PROVIDENCE, RI – 2017 was another banner year for the Johnson & Wales University athletics department and the local media took notice. On Sunday, the Wildcats were recognized for their accomplishments at the 72nd Annual Words Unlimited Banquet, held at the Cranston Country Club.
Johnson & Wales took home a trio of awards: Nancy Somera (Female Coach of the Year), Kate Walker (Co-Female Athlete of the Year) and the Small College Achievement honor.
Somera won virtually every coaching honor this season, including AVCA Division III National Coach of the Year. She led the Wildcats to a 35-0 record before falling to Calvin in the NCAA Quarterfinals. JWU climbed the AVCA national rankings throughout the season, cracking the poll on October 3 at No. 20 before finishing the year rated sixth.
Walker was named AVCA First-Team All-American as well as CoSIDA Second-Team Academic All-American. Both are program firsts. For the second year in a row, she led the NCAA in hitting percentage. Walker reset her own school record with a rate of .472 and is now the JWU career leader at .454 percent. Walker led the GNAC and was among the national leaders at 0.88 blocks per set while averaging 2.70 kills per set.
In 2017 the Wildcats won six conference championships and a pair of regional titles. Lonnie Morris' wrestling squad set the bar high by finishing fourth at the NCAA Championships thanks to a school-record five All-Americans. Within an hour of each other on May 7, the women's lacrosse team won its first GNAC Championship then the softball squad captured its third in a row.
Men's golf kicked off the fall with its fifth GNAC title, but the first since 2009. JWU set the GNAC record with the lowest score in relationship to par. A week later the women's tennis team captured its second league title in a row. Both teams will take part in the NCAA Championships this spring.
Putting a bow on the year was the historic run by the volleyball team. The Wildcats won their third GNAC title in a row and host the NCAA regional tournament, a first for a GNAC team. JWU won back-to-back thrilling five-set matches to capture its first regional championship. The Wildcats had a program-best four All-Americans, the most of any team in the country.