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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The most compelling storylines from action-packed season in UC Davis Athletics

ZACK ZOLMER / AGGIE

2017-2018 season provided no shortage of memorable moments for all 23 teams on campus

As the end of the school year approaches, let’s take a look back at five of the most memorable stories, in no particular order, from UC Davis Athletics during the 2017-2018 season. When we look back at this season in another decade down the line, these are the moments that will stand out above all others.

Chima Moneke’s season-ending suspension puts a damper on a great career

Nobody will soon forget the mysterious nature of senior forward Chima Moneke’s midseason suspension from the men’s basketball team, which ultimately ended his Aggie career.

On the afternoon of Feb. 3, shortly before the Aggies took on Long Beach State, the UC Davis men’s basketball twitter account announced that “Chima Moneke has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules that govern conduct at the team’s hotel. He returned to Davis and will not participate in today’s game. A review of this situation by University officials is in process, we will provide updates when available.”

Moneke never stepped foot on the hardwood again and, despite clinching the top seed in the Big West conference tournament, the Aggies stumbled in the semifinals against Cal State Fullerton and missed on a return to March Madness after reaching the tournament for the first time ever in the winter of 2017.

The University hasn’t announced any updates on the investigation since then and details regarding the incident have been few and far between. The incident reportedly took place in Woodland Hills at the Warner Center Marriott Hotel, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Nonetheless, Moneke has no plans to give up his dreams of playing professional basketball anytime soon. In May, he declared for the upcoming NBA Draft, which takes place on June 22.

Moneke also tried out for Melbourne United, an Australian professional team in the National Basketball League. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, he’s been working out with Drew Hanlen, who runs an academy called “Pure Sweat Basketball” that has trained NBA players like Joel Embiid.

Moneke was a star for UC Davis in his short time on campus. He was named the Big West Player of the Year by SB Nation for the 2017 season, and was well on his way to more awards this year before his season was cut short.

Dynamic duo of Keelan Doss and Jake Maier light up the Big Sky and put UC Davis football on the map with record-setting seasons

There were no shortage of fireworks both on and off the field for UC Davis football this past season. After the monumental hire of head coach Dan Hawkins in the preceding offseason, the Aggies went out and totaled as many wins as they did in the previous two seasons combined. Led by sophomore quarterback Jake Maier and junior wide receiver Keelan Doss, UC Davis finished as the top offense in the Big Sky for the first time ever, averaging over 33 points and 480 yards per game.

Doss finished with more receiving yards (1,499) than any other player in college football, including both the FBS and FCS, during the regular season.

He garnered numerous first-team All-American honors following the season, in addition to the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year award. He was also the school’s first ever finalist for the Walter Payton award, which recognizes the best offensive player of the year in the FCS.

Doss was the centerpiece of some memorable nights at Aggie Stadium, as he shattered numerous school records throughout the fall. His best game was a 15-catch, 208-yard performance against Eastern Washington in early October, which included a ridiculous one-handed grab that went viral.

Doss decided to forgo an opportunity to declare for the  NFL Draft and announced he was returning to UC Davis for his senior season back in late January.

Maier also had an unbelievable season for the Aggies in his first year on campus after transferring from Long Beach City College. He set a dozen new program records, like throwing for over 300 yards on nine different occasions. Some of his finest showings included a 459-yard game against Cal Poly and a contest versus North Dakota when he completed 86 percent of his throws. Fortunately for the Aggies, Maier will be sticking around for at least another season or two.

Mahalia White shines as a freshman, overcomes obstacles off the court

Freshman outside hitter Mahalia White burst onto the scene this year for the women’s volleyball team, putting forth a dominant effort on the court that earned her the Big West Freshman of the Year award. She broke the program’s record for kills (398) as a first-year player and led the Aggies to a winning record, 16-14. In late October, she put up a jaw-dropping display with 27 kills in a 3-1 win over Long Beach State.

Shortly after the conclusion of her sensational freshman season, White revealed on her Instagram account that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would be starting chemotherapy. She had been playing through back soreness throughout the season before an MRI revealed the cancer.

After lots of treatment over the course of the winter and spring, White declared on May 18 that she was in remission, with a video posted to her Twitter account. The tweet received over 28,000 retweets and over 150,000 likes, just a small testament to the outpouring of support she’s received throughout the entire process. White’s playing status for next season is up in the air at this point as she continues to recover.

 

Women’s basketball goes on incredible run, nearly reaches NCAA tournament

The women’s basketball team enjoyed one of its best seasons ever, clinching the Big West regular season title with a 28-7 record and making it all the way to the Elite Eight of the WNIT. The Aggies defended their home court marvelously all season long, to the tune of a 14-1 mark at the Pavilion.

Led by Big West Coach of the Year Jennifer Gross, the Aggies recorded their second most wins ever and smashed numerous program records along the way. The team really hit its stride in the middle of the year and closed the regular season on a blistering 18-4 streak.

Junior forward Morgan Bertsch, an All-Big West first team honoree, started all 35 contests and led the team with an average of 20 points per game

Similar to their male counterparts, the team narrowly missed out on a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament. The Aggies were edged by CSU Northridge in the Big West tournament championship game.

T.J. Shorts’ jaw-dropping run of late-game heroics

Junior guard T.J. Shorts was a huge reason why the UC Davis men’s basketball team delivered a multitude of memorable moments in another wildly successful season this winter. His clutch, late-game heroics kept UC Davis’ conference titles hopes alive late in the season, when he scored 20 points or more in six of the final eight games.

Shorts provided the most highlight-worthy moment of the year with his layup-style, game-winning, three-point shot against Long Beach State, with 1.9 seconds remaining in double overtime.

Just five games later, he did it again with a go-ahead layup against UC Riverside with 0.9 seconds left on the clock.

With a Big West title hanging in the balance in the regular season finale versus UC Irvine, Shorts was the one who knocked down consecutive free throws to push the contest into double overtime. The Aggies went on to claim the title by a final score of 90-84.

 

 

Written by: Brendan Ogburn — sports@theaggie.org

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