The 2018-19 McNeese State athletics year is in the books.
I didn't get to Lake Charles until early October, so I missed the first couple months. But this was certainly a fun year, filled with highs and lows.
Since we've hit the summer lull of no games or major coverage — after the three-day amateur baseball draft, the next big event will be the Southland Conference Football Media Day in July — I figure now is the best time to give my superlatives for the past athletic year. I may have some co-winners in categories, but they're my awards, so I can do that.
Without any further ado, let's get on with the show.
Moment of the year
As with all of these categories, this is hard because there were a few great moments throughout the course of the year. But I'm going with one that occurred before I got to Lake Charles.
In extra time of a 2-2 tie between host McNeese and Arkansas in women's soccer on Aug. 26, Havana Johnson got the rebound off a Nola Prickett shot and easily tapped it in for the winner that gave the Cowgirls a 3-2 victory over the Razorbacks.
It's rare for a Power-Five team, much less in the Southeastern Conference, to go on the road to take on a Southland Conference team. Maybe a neutral site, but rarely in the home team's backyard. Given the opponent and how the goal came about (ending the game because it was sudden death), this gets my vote for best moment.
I'm not the only one who thought it was a big moment.
"This was definitely the biggest nonconference win in the history of the program," Cowgirls head coach Drew Fitzgerald said after the game.
Will Dion's strikeout to seal the baseball team's SLC Tournament title; Aubree Turbeville's winning hit to drive in fellow senior Justyce McClain on senior day.
Team of the year
This one wound up being an easy choice, although it took awhile for the choice to make itself evident, but it's got to be McNeese baseball. The Cowboys won the SLC Tournament and earned an NCAA berth for the first time since 2003.
As of April 20, McNeese wasn't even in the top eight to make the conference tournament. But the Cowboys won nine of their remaining 12 SLC regular-season games to earn the fifth seed.
From there they used great pitching, solid defense and timely hitting to go 4-0 in the SLC Tournament to take home the title. On top of all that, they went to Baton Rouge and shutout nationally ranked LSU, 2-0. Yes, that LSU, that's hosting a super regional this weekend.
No honorable mention here; no other team came close to what baseball did.
Men's athlete of the year
This one was really tough. There are two choices and they had such great accomplishments that I can't just give it to one. So this one is split between former linebacker B.J. Blunt and golfer Blake Elliott.
After a 2018 season that saw the New Orleans native record 102 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and a blocked punt in 10 games, Blunt was named the SLC Defensive Player of the Year. He was also a consensus all-American and a first-team all-Louisiana pick. Blunt played in the East-West Shrine Game and made an interception. He was not drafted but signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent.
Elliott, meanwhile, was named the Louisiana Golfer of the Year and missed the NCAA Championships by one stroke at the NCAA Men's Golf Austin Regional Tournament.
Despite finishing second at the SLC Championships, Elliott was named the SLC Golfer of the Year.
Women's athlete of the year
Another tough one, but I'm going with track and field's Grace McKenzie. The native of Cork, Ireland, was an indoor track and field first-team all-American after finishing in eighth place in the indoor pentathlon. She was also named the SLC Women's Indoor Track and Field Women's Athlete of the Year.
She dealt with injuries during her outdoor season, but her indoor accomplishments — she also set the Irish national record in the indoor pentathlon — were enough to sway me.
McClain — the softball career hits leader, top 10 in the country in hits, all while playing with a bum shoulder. Add to that the throw to end the upset of Louisiana-Lafayette. She deserves recognition.
Those are my picks. Let me know what you think.
Have a great summer and let's get ready for an assuredly interesting 2019-20 school year.
David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at email@example.com