The Boxers took three national titles and finished 4th overall at the national championship tournament in Portland Feb. 20.
The tournament and the 28th national title since 1986 was a proper salute to head coach Mike Steele, who retired from coaching following the tournament after starting the team in his early career.
The tournament ended with freshman Angel Marquez winning the B Singles title, Becca Brown and Melissa Lund winning the Women’s A Doubles title and Angel Marquez and Ben Schmid winning the Men’s A Doubles title.
The Boxers closed the national tournament in 4th place of 31 colleges. The women’s team took third overall.
“As always, I am very, very proud of this fine group of Pacific student-athletes,” Steele said. “At the end of the last match yesterday, we had an informal ‘passing of the baton’ from me to our new Head Coach David Steinberg.”
Steele has been the head coach of the handball team since its inception in 1978. He has coached 28 individual/doubles national titles.
Reflecting on his career as head coach, Steele discussed his goals and accomplishments.
“We didn’t start out with goals in mind; we were just trying to survive as a club sport, but it took off and the rest is history,” Steele said. “Then we won back-to-back national team titles (2013-14). That level of success has been very rewarding. We don’t take it for granted; it’s hard work to succeed at that level.”
The Boxers had several student-athletes advance to semi-finals.
Junior Teresa Wright and Sophomore Julia Naumes took second in Women’s B Doubles, senior Kerry Lee took 2nd in Women’s C Singles and Kylie Martin was a semi-finalist in Women’s C singles.
Marquez’s performance earned him the honor of a $1,000 Sabo Scholarship for his academic background and athletic performance.
When asked what he will miss the most about coaching, Steele scored simply:
“I will miss the joy on a player’s face when he or she has made a great shot for a Boxer win.”
Steele added that there are some very promising recruits looking at Pacific, including an all-American from a junior college.