Racers recognized for results across 15 men and women’s teams, including 7 OVC championships

The Murray State Racers, 15 teams strong, learned Tuesday that their collective effort has brought Murray State University Athletics the Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner’s Cup for the first time since 2008-09.

The 12 members of the OVC were tracked during the 2018-19 season by their finishes in regular season and conference tournament competition. The Racers produced a combined seven OVC championships (tying the school mark from 1990-91) and set the OVC point total of 128, according to the OVC’s performance grid. Murray State’s 128 points set an OVC Cup record, surpassing the 124.5 points Eastern Kentucky had in 2014-15. The University’s winning margin is second all-time for the award.

“Murray State University is a special place because of the people in our program: the student athletes, coaches and administrators who work tirelessly to represent our state and region,” said Murray State Director of Athletics Kevin Saal. “2018-19 marks one of the most successful years in the history of our program. Seven OVC championships, tied for the best in program history, a top 80 ranking in the National Director’s Cup per the latest release and this, the first OVC Commissioner’s Cup for our program in ten years. We’re all very proud to earn this accomplishment.”

Not only have the Racers performed at a high level on the playing field; they have also matched it in the classroom.

“Those remarkable athletic achievements come as the Racers completed the spring semester with a 3.13 GPA, our 30th consecutive semester with a department-wide GPA above a 3.0,” Saal said. “We talk daily about ‘The Racer Way,’ which is a comprehensive dedication to our core values, the student athlete experience and broad-based competitive excellence. Congratulations to everyone in our program, our university, alumni, donors and supporters for their part in this remarkable achievement.”

Added Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson: “Today’s news of a Commissioner’s Cup award is a significant accomplishment for Murray State University as our student athletes, coaches and administrators do so much for the institution. Our student athletes, in particular, are competitors both within the field of athletics as well as in the classroom and represent us very well. This past year will be remembered by many as one of the finest in our proud history of Racer Athletics.”

Murray State’s second “All-Sport” Commissioner’s Cup win comes after the department won the title in 2008-09, the first year the league began the current points system combining men’s and women’s sports.

OVC member institutions are required to have four automatic counters (football, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball) plus the next eight highest place finishes among remaining sports regardless of gender. The non-football playing schools count baseball as one of their four main sports. Schools that win the OVC tournament championship in men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, men’s and women’s tennis receive one additional point added to their total points earned for that sport. There are also adjusted scoring systems for rifle, men’s indoor and outdoor track and men’s tennis.

The OVC Commissioner’s Cup will be presented to Murray State Athletics at the OVC Awards Brunch May 31 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Here is a breakdown of each Murray State sport for the 2018-19 school year.

Football

Under Coach Mitch Stewart, the Racers’ football team returned excitement and energy to Roy Stewart Stadium when they began the OVC season 4-0 for the first time since 1997. Along the way, the Racers produced five players named All-OVC and saw Quincy Williams become the Racers’ highest NFL draft pick in program history when taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round. Murray State University’s amazing 31-0 comeback against Southeast Missouri in the home finale will be legendary for years to come.

Soccer

Rookie coach Matt Lodge saw his first Racer team win 13 games total and place second in the OVC at 7-3. The Racers went on the road for the second time in school history to win the OVC Tournament with victories over Eastern Illinois and host UT Martin. The Racers sent out an amazing senior group including Caroline Ashton, Katie Brooks, Cori Cain, Lauren Nosal and Alex Steigerwald. During their four years for the Murray State University soccer program, they helped the Racers to a 50-16-7 record and a 32-4-1 record at Cutchin Field and also contributed three regular-season OVC titles and three OVC Tournament titles.

Volleyball

Dave Schwepker’s Racer volleyball squad posted 22 wins for the program’s fifth-consecutive 20-win season. The Racers placed second in the OVC, but went on the road and won the OVC Tournament at Austin Peay. The Racers played at Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, marking Murray State University’s fourth appearance.

Cross country

Competing in the 58th OVC Cross Country Championships, the Murray State men’s cross country team finished ninth with a total team score of 253 and the Racer women finished eighth with a total team score of 213.

Basketball (men)

Coach Matt McMahon and the Murray State University men’s basketball team produced another amazing season that included 28 wins, a pair of Ohio Valley Conference championships and the fourth NCAA Tournament win in program history. The excitement the Racers created in the 2018-19 season thrilled fans at home and in every arena they visited. The season will also be long remembered for Ja Morant. Only a sophomore, Morant captured the attention of the college basketball world as he ultimately was named a consensus All-American and OVC Player of the Year.

Basketball (women)

Coach Rechelle Turner’s team made strides in the right direction in the 2018-19 season, in which they won two more games than a season ago. Murray State University exceeded expectations in the conference standings, finishing sixth after being picked 12th in the league’s preseason poll. Murray State University was the sixth seed in the OVC Tournament and ended their season with a 77-56 loss to No. 3 UT Martin.

Baseball

Rookie Coach Dan Skirka saw his team exceed preseason predictions when they had their best record in the OVC since 2010 and placed fifth, after they were picked ninth in the OVC preseason poll. The Racers became the ‘comeback kids’ during the season as they recorded 14 victories when trailing and none bigger than when they twice trailed Eastern Kentucky by six runs in one OVC weekend, only to rally and win both. At the OVC Tournament, the Racers were seeded fifth, the best seed they had earned since 2010.

Rifle

The Racers finished fourth at the NCAA Championship, where they produced an Elite 90 Award, two All-America winners and other recognition for Coach Alan Lollar. Prior to the NCAAs, the Racers won their fourth-straight OVC title and 14th in program history, which is top in the conference. Coach Lollar was named OVC Coach of the Year for the seventh time.

Golf (men)

The Murray State men’s golf team made Coach Eddie Hunt a very happy man when they teed it up at the OVC Championship in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in April. The Racers produced the best 54-hole scoring event in Hunt’s 18 seasons as coach. Murray State University placed third at the OVC season-ender and have loads of momentum going into next season.

Golf (women)

The story of Coach Velvet Milkman’s 26th Murray State University team will go down in history among the best of the best. It included Murray State University’s third-straight OVC women’s golf championship, and Linette Holmslykke became the first player in OVC history to qualify and play in the NCAA Championship Finals.

Softball

The Murray State softball team posted a 16-6 record in the OVC and their best OVC start in program history, which produced a share of second place. Murray State University’s 16 conference victories was the second best mark since the program was launched in 2010. The Racers were picked ninth in the preseason predictions of the OVC, but left that thought in the dust after an amazing start to OVC play at 7-1.

Tennis

Coach Jorge Caetano and his fourth edition of Racer tennis made another push for the OVC regular season title. The Racers took it all the way to the final weekend of play and finished third. Murray State University was 12-9 in the 2018-19 season and have had a second place and third place finish in the last two seasons.

Track and Field

In Coach Adam Kiesler’s second season, the Racers finally realized a prize they’ve tried to get for 27 years. The Racers won Murray State University’s first OVC Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship since 1992. In dramatic fashion, the Racers had their first gold medal in the pole vault when senior Emily Heil and freshman Brooke Misukonis shared it. Murray State University had its first 1-2-3 finish in the heptathlon, and sprinter Tamdra Lawrence became the first in OVC women’s history to win the 100m dash as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior.

The Murray State Racers, 15 teams strong, learned Tuesday that their collective effort has brought Murray State University Athletics the Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner’s Cup for the first time since 2008-09.

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