March 2, 2023, marked a symbolic milestone for UC Riverside Athletics. The Highlanders men’s basketball team was competing for first place in the Big West Conference in front of an electric crowd at a sold-out SRC Arena. It was one of the biggest games in the program’s history at the conclusion of its most successful season at the Division I level.
History-making success was a consistent theme for the entire Highlander athletic program during the 2022-23 season – in the classroom, on the court, on the field, and beyond.
“UCR Athletics has turned the corner. We are here for the long haul,” said Wes Mallette, director of intercollegiate athletics at UC Riverside in a message on GoHighlanders.com.
Highlander student athletes achieved a cumulative grade point average of just under a 3.2 in the 2022-23 academic year and the graduating senior class boasted a 3.3 GPA. All 17 teams had a team GPA of 3.0 or higher and as a program, UCR Athletics earned a 985 Academic Progress Rate and earned the NCAA APR award this year. A total of 180 student-athletes earned Big West Commissioner’s Honor Roll recognition and 82 student-athletes earned Big West All-Academic Honors.
Big West Championships
Led by Head Coach Tim Cupello, the men’s soccer team won the Big West regular season and conference titles in 2022, earning a second trip in four years to the NCAA Men’s College Cup. It was also the second Big West Tournament title for Coach Cupello’s program in four years.
Track & Field’s Linda Perez (1500 meters), Shiloh Corrales Nelson (shot put), and the women’s track 4x400m relay team (Saniyah Starks, Delaney Harris, Sierra Sutton, and Ray Olukoju) also took home Big West titles.
NCAA Postseason Appearances
Sophomore Tiffany Le became the first golfer in program history to compete in the NCAA Championships after finish third in the Pullman Regional.
The men’s soccer team battled against Portland in the opening round of the 2022 Men’s College Cup. The women’s golf team competed in the Inaugural National Golf Invitational.
Linda Perez, Collette Lowengrub, JT Ober III, and Shiloh Corrales-Nelson represented Track & Field at NCAA West Prelims, while Ray Olukoju once again broke her own school record in the 200 as one of five Highlanders at the USA Track & Field U20 Championships.
Coaches of the Year and Players of the Year
Men’s basketball Head Coach Mike Magpayo and men’s soccer Head Coach Tim Cupello both earned Big West Coach of the Year honors. Magpayo, who recently agreed to a 5-year contract extension, led the men’s basketball team to its first 20-win season at the Division I level.
Multiple student-athletes earned Big West Player of the Year honors including men’s soccer goalkeeper Carlos Gonzalez and women’s golfer Tiffany Le. Men’s basketball’s Jamal Hartwell won the conference 6th Man of the Year award and Lachlan Olbrich was named Freshman of the Year.
Conference and Regional Honors
A total of 26 Highlanders earned All-Big West honors and three took home All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation awards.
UCR at the World Cup
Women’s soccer alumna Quinley Quezada helped the Philippines Women’s National Team earn its first-ever World Cup victory during this year’s Women’s World Cup. UCR alumnus Aaron Long represented the U.S. on the Men’s National Team at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Other Highlanders on the Global Stage
Softball Head Coach Nikki Palmer and Women’s soccer Head Coach Nat Gonzalez continued their tenures as head coaches for Israel’s National Team (Softball) and Puerto Rico’s Women’s National Team (Soccer) this summer.
Men’s basketball spent part of their preseason on a 10-day tour of Australia where they played four professional teams and visited several cities, while the men’s soccer team visited Mexico City in June, in partnership with AlianzaMX and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, where they competed against one professional and two university teams.
Highlander fans attending games this upcoming season will notice several facilities enhancements, including beautification of the softball and baseball fields, new turf at UC Riverside Soccer Stadium, and new seating at SRC Arena. Student athletes will be wearing Nike uniforms and apparel following the announcement of a five-year agreement between UCR Athletics, Nike, and BSN Sports.
Mallette credits an environment of stability and campuswide support as instrumental to the program’s success this past season and its potential in the long team. “We have alignment throughout Athletics and across campus, which keeps everyone focused on our mission of building and preparing student athletes for opportunities in life through sport,” said Mallette. “Stability is key to the long-term success of any program and stability for us is the result of creating great culture and ensuring alignment is ever present.”