The 2011-12 school year has come to a close, so it is time to review the year for the most memorable stories. This will be a three-part series to break the news into categories.
First, the list will include news and facts from the athletics department as a whole or the teams. Second, that list will include individual stories and highlights. Third, a list will re-cap the top games or events played.
This list was compiled by the Sports Communications staff and based on input from each who documented the teams' accomplishments and significance in school history. The GSU school calendar year runs from July 1 to June 30.
Enjoy today's part 1.
TOP TEAM/ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT STORIES 2011-12
1. Georgia State announced it will join the Sun Belt Conference and move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). A press conference was held on April 9 at the Georgia Dome, home of GSU football.
2. The men’s soccer team earned an NCAA postseason tournament bid for the first time in school history. The team moved as high as No. 26 in the national RPI ranking in October and finished at No. 45. The Panthers defeated a top 25 team in Panthersville for the first time in school history, earned its first bid in the CAA Tournament and then won its first CAA Tournament match. The 13-8-1 season marked the most wins since 1986.
3. The Panther basketball team produced the second-most wins in school history (22) and earned a fourth postseason berth when the Panthers played in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. The 22-12 season included a school-record 11-game winning streak. GSU won its opening game in the CAA Tournament by an all-time record margin of 35 points in a rout of Hofstra. The Panthers won at VCU, an NCAA tournament team, and defeated pre-season No. 1 Drexel before the Dragons went on a 19-game win streak after that loss to GSU. GSU crushed Tennessee Tech by 31 points in the opening CIT game in the Sports Arena.
4. The softball team posted the second-best winning percentage in school history (.679) in a 38-18 season. GSU defeated eventual national champion and then No. 2-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, marking the highest-ranked team any GSU squad has ever beaten. The Panthers advanced to the championship game of the CAA, bowing only to Hofstra, an eventual NCAA Super Regional team and No. 16 in the final poll. GSU also beat a second top 25 team as they topped Georgia Tech en route to a final No. 75 RPI ranking themselves. The team had an eight-game win streak, the third longest in school history.
5. GSU’s women’s tennis team advanced to the CAA championship match, bowing 4-3, and finished No. 69 in the final RPI ranking after peaking at a season-high No. 38, the highest ever in school history. The Panthers defeated the No. 43 team in the nation to advance to the finals of the CAA championship. Eight of the 18 matches in the 11-7 season were against ranked teams as GSU played a high level of competition. The recruit class for 2012-13 was ranked No. 1 among Mid-Major schools by TennisRecruiting.net.
6. The men’s tennis squad posted the second-most wins in school history and third-best winning percentage in a 20-5 season. GSU finished No. 60 in the final ITA ranking and had a season-high ranking of No. 54. The Panthers beat No. 37 UNCW in a CAA regular season match, but bowed out of the CAA semifinals in a re-match with UNCW. They are on the best three-year run in school history with a 56-17 report card. The team played seven matches against teams who earned NCAA Tournament bids.
7. GSU’s women’s track and field team posted its second-highest point total in the CAA Championship (122) in finishing in third place, just 4.5 from second and 10 points behind the champion (10 points are scored for winning a CAA race). The team produced one national qualifier, three NCAA Regional qualifiers with eight All-CAA honorees, while setting one new school record.
8. The volleyball team earned a second-straight bid to the CAA Tournament, finishing in the top four in the CAA (8-6). That marked the best finish since joining the CAA. The team won five matches with foes with higher RPI rankings than GSU. The team determination played through as eight of the 12 players were out at different times for multiple matches during the season. GSU claimed a win over in-state foe Kennesaw State to remain unbeaten all-time against the Owls.
9. The teams combined to earn a school-record 11 students on the Academic All-District teams. GSU had four student-athletes win the CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. The entire student-athlete GPA remained above 3.0 for a seventh and eighth consecutive semester.
10. The women’s golf team finished third at the CAA Championships, while earning a final No. 80 national ranking. GSU produced four top-five tournament finishes over the season, including finishing second among 20 teams at the East Carolina Pirate Invitational. The Panthers were third among 16 teams at Miami and third of 15 teams at Furman. The team successfully hosted the 19th annual John Kirk/Panther Invitational at Eagle’s Landing Country Club.
11. The teams combined to produce one All-American, 4 All-Region performers, 37 All-CAA award winners, 42 CAA Performers of the Week and 11 CAA Rookies of the Week. Ten teams finished in the top four of the CAA.
12. The men’s golf team finished second at the CAA Championship by just two strokes, the fifth time to finish in the top two in the last seven years. GSU won the Wexford Plantation Invitational in February at Hilton Head, marking the first time GSU claimed a tournament title since 2007-08. The Panthers also hosted the inaugural AutoTrader.com Collegiate Classic at Berkeley Hills Country Club. The team had a final ranking of 114 of the 299 Division I schools.
13. The cross country teams played host to the CAA Championship Meet at Nash Farm Battlefield Park in Hampton and finished third (women) and fourth (men) in the races. It was the first time GSU had hosted a conference championship meet in 10 years. At the NCAA South Regional Meet, the women finished 14th and the men 15th. The women’s team had the CAA Runner of the Week a school-best five times.
14. The baseball team battled to the final game, in extra innings, before missing out on a CAA Tournament bid in the 14-16 CAA season. GSU defeated nationally-ranked Georgia Tech (No. 9) for the fourth time in the last six years. The team got national recognition at the NBCA Meeting in California as the Most Valuable Program in Summer Leagues. The young team played 15 one-run games (9-6 record) and 25 games decided by two runs or fewer (13-12 mark) as games were extremely competitive.
15. GSU’s football team completed its second season with a final attendance of 14,286 to rank No. 18 among all FCS schools in the nation. The 3-8 squad lost at Houston (12-1 nationally ranked with Heisman Trophy candidate) and to two NCAA FCS playoff teams. GSU won its Homecoming Game, in the first-ever double overtime game, against the University of South Alabama.
16. GSU signed its inaugural Sand Volleyball recruit classes as the team gets set to begin competition during the 2012-13 spring season. Ground was broken for new home courts behind the Sports Arena and will be completed for the fall of 2012.
17. The student-athletes set a record by having 48 students recognized this year on the President’s List, signifying a semester with a GPA of 4.0 or higher.
18. The women’s soccer team named new head coach Derek Leader on Jan. 2. GSU had fallen one win short of earning a CAA Tournament bid (4-6-1 record) and suffered eight losses by one goal and two overtime defeats. The team won an NSCAA Team Academic Award (3.14 GPA) for a fifth straight year.
19. The women’s basketball team produced a 6-5 record in non-conference games, but were faced with the challenges of the No. 7-rated conference (31 Division I conferences) during CAA league play. GSU did lead the CAA in both steals and blocked shots. The team signed one of the potentially-best recruiting classes in school history with seven newcomers.
20. GSU unveiled a master plan for facilities in creating a blueprint for the future. This included a new design, renovations and upgrades to the Sports Arena, with new designs for facilities in the downtown Atlanta area closer to the GSU campus for Baseball, Softball and Soccer. Volleyball will get a new home court in the former aquatics center that became the original football locker rooms next to the Arena with new Sand Volleyball courts already under construction behind the Sports Arena.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the installment focusing on individual achievements from 2011-12.