Golden Year - Xavier University of Louisiana returns from hurricane hiatus

Golden Rush and Golden Nuggets win five GCAC Championships in 2006-07

May 2, 2007


Story by: Ed Cassiere, sports information director, 504-520-5707,

During the final week of April, new trophy cases -- replacements in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina --  were delivered to the lobby of The Barn, Xavier University's gymnasium. The timing couldn't have been better; there's plenty of new hardware to display.

After a one-year suspension because of the hurricane, Xavier athletics accomplished much more than a spirit-lifting comeback in 2006-07. The Gold Rush and Gold Nuggets won nearly half a dozen conference championships.

Five of Xavier's six teams -- men's cross country, women's cross country, men's basketball, men's tennis and women's tennis -- won Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championships to provide a pleasant surprise during the rebuilding of New Orleans.

"What a tremendous feat," Athletics Director Dennis Cousin said. "It was the result of a lot of hard work and the dedication of our student-athletes, coaches and staff. I had no idea we would come back as strongly as we did."

Firsts and improbable comebacks accompanied the championship harvest. The men's cross country team won its first GCAC title. The men's basketball team survived a 0-4 start in conference and earned a share of the regular-season championship with Tougaloo. And en route to its fifth GCAC title in six years, the women's tennis team earned its first NAIA top-10 ranking.

"We don't have the biggest department around, but pound-for-pound our department does an outstanding job," Cousin said. "We had great success winning in the GCAC this year, but more importantly, on graduation day, we'll have our share of young men and women receiving their degrees. That's the combination we strive for every day."

A recap of the championship seasons:

Women's Cross Country: The Gold Nuggets and their school-record six All-GCAC runners -- Ashley Broden, Ebony Harding, Amani Harlee, Lonique Moore, Mimi Mornay and Stacey Young -- cruised to a 31-point victory over runner-up Spring Hill in the league meet October 21 at Clinton, Miss. Xavier finished fourth in the NAIA Region XIII meet two weeks later, and Harding earned All-Region XIII and All-Louisiana honors. Harding also was selected Louisiana Newcomer of the Year, and second-year Coach Joseph Moses was GCAC and Louisiana Coach of the Year.

"I had the feeling our women could win conference," Moses said. "We peaked at the right time in the conference meet, and Ebony was consistent all year."

Men's Cross Country: The Gold Rush ran well but didn't run away with their GCAC championship. Despite a higher aggregate time than Spring Hill, the Gold Rush edged the Badgers by one point, 37 to 38, to earn their first title October 21 at Clinton. Darren Wallace, Chris Butler, Bryan Khan and Joshua Miles were All-GCAC, and Wallace was All-Region XIII after leading Xavier to a fifth-place finish in that meet. Moses was GCAC and Louisiana Coach of the Year.

"I knew the conference race was close," Moses said. "I didn't know we won until I was handed the official results. It was a great breakthrough for our men's program."

Men's Basketball: It was a rebuilding year for the Rush, but you never would have known it after January 11, when a 70-66 loss at Spring Hill was Xavier's sixth in seven games and dropped Xavier to 0-4 in the conference. From that point a predominantly freshman team with no returning starters from 2004-05 ripped off 10 consecutive GCAC victories for the first time in 20 years and earned a share of the regular-season title. Xavier then earned an at-large bid to the NAIA Division I National Tournament -- the third consecutive invitation was the first for the program -- then upset third-ranked Georgetown (Ky.) 82-79 to advance past the first round for the first time in 34 years.

Xavier's strongest area was its backcourt. Sophomore Shaun Dumas made the NAIA All-America third team and was chosen Louisiana Small College Player of the Year by the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches. Junior Mark Stewart shattered Xavier records for 3-pointers made in a season (109) and career (202) and was chosen third-team All-Louisiana. Both Dumas and Stewart were All-GCAC.

"It was an amazing season," Coach Dannton Jackson said. "It was a special group of young men with great chemistry and a commitment to improving every day. Short of winning a national championship, I doubt I'll experience a more satisfying season as a coach."

Men's Tennis: The Gold Rush was ranked 25th in the NAIA preseason poll, dropped out and reclaimed the No. 25 spot in mid-April. In between the Rush dominated the GCAC, winning all 62 of its regular-season and tournament matches and beating 2006 champion Spring Hill 6-0 in the tournament final April 13 at City Park in New Orleans. Not surprisingly, Xavier grabbed all but one spot on the All-GCAC team. Terry Richardson was Player of the Year, Cameron Knowles was Newcomer of the Year, and Alan Green was Coach of the Year. Miroslav Vukicevic, Mario Myles, Visumzi Kempele and Thomas Fugate also were all-conference.

"Our men had a very successful season," Green said. "But when we did not advance past the first round in the regional tournament, that left a bad taste in our mouths. That loss is motivating us already for next season. Our guys are working hard and preparing to go even further in 2008."

Women's Tennis: The Gold Nuggets, winner of four consecutive GCAC titles from 2002-05, captured another one April 13 by defeating 2006 champion Mobile 7-1 at City Park. Along the way the Nuggets earned their highest NAIA preseason ranking (No. 13), and their first top-10 ranking (No. 9 on March 7). Junior Dominique Bell was GCAC Player of the Year for the third time, and freshman Angelina Callis was GCAC Newcomer of the Year. Joining them on the all-conference team were teammates Alexandra Broussard, Yuliem Dominguez, Colleen McArthur and Jihanna Mughnee.

"You could make a case that this was the best women's tennis team in Xavier history," said Green, the women's GCAC Coach of the Year. "And we should be as good, if not better, next season because everyone will be back, and we'll add one or two new players."

The lone Xavier team that did not win a GCAC championship, women's basketball, didn't fare badly either. Coach Bo Browder's Nuggets lost four projected starters to season-ending knee injuries but still won 23 games, finished second in the GCAC regular season and tournament, then tied a program record by earning a sixth consecutive NAIA tourney bid. Junior guard Jarryn Cleaves led the Nuggets with a 14.2 scoring average, made a Xavier-record 88 3-pointers and was All-GCAC for the third time. She was one of three NAIA Division I players to reach 80 3-pointers, 60 assists and 70 steals during the season, and she was third-team All-Louisiana for the second time.

Sophomore center Erica Turnbull, who played just 37 minutes as a freshman, averaged 12.2 points and a team-leading 7.7 rebounds and was All-GCAC. Senior forward Dominee Matthews had her best season, averaging 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.

"We've never faced this much adversity in a season," Browder said. "I was proud of our ladies for their refusal to give up when times got tough. They should be proud of what they accomplished."




For more information on athletics at Xavier University of Louisiana,

contact Ed Cassiere, sports information director, at 504-520-5707 or

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