Seward County advanced to more national tournaments in the last 10 years than ever before in the school’s 40-year history. Coach Galen McSpadden was enshrined in the NJCAA Coaches Hall of Fame. And Seward won its first national championship in women’s basketball. Coaches moved on to Div. I programs, including legendary women’s basketball coach Jim Littell, and others stepped in to keep the momentum of success moving forward. From volleyball and tennis to basketball, softball and baseball, the Saints and Lady Saints put together arguably one of the best decades at any community college in the nation. Seward sport information director Roy Allen compiled a list of the Top 10 teams in the last decade of Seward County athletics..
#10- 2002 Baseball
The only non-National Tournament team on the list, the 2002 Saints still hold the record for most wins in school history (50), team batting average(.385), and home runs (117) among many others. Individuals on the 2002 team can be found at the top of nearly every category in the Saints single season record books including 3 out of the top 4 home run hitters in school history. This team sported the National Player of the Year (Cory Patton), the National Student-Athlete of the Year (Patton), a National Batting Champion (Matt Wells), and two NJCAA All-Americans (Patton & Dan Dody). They were the Jayhawk West Champions and the Region VI Sub-Region Champions before losing to Cowley in the Region Championship.
#9- 2002 Volleyball
In the middle of a 5 straight National Tournament run, the 2002 Lady Saints finished 6th in the big dance behind sophomore All-American Joy Okpa. The Lady Saints were Jayhawk West Conference runners-up in the regular season before going on to win the Region VI Championship. Seward finished with a 48-7 overall record which still stands as 4th most in school history.
#8- 2006 Women’s Tennis
The 2006 Lady Saints were the first team of the decade to find their way to the National Tournament and surprised many when they got there eventually finishing in 10th place. The Lady Saints were paced by Uthala Abdullah who won her Region VI singles and doubles bracket and Amina Abdullah who helped her sister Uthala knock out the rest of the competition in their doubles bracket on their way to the championship. Charity Andrews lost in the first round of the National Tournament before coming back to win the consolation bracket to help the Lady Saints to their top 10 finish.
#7- 2007 Men’s Tennis
Led by Rogerio Yamamoto, Ruben Mora, and Victor Mesquita, the 2007 Seward County Men’s Tennis team wrapped up their second straight season by finishing 9th at the NJCAA National Tennis Tournament. Yamamoto put the much needed points on the board by winning the Region VI Tournament in his singles play while Mora and Mesquita were ranked as high as 13th in the country for their tandem work in doubles play. At the National Tournament Luis Cabizuca picked up the consolation bracket championship while Yamamoto finished lost in the championship match of consolation play.
#6 2009 Softball
What a magical season 2009 was for the Lady Saints softball team as they recovered from a 5-4 conference start to win their final 8 conference games before going on to sweep the Region VI Tournament to reach their first National Tournament in school history. The highlight of the 09 season came in their 40th win of the year when sophomore Katie Glenn would hit a walk-off inside the park home run with two outs in the 12th inning to beat Odessa and send the Lady Saints to the Elite Eight of the 16 team tournament. Seward fell in the next round but still came away with a 40 win season and a 7th place finish at the National Tournament. Pitching and speed were the name of the 2009 game for the Lady Saints as they set school records for stolen bases, ERA, and strikeouts against behind All-American Courtney Auger who set the All-Time ERA mark and Katie Glenn who matched the single season stolen base plateau.
#5 2000 Volleyball
The 2000 Lady Saints set the bar for all other Seward volleyball teams to come in the 2000’s. After winning the Jayhawk West Conference with a perfect 8-0 record, the gals in green went on to win the Region VI Tournament and finish 5th at the National Tournament. The Lady Saints would finish the season 48-6 while putting together a 29 match winning streak during the season and the sophomores on this 2000 club finished their two year careers with a 100-8 overall record and won all 14 Jayhawk West matches they played in. At the head of that class was All-American Carol Bozikis who still finds her names in the top 5 in school history in both kills and blocks after a stellar season in 2000.
#4 2004 Baseball
Winning 47 games, good, winning the Jayhawk West Conference, the norm, winning the Region VI Tournament and taking your Hall of Fame Head Coach to his first NJCAA World Series, priceless. After falling one game short in 2003, the 2004 Saints were not to be denied as they rode the right arm of Danny Vais and the bat of Jason Van Kooten all the way to 5th place in the World Series. For the first time in three years, the Saints didn’t have an All-American on their roster. It didn’t matter, this relatively young group came together and came up big when it needed to going 47-16 on the year and making a deep run into the National Tournament to try and give Head Coach Galen McSpadden his 1st National Championship. Vais’ 103 innings and David Dinsmoore’s 12 wins paced the squad while the freshman Van Kooten led an offense who had the 3rd most hits in school history.
#3 2007 Women’s Basketball
A late game substitution mix up is maybe all that was in the way of a 34-0 regular season for this talented group as Tegan Cunningham, Chontaye Walter, Taushelle Rushing and company made a run at the school’s second National Championship in women’s basketball during the 2006-07 season finishing the season 36-2 and in 3rd place in the NJCAA National Tournament. After winning the Jayhawk West Conference with a 13-1 regular season record the Lady Saints weren’t satisfied as they marched through three rounds of the Region VI Tournament before pulling off an overtime win in the Championship game against Coffeyville to send them to Salina. Seward won their first two games of the National Tournament before falling in the semifinals to Odessa, but came back and beat top seeded Southeastern Illinois to give themselves 3rd place in the tournament. The “Magnificent 7” as they were called would see 5 players off of their team sign Division 1 including two time All-American Tegan Cunningham who along with Chontaye Walker signed at Oklahoma State.
#2 2008 Men’s Basketball
Rarely are there high expectations for college coaches in their first season of work but Bryan Zollinger wouldn’t settle for mediocrity as he took a Saints squad that went 17-14 and 7-9 in conference play in 2007 to a 32-6 and 13-3 record in conference play in 08’ before leading the guys in green to the National Tournament where they finished 3rd in the nation. The Saints started the season 12-2 as they headed into Christmas break but understood that they hadn’t been tested by the top notch teams they would see in conference play yet. Coming back from the break and starting 1-2 in conference play with their only win coming in dramatic fashion in overtime against Dodge City at home, Saints fans began to think that their bubbles of hopes and dreams were burst. Little did they know that this team had in them a 19 game stretch where they would fail to be beaten in regulation as they finished the regular season 25-5 with a Jayhawk West title and a full head of steam going into the Region VI Tournament. After winning their first three contests of the tournament the Saints were pitted against Eastern Division rival Cowley in the finals where they were only given a chance by those who had green come out of their body when they were poked by a doctor. The only problem for the Tigers is the Saints all did, and the upstart guys from Liberal defeated the beast from the East by double digits and earned their first trip of the decade to the National Tournament. After knocking off heavily favored Chipola in the first round in Hutchinson, the Saints went on to pick up a 7 point win over Northeastern Oklahoma in the quarterfinals to send themselves to the final four. Though their National Championship hopes came to an end in the semi’s against eventual National Champions South Plains, the Saints came back in the third place game with only pride on the line against Three Rivers to win convincingly 81-63 to take home the third place trophy. The most remembered players on this team will always be the colorful Darko Cohadarevic who signed at Texas Tech University and guard Reggie Chamberlain who traded in his green and white for the black and gold of Wichita State at season’s end, but those close with this 08’ group will tell you that it was each and every member of this team that made it what it was; the role players who did their job in the end to almost push this group to their ultimate goal of a National Title.
#1 2002 Women’s Basketball
Was there any doubt when you saw the title of this article who was going to be #1? Didn’t think so. No matter what happens in the future of this great athletic department, the 2002 Lady Saints Basketball Team will always be remembered as the first. The first team to win a National Championship, the first team to go undefeated, the first team to have the NJCAA National Player of the Year, and the first team to have a two time first team NJCAA All-American. Head Coach Jim Littell’s 2002 bunch was truly one for the ages. A sophomore class that finished their careers 71-1, won back to back National Academic Championships as well as the school’s first National Championship. A team that contained the likes of two time All-American’s Kim Ortega and Tracy Wynn as well as Vaida Zagurskyte’ and Marta Dydek who helped the Lady Saints to their 38-0 record during the winter of 01’ and the spring of 02’. Seward’s trip to the crown went through Northeastern JC in the first round of the National Tournament where the Lady Saints pulled off an overtime victory before they marched through Moberly Area and Gulf Coast easily on their way to the title game against Northeastern Oklahoma. For the second straight game, the Lady Saints faced an undefeated foe and behind a career high 35 points from Kim Davis, the gals in green sealed the deal with a 87-80 win over the Aggies to secure the championship. The 02’ team still remains the all-time leaders in rebounds and free-throw percentage and is the second highest scoring team in school history.
As the 2010’s begin, who will be the teams that are on this list a decade from now? A Lady Saints basketball team that has started 13-1? A Saints basketball team who is threatening being the highest scoring team in school history? How about a Lady Saints softball team with 9 sophomores looking to go a couple steps further from last year’s National Tournament run or a baseball team that has 12 returners that come back after being on the field last May when their season ended just one game short of the NJCAA World Series? Seward will send two tennis teams ranked in the nation’s top 15 to the hard court this spring and will return the conference’s Freshman of the Year to the floor when the volleyball team kicks their 2010 season off in August. No matter who makes the list or who doesn’t, if the 2010’s are as exciting for the Saints fans as the 2000’s were, then everyone in green is in for quite a ride in the next 10 seasons of Seward County athletics.