Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
TACOMA, Wash. – The NCAA released its annual stat champions for the 2017 fall sports with Pacific Lutheran University leading the nation in three stat categories while ranking among the nation's best in several more across four team sports.
The Lutes who captured Northwest Conference titles in men's and women's soccer and volleyball, led NCAA Division III in blocks per set on the volleyball court and save percentage in women's soccer while Lute goalkeeper Natalie Robinson led the nation as an individual in save percentage.
On the volleyball court, the Lutes (21-5, 14-2 NWC) ranked first in blocks per set at 2.55, beating out 429 other schools. Out of 433 teams, the women's soccer team (17-3-2, 13-2-1 NWC) finished first in save percentage, knocking away 92.3 percent of shots taken against them. They were also third with a goals against average of 0.221. Finally, the Lutes had a shutout percentage of 0.773, good enough for fourth in the nation.
The Lutes had individuals rank amongst the best in the nation as well. Volleyball's Mackenzie Harris finished the season ranked second in the nation in blocks per set (1.28) and 15th in total blocks (118).
"The main thing that helped me throughout the season was my teammates," Harris said. "I know I held the rankings personally, but we were ranked as a team for blocking as well. I tried to compete with myself each game and play better than the previous weeks and my teammates helped me focus on making myself better as a player and person rather than what my rankings were in the nation. Their support helped my focus on having fun and playing free instead of on keeping my rankings."
Natalie Robinson did an incredible job as the women's soccer team's goalkeeper in her first season as a starter. Robinson had a .923 save percentage, making her statistically the best goalkeeper in the nation. She was second in goals against average with a .221 mark. She was ultra reliable, playing the third most minutes (2,038) of any DIII Soccer player in the nation.
"The confidence I have developed this year through trust in my teammates, coaches, and our process has allowed me to play big, to not hesitate in situations, trust my abilities, and bounce back from mistakes," Robinson said. "Every player has a role they play, something they contribute and all of the previously mentioned things allowed me to just simply do my role to the best of my abilities."
Along with becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of PLU men's soccer (11-5-3, 9-3-2 NWC), Eddie Na finished 23rd in the nation with 16 goals scored. He also ranked 30th in goals per game (0.84).
On the gridiron, the Lutes (4-4, 4-3 NWC) were incredibly disciplined. The team finished 12th in fewest penalty yards (375). The defense was excellent, allowing the third fewest first downs (129). They also ranked fifth in team sacks with 3.88 per game. Isaiah Watkins was a huge contributor to the team's sack numbers. He was the eighth best in the country at getting to the opponent's quarterback, doing so 1.25 times per game.
The NCAA doesn't compile stat rankings for the sport of cross country which saw the Lute men finish second at the NWC Championships with Brad Hodkinson winning the NWC title and earning All-American honors after placing seventh at the NCAA Division III Championships in November.
"This has been a very special fall season," Athletic Director Laurie Turner said. "Our competitive success is directly correlated to the work ethic and dedication of our coaches and student-athletes during the offseason. For fall programs athletes and coaches must prepare diligently during summer months because of the short fall camp prior to competition. That being said our fall success was spearheaded by two long time part-time coaches with tremendous commitment to PLU."