2021-22 was quite a season for McNeese but the best is yet to come

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LAKE CHARLES – Five Southland Conference regular season championships. One SLC Tournament title. An NCAA Tournament Appearance and first-ever Regional Final Appearance. NCAA Outdoor Track & Field All-American. Football Consensus All-American. Baseball Academic All-American. Ten top three finishes in league standings in 14 sports. A total of 109 All-Southland Conference selections. And that was on the field of competition.

Academically, McNeese placed 95 student-athletes on the SLC Commissioner’s Fall Academic Honor Roll (spring will be released later this summer), and over a dozen to their respective All-Academic teams (baseball, softball, track and field not yet released).

In addition to the academic accolades, baseball outfielder Julian Gonzalez was named just the seventh player in school history as a CoSIDA Academic All-American and football’s Isaiah Chambers garnered the sport’s Student-Athlete of the Year award.

That summed up the 2021-22 McNeese Athletics sport season, an exciting and memorable one that will continue to get better in 2022-23.

“I’m really excited about where we have taken this department in a short amount of time,” said Director of Athletics Heath Schroyer. “However, I’m even more excited about where this department is headed. We have clear objectives in four areas in this department and it’s how I measure success yearly.”

Those objectives are academically, socially, competitively and financially.

“A true indication of our success and growth in this area is the fact that when I took over, our football program was on APR probation and with a postseason ban. We are now off probation and had our most successful semester in the last three years under (new head coach Gary) Coach Goff and Megan Soileau, our Director of Student-Athlete Services.

“We will never compromise academic integrity or devalue the importance of getting a degree in this department. It’s non-negotiable and I love how much we have improved in this area.”

Since becoming AD, Schroyer has made it known the importance of Poke Nation for the department.

“Our student-athletes and coaches are a part of this community,” he said. “We embrace Lake Charles and SWLA. The time spent by our department volunteering in our community is a BIG priority to me. Our department spent 100s of hours in our community helping various people and organizations.”

McNeese received the Southland Conference Community Service Award last year for its work in the community following the devastating hurricanes in 2020 which continues today.

“Our community and our university are still rebuilding from the destruction of the 2020 hurricanes and we never lose sight that we are in this together. This community is a part of our athletic department and our athletic department is part of the community. We are one in the same.”

The athletic season was capped this past weekend when Cowgirl high jumper Sakari Famous earned second team All-American honors following a 15th place finish at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. That came just weeks after the Cowgirls won their first-ever SLC outdoor team title.

The 2021-22 championship season got its first title from the men’s cross country team. The Cowgirl soccer team came a half a point from tying for the league regular season title, finishing second in the standings. The Cowgirls advance to the tournament semifinals before falling in a 1-0 heartbreaker. The volleyball team posted its highest finish in years with a third place mark and played for the SLC tournament championship.

The Cowgirls won the first of their two team titles in the winter when they captured the indoor championship for the first time in school history. The softball and baseball programs each won their regular season championships as softball went on to capture the SLC tournament title and garner a berth to the NCAA Tournament where it defeated Notre Dame twice to advance to its first-ever regional final before falling to College World Series participant Northwestern.

In addition, women’s cross country and the men’s indoor and outdoor track and field finished third in their respective championships.

“I couldn’t be prouder to have won five conference championships and had 10 out of 14 programs finish in the top three in the Southland standings,” commented Schroyer. “We had major improvements in many of our sports and make no mistake, that is the expectation here and will be as long as I’m here.

“We are in a position in the league to win and compete for conference championships in all sports. That is our expectation going forward. We had two new head coaches in both men’s and women’s basketball. I’m very excited to watch these programs grow and both compete for championships this coming season and in years to come.

“I absolutely love Coach Goff. I sleep a lot better knowing how Coach Goff is running this football program. There is no doubt in my mind we have the right guy and that we will be back to our rightful place, which is at the top of the Southland Conference, a lot sooner than many think.

“I’m also excited about our new tennis head coach, Gabrielle Moore. Our tennis program needs to be rebuilt from top to bottom and Coach Moore has the passion, energy and experience to do that.

“Coach Goff, Kennedy and Moore were all sitting championship head coaches when they came to McNeese. To get these coaches to leave their current jobs might be the biggest statement about where our department is headed.”

Financially, McNeese had its best year on record in fundraising and sponsorship dollars this past season.

“We all know that budget issues withing the state of Louisiana,” Shroyer said. “However, we will never use that as an excuse to not win championships. I’m proud of the fact that we broke all single year fundraising and corporate sponsorship numbers this past year. The formation of MAF (McNeese Athletic Foundation) with Dr. (Wade) Rousse and the University Foundation has been a game changer. We have centralized our efforts and became intentional and strategic. For us to continue, MAF must become the engine that truly supports the growth of McNeese Athletics.

The Southwest Louisiana community will benefit from McNeese Athletics the next four years with it hosting several Southland Conference Tournaments.

“That’s the number one thing, I’d have to say, that I’m most proud of when negotiating with the Southland,” said Schroyer, “and that’s hosting the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and baseball and softball championships over the next four years. It’s a game changer for our department and for our community.

“I’m excited and humbled to lead this department. Poke Nation… we’re just getting started!”

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