By: Don Rieber and 321sportscast)
With another sports season at Florida Tech in the books, it is time to take a look back at what 2018-2019 brought the Panthers. The athletes excelled in sports, as well as in the classroom.
In part one of our look back, we will focus on the fall and winter sports, which included a return trip to the playoffs for the football team. Coach Steve Englehart led the Panthers to their second playoff appearance in six seasons. The Panthers were led by a staunch defense; and quarterback Trent Chmelik, who guided the Panthers to an 8-4 season overall, including a 5-3 record in the Gulf South Conference. It was Chmelik’s first year starting under center for the Panthers.
The Panthers’ biggest win of the regular season came in the Coastal Classic rivalry game, against West Florida. FIT beat the Argos 30-28, bringing the trophy back to Melbourne for the first time in the three years the game has been played. Their success in the regular season propelled the Panthers to the NCAA Playoffs, facing the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears on November 17th. Unfortunately, the Panthers had a tough time stopping the Bears, as they allowed five unanswered scores, leading Lenoir-Rhyne to a 43-21 win. J.T. Hassell had 19 tackles in the game, and set a school record for tackles in a season, including a program-record 76 solo tackles. He set a single-game record with 20 tackles and had four sacks in a single game. All those records led to him being named the GSC Player of the Year, and also earned him the Co-Male Athlete of the Year at the Panthers end of the year banquet. Florida Tech also enjoyed some success in this year’s NFL draft, with Hassell being signed by the Cleveland Browns, Romell Guerrier signing with the Denver Broncos, and Adonis Davis earning an invite to Titans Camp.
The Panthers men’s soccer team finished 10-4-1 overall, and 6-3-1 in the conference. They lost 3-0 to Nova Southeastern in the SSC Tournament. The Panthers were ranked 24th in the nation at one point, with a record of 8-2.
The women’s soccer squad was 8-9-1 including 5-5 in the conference, under new coach Jessica Monarch, who took over on the bench for Dustin Smith. Monarch was previously an assistant on Smith’s staff. The Panthers finished 6-1 at home but got knocked out by Rollins in the SSC Tournament.
Men’s cross country wrapped their season on November 17, finishing 17th at the South Regional Championship. Joseph Berg was first across the line for the Panthers, finishing 51st out of 133, with a time of 33:37.80. Malte Stockhausen finished 79th with a time of 34:36.60.
Women’s cross country finished 15th overall with an average time of 25:49. They were led by Genevieve Lucas who recorded a time of 23:52.34 for a 53rd place finish. Pauline Cosson finished 68th, with a time 24:39.61
The volleyball team struggled this season, finishing with an overall record of 9-22, including 4-16 in SSC Play. They lost their last five games of the season. The Panthers graduated five key seniors.
Men’s basketball had a disappointing season, finishing 8-20 overall and 2-18 in the conference. They were hurt by injuries all season, including a shoulder injury to the lone senior on the team RJ Coil on January 19th, that forced him to miss the rest of the season. That was the same day that freshmen Sesan Russell joined the Panthers. Russell made an immediate impact and had a great season, but the Panthers never overcame the injuries, losing their final 10 games and missing the SSC tournament.
Women’s basketball finished with an identical 8-20 record, including 4-16 in SSC play. It was a frustrating season for coach John Reynolds, but the Panthers did win some close games late, including beating Texas Woman’s University 59-58 on December 19th and a 59-58 win over Nova Southeastern on January 2nd in a game that came down to the final minute.
The men’s swimming season concluded on March 16 at the NCAA Championships. In the 100 free, Victor Rocha Furtado set a new school record (43.07), good for a second-place finish. Furtado shared the Male Athlete of the Year award with Hassell this year. In the 400 free relay, the Panthers were able to finish fourth place in the event. Florida Tech recorded a time of 2:57.16 passing their seed time (2:57.81).
On the women’s side, the Panthers’ best performance was turned in by Savannah Brennan, who recorded a time of 2:19.95. It was not good enough to qualify for the finals.
In part two of our recap, the focus will shift to the excitement of Panthers spring sports.