The new college sports season is knocking hard on our front doors. Reason enough for us to have a closer look at the past season. In this article, we are going to set our timers back and review the national champions of the 2017/2018 season. Our review highlights first-time champions, record-breaking performances, and sheer dominance. We also highly recommend watching the videos in this article. Goosebumps guaranteed.
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The Oregon State Beavers crowned themselves National Champion for the 3rd time in the past 13 years. With a 5-0 win in their last game against the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Beavers showed the whole nation why you should never give up. During the College World Series, the Beavers had their back against the wall six times. Six times they won the elimination game. 12 days before lifting the NCAA trophy, they even lost their opening game against the North Carolina Tar Heels which was one of their 12 losses that championship season. At the end of the year, three Beavers gained national recognition. Luke Heimlich was named the National Pitcher of the Year by the College Baseball Foundation, Cadyn Grenier the top shortstop, and Kevin Abel was named the Freshman of the Year by D1Baseball.com.
14.6% of all people that filled out their NCAA March Madness bracket picked the Villanova Wildcats to go all the way. No other team was selected more often. Virginia, a #1 seed that experienced a first-round loss to the UMBC Retrievers in Charlotte, NC, was the public’s second most frequent choice; 13.73%.
At the end of the day, Villanova turned out to be the dominant team in 2018. They won each round in the tournament with at least a 12-point difference. Their opponent in the finals, the Michigan Wolverines, put an equally impressive performance on the floor. After winning the B1G championships at the beginning of March, they marched into the NCAA finals. Their path, however, was a bit rockier than Villanova’s. Particularly the Houston Cougars in the 2nd round (64:63) and the Florida State Seminoles in the Elite 8 (58:54) proved to be a very tough challenge. In the finals, Villanova and reserve guard Donte DiVincenzo were simply too good for the Wolverines. DiVincenzo scored a career-high 31 points and led the Wildcats to their second championship in the past three years.
If you remember one player from the 2017/2018 Women’s Basketball season, it is very likely going to be Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale. Why? Ogunbowale did not only hit the game-winning buzzer-beater to secure the NCAA title for the Fighting Irish against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, she also hit the winning shot in the semifinals against the undefeated UConn Huskies. UConn has been the dominant name in recent NCAA Basketball years. Before falling to Notre Dame, the Huskies were 36-0 and looked on track to secure their 5th championship since 2013. But Ogunbowale and her teammates had other plans. In the finals, Ogunbowale scored 18 points which not only helped her win the “Most Outstanding Player” award but also to surpass Ruth Riley for the most points scored in an NCAA tournament (145 points). What makes this victory for the Fighting Irish even more remarkable is that they were dealing with four ACL injuries earlier this season. A truly amazing team effort.
The McKendree Bearcats already looked like the 2018 NCAA Champion. In the finals against the Vanderbilt Commodores, the Bearcats were leading 3-2. But Vanderbilt showed great heart and willpower. In a drama-filled NCAA final, the Commodores bounced back and defeated McKendree with 4-3. Vanderbilt celebrated its 2nd NCAA Bowling title which turns out to be the 4th NCAA title in school history. In the semifinals, McKendree beat top-seeded Nebraska 2-0 while Vanderbilt reached the finals with a win over the Sam Houston State Bearkats.
By the way, Liz Kuhlkin, a former Husker Bowler that has seen some major success on the pro tour recently, shared her story on FanWord not too long ago.
Men’s Cross Country
The dominant men’s cross country team of the past two seasons has been the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. The Lumberjacks successfully defended their national title in 2017. In all six team events this past season, Northern Arizona left the meet as the winning team. To give this performance even more context, they placed five runners in the top 40 of the national championships. Matt Baxter led the way for the Lumberjacks with a second place finish. Justin Knight from the Syracuse Orange awarded himself as the individual NCAA champion while the team finished 13th. Overall, the Portland Pilots finished second and the BYU Cougars came away with a third-place finish.
Women’s Cross Country
On the women’s side, New Mexico won its second NCAA title in the past three years. The Lobos placed four women in the top 15 en route to their championship. New Mexico’s Ednah Kurgat also won the individual title and played a detrimental role for the second-ranked Lobos. The sophomore from Kenya produced one of the best single seasons in program history and also captured the Mountain West title in 2017. New Mexico won all of the meets they competed in except for the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational and NCAA Mountain Region Championships where they placed 2nd both times. The Colorado Buffaloes took the title in both of those meets ahead of the Lobos. At the NCAA Championships, Colorado finished third and San Francisco secured the runner-up spot.
The person you should remember from the 2017/2018 Fencing season is Nick Itkin. As a freshman for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Nick was the ACC Men’s Foil Individual Champion, National Collegiate Men’s Foil Champion, Junior Men’s Foil Individual World Champion, and therefore the first U.S. fencer to win individual Junior World (FIE), Division I (U.S. Fencing) and NCAA Championship titles in the same season.
Notre Dame also clinched its 10th national title and successfully defended their title from 2017. The back-to-back champions helped 10 men and women gain All-American accolades. Columbia left the NCAA championships with a 2nd place, Ohio State was 3rd, Penn State was 4th, and Harvard took home the 5th place.
If you think that the UConn Huskies are only known for their Women’s Basketball team, think again. In a historic 23-0 season, the Huskies defeated the Maryland Terrapins in a close contest with 2-1. They are only the sixth team in the history of the sport to have an undefeated season. In the semifinals, UConn required a penalty shootout to take down North Carolina. #9 seed Maryland didnt give #3 seed Michigan much of chance. They send home the Wolverines with a 5-1 victory. UConn Senior Charlotte Veitner was named the NCAA Division I Tournament MVP.
The Alabama Crimson Tide won their 5th title under coach Nick Saban since 2009. In a thrilling national championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs, Alabama scored a 41-yard touchdown in overtime to earn the title. Alabama also looks like one of the top candidates to win this year’s trophy.
An interesting fact about the 2017 season is that both, Alabama and Georgia, suffered only one loss that season. However, both fell to the same team; the Auburn Tigers. Alabama lost to Auburn in the last game of the regular season while Georgia lost to them in the third last game of the season. The Bulldogs could take revenge though as they beat Auburn in the SEC Championships game 28-7.
Winning an 11th national title in program history, the Oklahoma State Cowboys had plenty of reasons to smile in May 2018. On their home course in Stillwater, Oklahoma, the Cowboys dominated Alabama in the NCAA finals 5-0-0. En route to the final, Oklahoma State defeated Texas A&M in the quarterfinals and Auburn in the semifinals. Alabama advanced after wins over Texas and Duke, respectively. On the individual side, Augusta’s Broc Everett took home the title over Auburn’s Brandon Mancheno.
Alabama has two fantastic golf programs. Unfortunately for the Crimson Tide, both teams came in second at the national championships in 2018. Alabama’s women fell to the Arizona Wildcats 3-2 who clinched their fourth title in program history and the first since 2000. The Wildcats were the #8 seed and hardly made it into the eight-team bracket. In an incredibly close contest against the Baylor Bears, Arizona survived in playoff holes before taking out top-seed UCLA in the quarterfinals. In the finals, it was Hailey Moore with the decisive birdie putt to give Arizona the win.
The Oklahoma Men’s Gymnastics dynasty does not seem to find an end. After having finished second four years in a row from 2011-2014, the Sooners have now won their fourth consecutive national championships and are on a 97-wins winning streak. This title also marks Oklahoma’s 12th NCAA title tying the Penn State Nittany Lions for most championships won. In addition to that, Oklahoma’s Yul Moldauer also had massive success as an individual. He won four individual NCAA championships on floor, vault, parallel bars, and all-around.
While Football, for example, seems to be mainly in the hands of SEC teams, Men’s Gymnastics is dominated by B1G schools. Four out of the top six teams at the NCAA championships are part of the prestigious B1G conference. Minnesota (2nd), Illinois (3rd), Nebraska (5th), and Penn State (6th) all produced remarkable results. Only the Stanford Cardinals (4th) “interrupt” the conference’s dominance.
Oklahoma is not only a powerhouse in Men’s Gymnastics but also in Women’s Gymnastics. After having won national titles in 2016 and 2017, the Sooners, however, were not able to earn their third consecutive championship. In 2018, Oklahoma had to congratulate the UCLA Bruins who earned their seventh Gymnastics championship and put the Sooners in second place.
UCLA won the title in dramatic fashion. It came down to the very last routine in which redshirt senior Christine Peng-Peng Lee needed to score at least a 9.975 to beat Oklahoma. But Christine went even a step further and scored a perfect 10 that put the whole UCLA nation in ecstasy.
Men’s Ice Hockey
In 2017, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs fell short to the Denver Pioneers in the national title game. One year later, the Bulldogs returned to the Frozen Four and clinched their second national title against Notre Dame with a 2-1 victory. Ironically, Minnesota-Duluth was the last team to earn an at-large bid into the 2018 NCAA tournament. In the semifinals, Minnesota-Duluth took out the Ohio State Buckeyes 2-1 while Notre Dame defeated Michigan in an equally close encounter 4-3.
Women’s Ice Hockey
Elizabeth Giguere scored 27 goals in her freshman season for the Clarkson Golden Knights. Her 27th goal earned Clarkson its third national title in program history. The Golden Knights needed to win three overtime games in the NCAA tournament before they could celebrate their second consecutive championship. In the finals, Clarkson defeated #3 seed Colgate with 2-1 and closed out their season with a spectacular 36-4-1 record; the most successful one in its 15-year program history.
Many teams in this article have already experienced the thrill of winning a national championship prior to this past season. For other teams, like the Yale Lacrosse team, it was a first time. In an exciting and close encounter in the finals of the NCAA championships against the Duke Blue Devils, Yale won 13-11 and stood last in the sport of Lacrosse for the first time in over 47 years. The top two seeds Maryland and Albany had to give up on their championship dreams as they lost in the semifinals to Duke and Yale, respectively. The Bulldogs dominated Albany with 20-11 while Duke secured a spot in the national title game after defeating the Terrapins with 13-8.
Maryland is not only a successful Lacrosse team on the men’s side, it also has one of the most prestigious Women’s Lacrosse teams in the country. After having clinched the NCAA title in 2014, 2015, and 2017, Maryland was also the favorite to take the 2018 championships. But 2017 runner-up Boston College had other plans. With only four teams remaining, Boston College ended Maryland’s back-to-back title quest with a 15-13 upset. But the Eagles should also be denied this year.
James Madison completed a dream season that only came with one loss against Maryland halfway through the season. With commanding 3-goal wins in the 2nd round, quarterfinals, and semifinals of the NCAA tournament, James Madison kept its hopes up of winning a first title in program history. And their dreams did become reality. In an incredibly competitive game, James Madison beat Boston College with 16-15.
For the second time in school history, the Kentucky Wildcats earned a national title after beating five-time defending NCAA champion West Virginia. At the end of the regular season, the Mountaineers actually defeated the Wildcats 4720-4693 which may have added a bit of extra motivation for Kentucky. Kentucky’s Henrik Larsen was also named NCAA Shooter of the Year and earned Freshman of the Year accolades as well. This marked the program’s first time that a single athlete won both of these honors. TCU finished a strong season and earned themselves a third place at the NCAAs.
Claiming their fourth NCAA title in program history, the Cal Berkeley rowing team had plenty of reasons to celebrate. This championship now ties the Bears for most NCAA Rowing titles won. California won a close battle against the #1 Washington Huskies who earned themselves a second place. Coming in third were the Texas Longhorns. The varsity eight and the varsity four were crucial for California to win the title. Additionally, a very important second-place finish in the second varsity eight contributed heavily to the Bears’ success. After a third-place finish at the PAC-12 championships that marked California’s only loss of the season, the Bears outperformed a strong field at the NCAA championships.
With temperatures as low as 25 degrees, the teams in the 2018 NCAA championships faced some difficult conditions. At the end of day 4, the Denver Pioneers secured their 24th championship ahead of the Colorado Buffaloes and the Dartmouth Big Green. The championships took place in Steamboat, Colorado.
Just six months ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, collegiate teams determined their champions. On the men’s side, the Stanford Cardinals are the dominant team in recent years. In an incredibly close final against the Indiana Hoosiers, the Cardinals captured their third straight NCAA title. Stanford entered the NCAA tournament as the #9 seed but everyone knew that they would play a major role in determining the champion. In the finals, no team was able to score in regular time and it took until the second overtime for Stanford to score the decisive golden goal. They are now the first team since the Virginia Cavaliers (1991-1994) to win at least three national championships in a row.
Stanford accomplished something no other team has ever accomplished in NCAA history. Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams won the national title. Other than the men, the women entered the NCAA tournament as the #1 seed. In a stunning final against #2 UCLA, the Cardinals clinched their second national title. After going up 2-0, the Bruins were able to even the game just minutes after halftime. In the 67th minute, it was Jaye Boissiere that scored the decisive goal for the Cardinals who finished their season with a stunning 24-1 record. Their only loss of the year came against the #8 Florida Gators early in the season.
In their 10th Women’s College World Series (WCWS) appearance, the Florida State Seminoles stood last for the first time in school history. In a two-game sweep over the Washington Huskies, the Seminoles also became the first team in D1 collegiate softball history to win the NCAA title after having lost the opening game of the WCWS. The UCLA Bruins were the last team to beat Florida State before the Seminoles went on a 6-game winning streak. Lifting the NCAA trophy marked the end of a thrilling and long season for FSU. Out of their 70 games in the 2017/18 season, the Seminoles left the field as a winner 58 times. This championship also marked the first softball championship for an ACC team.
Men’s Swimming and Diving
In men’s swimming and diving, one team stands above them all in the most recent years. The Texas Longhorns won their fourth consecutive national title ahead of the Cal Berkeley Bears who earned themselves a strong second place. Indiana came in third. For the Longhorns, this title marked #14 in their prestigious program history. With only an 11.5-point margin ahead of the Bears, Texas needed to perform at its very best to secure the national title. To put this in even more context, Indiana led the trio with 325 points entering the final night of competition. Texas, however, made a huge 54-point jump towards the top after winning the 200m backstroke competition.
Women’s Swimming and Diving
Ready for some numbers? The Stanford Cardinals won their second straight NCAA title in 2018. During the NCAA championships, the Cardinals awarded 16 different All-Americans, won 8 individual NCAA titles, and broke 5 American records. This remarkable tournament run also marks the program’s 11th NCAA championship. Talking about dominance, Stanford is also only the third school to capture all five relays at the NCAA tournament. To put this in even more perspective, there was a 220-point margin between the Cardinals and Cal Berkeley who finished second.
‘Historic’ might be the most accurate word to describe the past Wake Forest Men’s Tennis season. The Demon Deacons did not only win its first-ever NCAA title, Petros Chrysochos also won the individual title while teammate Borna Gojo finished as the runner-up. Wake Forest beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 4-2 in the finals of the championships.
Prior to the title-run, Wake Forest had never reached the semifinals at the NCAA tournament but in the 2017/2018 season, Wake Forest rewrote the record books. They finished their remarkable season on a 16-match winning streak and a 30-2 record. Both losses came in the same week in March of 2018 against Florida State and Florida.
Clinching a national championship 7-5 in the third set after the dual match is leveled at 3-3 is doubtlessly one of the greatest experiences for every collegiate tennis player. For Melissa Lord from the Stanford Cardinals, this experience became reality. The Cardinals won their second title in the past three years against the top-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores. After Vanderbilt had won the doubles point, Stanford started strong in singles play capturing five of the six first sets. But the Commodores were up for a battle and managed to eventually level the match at 3-3. The rest is history.
Men’s Track & Field
On the men’s side, the Florida Gators dominated the indoor season. The Gators won their fourth indoor team title with 40 points ahead of #5 seed USC and #2 seed Georgia. Including the outdoor season, this marks Florida’s 8th national title since 2010. Outdoors, however, the Gators finished as the runner-up and had to congratulate the Georgia Bulldogs to their first-ever national team title. The Bulldogs topped the Gators with 10 points.
Women’s Track & Field
Indoors, the Georgia Bulldogs clinched their first-ever national team title in dominant fashion with 61 points ahead of the Arkansas Razorbacks (49 points). Two individual titles and a total of nine scorers helped the Bulldogs make history. The women also finished strongly outdoors. They earned themselves a second place while the USC Trojans captured their second team title in program history. For the first time in NCAA history, the top three teams (USC, Georgia, and Stanford) finished within two points of each other (53, 52, and 51, respectively.) At the meet, USC earned 22 first-team All-America honors.
For the second time in school history, the Long Beach State 49ers won the men’s volleyball NCAA title. In a thrilling and incredibly close five-set thriller against the UCLA Bruins, Long State Beach came back from a 1-2 deficit to clinch it 15-13 in the deciding set. The top-seed closed out their season with a 27-1 record and celebrated their first title since 1991. The unseeded Bruins took out the second-seeded BYU Cougars in the semifinals and can proudly look back at an impressive season.
On October 11, 2017, the Nebraska Cornhuskers lost their last game of the season. The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Cornhuskers in four sets. Approximately two months later, Nebraska clinched its fifth national title in program history and beat the Florida Gators 3-1. As the #5 seed, Nebraska dropped only four sets in its six NCAA games en route to the championship. After having fallen in the semifinals the previous year, the Cornhuskers repeated their success from the 2015/2016 season. Plenty of Huskers performed at their highest level during the final. Mikaela Foecke, for instance, had a 20-kill night while setter Kelly Hunter hit an incredible .600.
Curious to learn a bit more about Kelly Hunter? Check out this cool interview she did with us a couple of months ago.
Men’s Water Polo
The UCLA Bruins won their 11th national title against the USC Trojans. What makes this victory even more impressive is that the Bruins were not necessarily expected to stand last in collegiate men’s water polo last season. After 2016 alone, UCLA had lost nine seniors. But nothing stopped the Bruins from capturing the school’s 114th national championship. In a very close contest against the Trojans, UCLA won 7-5 with the final goal coming just a few seconds before the time ran out. Both teams have met three times previously that season. UCLA left the water as the winner twice while rival USC was able to win their last encounter before the NCAA tournament.
Women’s Water Polo
While the men’s team could not win a national title, the USC Trojans women’s team captured its fifth national title in staggering fashion. Halfway through the season, USC fell to the Stanford Cardinals 3-9. In the NCAA championship game, USC could take revenge as they met the Cardinals again. Now, it was time for the Trojans. With just little time left on the clock, the Cardinals had two opportunities to level the game but were denied both times. USC took the title with a 5-4 victory. Interestingly, it was either Stanford or USC that lifted the NCAA trophy the past eight years.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are the dominant team in collegiate wrestling. In the past eight years, the Nittany Lions lifted the NCAA team trophy seven times. In 2018, Penn State also had four individual national champions. Bo Nickal, Zain Retherford (ended his collegiate wrestling career with 94 straight wins), Jason Nolf, and Vincenzo Joseph all earned individual titles. In what many consider to be one of the most exciting finishes in NCAA wrestling history, Bo Nickal scored a monumental pin against Ohio State’s Myles Martin with just 31 seconds left. This put the Nittany Lions ahead of the Ohio State Buckeyes to clinch the national title.
Thank you very much for checking out our review of the 2017/2018 NCAA college sports season. If you liked this article or either of our infographics, please share it on your social channels.