldogs did not stop competing. Tech quickly cut the lead to 31-24 just a few seconds into the fourth quarter. Tech continued to trail through the majority of the period before the team worked down the field on a 13-play, 90-yard scoring drive to tie it at 31-31 with :10 to go.
The teams each made a field goal in the first overtime period to stay knotted up at 34-34. UAB had the first possession in the second overtime period where a UAB running back found himself in a rugby scrum around the goal line before being stripped of the football by Tech safety BeeJay Williamson and recovered by cornerback Zach Hannibal. Redshirt freshman kicker Jacob Barnes would then make a 35-yard field goal in the second overtime period that lifted Louisiana Tech to a 37-34 victory.
The Bulldogs had a combined 21 student-athletes represented on Conference USA’s 2020 Football All-Conference Teams and Anthony was selected as the C-USA Newcomer of the Year. Freshman linebacker Tyler Grubbs was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), ESPN, and 247Sports.com, while junior defensive lineman Milton Williams was named a third team All-American by Pro Football Focus. Williams went on to be selected as the 73rd overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Lady Techsters ranked high as fifth nationally
It was a historical season for the 2020-21 Louisiana Tech women’s bowling team.
The Lady Techsters consistently ranked in the top-10 in the National Tenpin Coaches Association polls, starting and ending the season ranked ninth. Tech earned its highest ranking in program history when the Lady Techsters were ranked fifth in the National Tenpin Coaches Association February Poll.
Tech made its first appearance at the National Collegiate Women’s Bowling Championship after earning the No. 4 seed. At the championship, Tech registered its first perfect Baker game in program history as the Lady Techsters registered 12 straight strikes to win, 300-183, in the fourth Baker game of a best-of-seven. The game marked the third perfect Baker game in NCAA Championship history and was the first since Vanderbilt in 2007.
Tech also made its first appearance at the Intercollegiate Team Sectionals in April. The team qualifiers of the Dallas Sectional took place over two days with teams competing in 20 Baker games on each day for a total of 40 games. The total pinfall determined which teams advanced to the Intercollegiate Team Championships (ITC). Tech finished the sectionals third with 7,482 total pins. Tech had earned a spot at the ITC Sectionals in 2019-20, but the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the ITC Sectionals, Tech competed in the ITC in Wyoming, Mich., for the first time in program history. Tech competed in five rounds of the tournament.
Sophomore Allie Leiendecker was named a NTCA All-American honorable mention for her performance during the 2020-21 campaign. Leiendecker and senior Kaitlyn Eder were also named to the 2021 All-Southland Bowling League Third Team.
Several Lady Techsters earned spots on various all-tournament teams including Leiendecker (LA Tech Invite, Southland Bowling League Championship), Eder (LA Tech Invite, Track Kat Klash-MVP), senior Ashley Channell (Lady Techsters Invitational) and sophomore Danielle Jedlicki (Lady Techsters Invitational, Southland Bowling League Championship).
Overall, Tech finished second at four tournaments, including the Southland Conference Championships. Tech hosted three tournaments during the season for the first time in program history. The first-ever LA Tech Invite opened the 2020-21 campaign at the Lambright Bowling Alley in Ruston, the first collegiate bowling tournament the program has ever hosted.
- LA Tech finished in the top-five at three tournaments during the campaign, including a first-place finish at the LaTour Intercollegiate (Feb. 13-14).
- Finished the LaTour Intercollegiate 18 strokes ahead of second place Jacksonville State as Tech registered a combined -12 (288-276=564).
- Tech’s -12 (276) second-round performance tied for the lowest team round score in program history.
- Senior Sam Murphy won his first individual intercollegiate tournament after finishing the LaTour Intercollegiate with a combined -7 (69-68=137).
- LA Tech won its lone head-to-head match play contest of the season with a 4.0-2.0 victory over North Texas.
- Tech registered an under-11 277 twice in both the third round of the Jim Rivers Intercollegiate (Sept. 15) and the second round of the Little Rock Invitational (Oct. 20).
- Individually, Tech golfers registered a round under 70 on 13 occasions during the 2020-21 season, highlighted by a career-low under-seven (65) by S. Murphy in the second round of the Little Rock Invitational (Oct. 20).
- Senior Mac Murphy was named third team all-Conference USA after leading Tech in the 2020-21 season with a stroke average of 72.56.
- Head coach Kevin Sherry notched career win No. 150 at the helm of the Lady Techsters with the 1-0 shutout victory over Texas Woman’s in Denton.
- Finished season with a 9-7 record to reach at least nine victories for a ninth straight season.
- Defenders Elizabeth Doll and Josie Studer earned All-Conference-USA honors.
- Finished season with a 9-11 record to reach at least nine wins for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.
- Senior Claudia Oravcova ended her career with 44 dual doubles wins, tied for the third most in program history.
- Sophomore Alexia Romero anchored the team in duals wins in singles (12) and doubles (11).
- Opened the brand new Dr. Billy Bundrick Field in March and hosted P5 programs including No. 1 ranked Oklahoma, Mississippi State, and Baylor.
- Finished third in the West Division and qualified for the 2021 Conference USA Championships in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
- Had three players chosen to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team including pitcher Lauren Menzina, outfielder Kylie Neel and utility player Tristin Court.
- Super senior Zoe Hicks became the first female to ever sign a contract to play in the Expedition Summer Baseball League.
- Set a program record with 18 student-athletes earning a spot on the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
- Senior Elena Takova finished off her Lady Techster career on a high note by recording 47 of her team-high 101 kills on the season in LA Tech’s final five matches of the season.
Track and Field
- Tripp Marcus set the school record in the javelin throw at Northwestern State’s Leon Johnson NSU Invitational on April 24, heaving a lifetime-best toss of 72.51 meters (237’-11”).
- Claudasha Watson and Sydney Anderson led the way at the Conference USA Indoor Championships by recording third-place finishes in the 60-meter dash and high jump, respectively. Both Lady Techsters earned Third-Team All-C-USA honors.
- Johannon Murray set a school record in the women’s pentathlon at the C-USA Indoor Championships in February after tallying a total score of 3,382 points.
- Johnie Jean-Jacques placed first in the shot put and second in the men’s discus throw at LSU’s Boots Garland Invitational with a heave of 15.72m (51’-07”) to win the event.
- The men’s cross country team recorded a team victory in LA Tech’s sole home meet (Mook 4 Invitational). Conner Killian earned his first collegiate victory with a first-place time of 20:59 in the 4-mile run.
- Riley Killian shattered her previous personal best in LA Tech’s first meet of the 2020 cross country season with a time of 18:47.0 to earn her first collegiate victory.
- For the fourth straight year, Conner Killian was named to the Conference USA Cross Country All-Academic Team. He has received the honor four times across his college career