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Top Cougar moments of 2011

With 2012 well underway - including the conference openers for both basketball teams and the final home meet for the swimmers & divers - the sports information staff at UMM wanted to take a quick look back at some of the highlights from the year that was 2011. It was 12 months that included conference champions, national tournament appearances, major awards, statistical champions and school records, and many more highlights that could not be included in this brief look.

In narrowing down the selection, the sports information staff came up with their top-10 moments from the last year. Any and all athletic endeavors from last spring and this fall were up for debate, before the final list was whittled down. So, in reverse order, here is the top-10.

10. Softball sets wins record, posts best UMAC finish at second place: A slow start in the non-conference season was no forecast for how the season would play out. The Cougars rebounded to go 18-16 in the regular season, breaking the program wins record set just the season before, while also going 15-6 in the UMAC, another UMM best. Behind the arm of Kaitlyn Randall and the bat of Diane Blommel, the Cougars won 11 of their final 14 games heading into the UMAC tournament.

9. Tyler Weber sets men's soccer shutout record: With a 3-0 win over Martin Luther on Oct. 26, senior goalkeeper Tyler Weber posted his ninth shutout of the season, breaking the four-year-old record of seven set by Tyler Simpson. Weber would go on to smash the mark, finishing the season with 11 and leading the UMAC along the way. Weber allowed a mere 12 goals in the season's 20 games, allowing multiple goals just once in the regular season. In his career he finished with 25 shutouts, just two shy of the program record, while holding the career mark for goals against average at 0.61.

8. Kaylie Clark named UMAC volleyball Defensive Player of the Year: She led the conference in digs with 193 in UMAC play, which included 425 in all games, the fourth best mark in league. Four times she topped the 20-dig mark, including 33 on Oct. 21 the second-best single game in the UMAC all season. In the UMM record books, she became just the 10th non-libero in program history to post over 400 , as well as the first since 2006. Also one of the top front-row players in the UMAC, she led the Cougars with 306 kills and was named First Team All-UMAC for the first time.

7. Brandi Cresap leads NCAA in assist-turnover ratio: Whether her great passes led to points, or simply prevented the opponent from easy take-aways going the other way, Brandi Cresap was the consummate floor leader for the Cougar women's basketball team last season. She finished the season with 117 assists and just 18 turnovers for a ratio of 6.5, nearly three-times her closest competitor. She was not only the DIII leader, either, as her mark led all levels of NCAA basketball. As the Cougars ripped through the UMAC late in the season, she posted a stretch with just two turnovers in 14 games.

6. Steph Roggenbuck named All-American Honorable Mention and UMAC MVP: She averaged over 17 points per game on the season, including nearly 19 in conference play. Ten times she topped the 20-point mark, most notably with a 23-point, 15-rebound effort as the Cougars beat rival Northwestern to lock up their second straight UMAC title. She was simply the best player in the conference all season long, and at season's end was honored by the league coaches as the UMAC Player of the Year. The accolades continued to roll in, even after the season ended, as she was named an Honorable Mention All-American by Women's DIII News, one of just two UMAC players honored.

5. Women's basketball makes second straight NCAA Tournament: With their 82-74 win over Northwestern on Feb. 26, the Cougars punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. Getting to play the UMAC Championship game at home, the Cougars held off a Northwestern squad that was paced by 37 points from star Katie DeWitt. Knowing they needed a win in the championship game to return to the dance, the Cougars went 8-of-9 from the free throw line down the stretch to lock up the win. Four of the Cougars starters finished in double figures - led by a double-double from Steph Roggenbuck with 22 and 10 - while Brandi Cresap pitched in five assists.

4. Men's track & field wins second straight UMAC Championship with 10 individual champions: They swept right through the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500-meter runs and went on to win titles in half of the Championship meets 20 events. They won by nearly 40 points over second place St. Scholastica, after suffering a narrow eight point loss in the indoor season. Todd Gramenz (100-meter), Leandro Dower (200-meter), Zach Smith (400-meter), Andrew Rehmann (800-meter), Luke Toso (1500-meter), Billy Visto (triple jump), Matt Anderson (shot put), Ryan Deroeck (high jump), the 4x100-meter relay and 4x400-meter relays all won individual UMAC titles.

3. Women's basketball completes perfect 14-0 UMAC season, winning their 27th straight conference game: After locking up their second straight UMAC title with two games left to go, the Cougars completed the perfect season in dominating fashion with a 69-41 over Northland in the regular season finale on Feb. 19. The win was also the 27th straight in UMAC play, a streak that started after a loss to Northland in the 2009-10 UMAC opener. It was the first unbeaten UMAC season for the Cougars since joining the league in 2003-04. The Cougars shot 54% in the game, while holding Northland to just a 27% mark in locking up their 14-0 UMAC record. The Cougars finished conference play with the best scoring offense (73.4) and best scoring defense (54.4) in the league.

2. Linda Keller places seventh at the NCAA Championships, named All-American for the second time: Making her third trip to the National Championship meet in as many years, junior Linda Keller ran the best race in her already-stellar career, earning her second consecutive All-America honor. She first earned All-America honors after a 19th place finish as a sophomore, before cracking the top-10 with a school record 21:07.60 this year. She dropped 10 seconds off her own record set earlier in the season, and finished just two seconds out of a top-five finish.

1. Men's soccer completes comeback at UMAC Tournament: After host St. Scholastica went up 2-0 in the 73rd minute, things looked bleak for the Cougars who were turned away on each of their previous six shots in the game. But just two minutes later Toby Glaser finally got the Cougars on the board, and then in the 89th minute Ebrima Badgie tied the match at 2-2 to force overtime. After two scoreless extra sessions, the Cougars had to overcome a 2-1 deficit early in the shootout, before Dylan Urban eventually gave the Cougars the win on the eighth shooter. It was the first UMAC Tournament title for the Cougars since 2008, after losing to the Saints each of the last two seasons, and sent UMM to their first NCAA Tournament.

Honorable Mention: Softball beats St. Scholastica for first time ... Abby Fragodt plays in UMAC Tennis Championship match ... Volleyball beats St. Scholastica in five at the Blazer Invitational, caps seven-match win streak ... Brendon Foss has four receptions (all touchdowns) and 153 receiving yards in shootout win over Martin Luther ... Swimming and diving sets five records at Liberal Arts Championships.