March 27th, 2014
The Broncs baseball team faced off against the New Mexico State University Aggies at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium March 21-23. The Broncs played three games against the Aggies to start their career in the Western Athletic Conference, winning only one game.
Alex Henson, starting pitcher in game two of the series, knows all too well how a team such as the Aggies can benefit when the opposing team struggles. This is what helped them take two out of the three games.
“They are pretty good,” said Henson, a junior from Evansville, Ind. “You can’t go in there throwing balls and walking people because good teams are going to capitalize on that and that’s what they did.”
This series of games was the first WAC action for the University. Currently, the Broncs stand at 11-15 overall and started the league season on a high note, beating the Aggies 9-4 March 21. Although it was a win, it started slowly. In the first three innings, the Broncs did not get a single hit versus starting pitcher Christopher Bradley.
However, the pace quickened as UTPA sophomore Bryan Ramirez and freshman Victor Garcia Jr. hit back-to-back doubles in the fourth. Later, infielder Jesus Garcia hit a grounder to put the Broncs 2-0.
The Broncs took the win and outfielder Alex Howe attributed the result to the team’s drive.
“Our defense all year has been really solid,” said Howe, a senior from Australia. “We’ve missed plays, but that’s okay. The guys played hard the whole time and even when we were down, we came back.”
The team continued the pace against New Mexico State in the fifth inning, once again turning the tables on the Aggies as freshman Blake Thomas grounded out, allowing senior Alberto Morales to run in for a score. While running in, Morales knocked the ball out of the catcher’s mitt, and senior Dillon Engelhart also scored. Shortly after the surprise run by Engelhart, junior Evan Mason and Howe provided hits as the score inflated to 9-4.
This was not repeated in game two of the series. Despite a powerful showing from Howe, who hit two doubles and drove in three runs, the Broncs took a 7-4 loss March 22.
“This was a tough loss tonight,” said Howe, who is hitting .349 for the season with 18 RBI. “They got ahead and we weren’t able to get back. (We were) scratching and clawing to get that back but then, unfortunately, gave it up again. That’s baseball. It happens.”
The Broncs could not stop the Aggies from loading the bases in the second inning, leading to a two-run frame and a 4-0 lead for the visitor.
The Broncs then fought back as third baseman Morales hit his second home run of the season, making the score 4-1. Finally, the Broncs picked up momentum in the fourth, scoring three runs. Despite the comeback, the Broncs could not maintain the tie and lost as the Aggies fought back in the sixth, scoring three times.
With one loss on their mind, the Broncs walked into their final try against the Aggies March 23. For the last game of their first WAC series, the Broncs were out to impress. In the first inning they scored after Morales plated a run with a grounder.
The teams were at a stalemate that did not break until the sixth inning. Just then, Thomas scored a run after Ramirez and Garcia singled, but the Aggies woke in the seventh inning, scoring three runs and pushing past UTPA for the final win of 3-2.
Shortly after their final loss against the Aggies, the Broncs took a loss to Texas Christian University March 24 with a score of 11-0. After their loss the Broncs were rained out against TCU March 25, that game will not be made up but scratched from the schedule. Next, they are off to the Northwest to play against Seattle University March 28-30. The team will be on the road for two weeks and Howe knows all too well what they have in store.
“It’s pretty tough playing on the road,” he said. “We haven’t won too many games on the road yet, hopefully we can turn that around next week.”
After their trip, the Broncs return to Edinburg Stadium to play against Texas A&M Corpus Christi for a non-conference game April 2 at 6 p.m.
March 11th, 2014
Early on the UTPA Broncs baseball team has taken home a three-game winning streak against the Arlington Baptist Patriots. The game ended in a double header March 8.
The Broncs last game against the Patriots allowed for a 4-2 victory at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium. Originally, the game was meant to spread from March 7-9. But because of bad weather heading toward the Rio Grande Valley, Saturday’s game was turned into a double header, forcing the Broncs and the Patriots to play a total of 18 innings with only a 40 minute prep time in-between.
According to the Bronc third basemen, Alberto Morales, the team held together through the day. It was not easy but in the end its what they had to do.
“Anytime you get three wins on a weekend its good,” Morales said. “These (doubleheaders) are just a mental grid. You know you got to play 18 innings and you just got to grind it out. Fatigue is going to kick in but the mental side is the strong side.”
While the Broncs ended their back-to- back weekend, Kyle Tokunaga had his first start of the season against the Patriots March 8. He pitched a total of seven innings and led the team to a 5-2 game against their opponents.
“It felt pretty good,” Tokunga said. “Went out there, threw a lot of strikes, threw a lot of ground balls and that’s what you got to do when you go pitch, you got to give your team a chance to win. Getting strikes-that’s what is going to do it.”
With their noses to the grindstone, the Broncs pulled through against the Patriots but know that they still have a whole season ahead of them. With their first Weastern Athletic Conference game coming up, Morales and his team are eager to move up in the ranks of this new conference.
“We are excited for our first WAC weekend, which is coming up two weeks from now (March 21).” Morales said. “It’s exciting and we are ready to play. As a team we are just trying to win a WAC championship…first year will be a big deal for us…but that is what I am looking forward to.”
Although the Broncs ended this spring break weekend with a win they will head out on a 7 game road trip starting March 11-12. The first stop will be College Station, where they will battle it out against the Texas A&M University Aggies for the first time this season.
February 27th, 2014
Australian senior Sam Street went all nine innings in the first game of the Al Ogletree Classic Feb. 21, pitching a 1-0 victory against the Northwestern State University Demons at Edinburg Baseball Stadium. Street started the night by retiring the first 11 batters before Demons’ third baseman Chase Daughdrill singled in the fourth inning. He would then respond by not allowing another hit until the ninth. The game was part of the 10th annual Al Ogletree Classic played Feb. 21-23.
The Broncs won three games during the tournament and lost one.
“Sam (Street) is a good one,” said legendary coach Al Ogletree. “He is from Australia and we need to get a few more from down there…I’m real impressed with him, he is a great pitcher.”
Ogletree, who has been inducted into nine Hall of Fames around the state of Texas, is a Texas A&M alum who led Pan American University as coach to a 44-9 record and a fourth place finish at the College World Series of 1971. Ogltree’s record at PAU was 1,084-618-1. He retired in 1997 and UTPA honored him by naming the classic after him in 2004.
Feb. 21, Street finished the night with 11 strikeouts and the two-hitter was his ninth career complete game and fourth career shutout. Last year he was 10-3 with a 2.73 ERA, and in 2014 he is 2-0 so far. His efforts earned him Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week.
“In the last inning I kept the same thought process I’ve been thinking all night,” Street said. “At the end there I concentrated on the breaking ball a bit more.”
The Broncs got their only run in the first inning. Junior Michael Baca was on second base when senior right fielder Alex Howe stepped up to the plate and hit a two-out, RBI-single.
The Broncs would relax for the night before they were back on the field Feb. 22 against the Prairie View A&M Panthers. For the first time in 42 years and for the third time in program history, they recorded back-to-back 1-0 victories. The last time the Broncs accomplished this was against Baylor April 28-29, 1972, when Ogletree was head coach.
Blake English started the day as the first pitcher for the Broncs. English gave them their second great start as he worked eight shutout innings, allowing four hits. When English’s job was over, junior Clayton Haltom took over in the ninth inning and pitched a hitless inning.
The Broncs’ sole run came in the third inning. Bases loaded with one out, third baseman Alberto Morales was at the plate and the count was one ball and one strike. Morales took the pitch and hit a pop fly, which brought in second baseman Bryan Ramirez from third.
“Well they have been playing good,” Ogletree said. “Good defense is what it is and good defense will win you a lot of ball games.”
The game was the first of two that day the Broncs had little time to soak in the victory before losing to the Demons, 6-4.
Although action started at the top of the fourth inning, the game was decided in the ninth. Down 6-3, the Broncs started off with back-to-back singles. After an out, Howe came to plate and ripped an RBI-single to close the gap to two runs. Morales came up to the plate next and walked. The Demons brought in pitcher Adam Oller, who struck out twice to end the game.
The Broncs closed out the Al Ogletree Classic the following day as they faced the Panthers for the second time. The Broncs were able to draw a season-high 13 walks to go along with eight hits in the 9-3 victory.
It is the third time the Broncs have drawn 13 walks since Manny Mantrana became head coach in 2008, the last being April 30, 2011 against Houston Baptist.
“Any time you can play four games and go 3-1, it’s a good thing, I am proud of my team,” Mantrana said. “We came back from a rough night against Northwestern but we came back, battled back and had a good performance.”
Freshman and former Nikki Rowe athlete Andrew Padron had his first career start and allowed one run, three hits and struck out two in five innings. Through the fifth, the Broncs would dominate the game with an 8-1 score.
Howe was one home run short of the cycle on the final game of the classic as he was one of the Broncs’ six walks during their four-run, one hit fifth inning. The Australian native was also named WAC Player of the Week, but for hitting, and doing it by hitting .733 (11-for-15) with a .765 on-base percentage and .933 batting percentage to go with four RIB’s, three runs and four stolen bases.
“We can always continue to improve,” Howe said. “We need to get some more good pitches to hit and make the opponents pay for it.”
The Broncs were honored to play in front of Ogletree and even more honored that he had praise for their defense.
“UTPA baseball is Al Ogletree,” Mantrana said. “Any time he gives us a compliment we are very honored and blessed. We are just trying to rebuild what he did here and I think we have the players to do so.”
Ogletree often misses being out on the field but is honored that the tournament is now in its 10th year.
“Being with the boys is what I miss most about the game,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “You got to play hard, play smart and have fun, those are the things you need to do when you’re out there on the field.”
The Broncs are now 5-4 and will play at home March 7-9 against Arlington Baptist College. First game starts at 7 p.m. at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium.
February 20th, 2014
UTPA Athletics inducted five former Bronc athletes into the UTPA Athletics Hall of Fame Feb. 15 and also inducted a former football captain and former Pan American Board of Regents member into the Hall of Honor.
The Hall of Fame now has 41 former athletes and three teams in the place of honor. Its voters are members of the Hall of fame and members of the Hall of Fame committee. The candidates with the top six point totals, who are also named on a majority (51 percent) of the ballots cast, are inducted.
Lou Hassell, inducted into the Hall of Honor, played football for the Broncs when the school was known as Edinburg Junior College in 1927. He was a defensive tackle and served as team captain as a sophomore. He would later go on to be on the Pan American Board of Regents, where he established and endowed the scholarship that goes to the male student-athlete with the highest GPA each year. The scholarship is still given under his name.
Marshall Rogers had one of his best years in his final season in 1975-76, leading the nation in scoring with a program record of 36.8 points per game. He set the record for points in a season with 919 points and holds the record for field goals made in a season with 361. In the 1975-76 season, he also set the program record for most points UTPA scored in a game, 58, against Texas Lutheran and was named All-American for the second year in a row.
Rogers finished his career fifth in program history with 1,507 points, sixth in field goals with 609, eighth in free throws with 28, fourth in free throw shooting percentage at .819 and tied for 10th in steals with 116.
His basketball career did not end at The Pan American, as he would go on to be 34th overall pick in the 1976 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors.
The super scorer died in June 2011 at the age of 57, so his daughters, Marsha Rogers and Goldie Thompson, spoke at the induction ceremony on behalf of their father.
“Marshall loved basketball,” Thompson said. “Our hope is that his three grandchildren, who all play basketball, will carry on his love of the game.”
Guadalupe “Lupe” Canul, class of 1966, was a pitcher for the Broncs from 1963-66, leading the team to their first two playoff appearances. In 1964, he finished with a record of 8-2 and in 1965 he went 16-10 and led the Broncs to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Texas Championships. Canul played professionally for 10 years in Mexico after his time at The Pan American, then came back to coach the Rio Grande Valley White Wings and at the high school level for 25 years. In 2002, he was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame.
Canul’s teammate in 1963 and 1964 was shortstop Alonso “Knot” Garcia, who was also inducted this year. After his Bronc career, Garcia played in the minors for the Pittsburgh Pirate organization before moving to the Mexican League from 1964-75.
Garcia also served his country when his number was called. In May 1966, he was drafted and spent a year and half in Vietnam. His service earned him the National Defense Medal, the Service Medal, the Sharpshooter (Rifle M-14) Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal. He was honorably discharged in May 1972.
After he served his country, he returned to the Mexican League and coached American Legion Baseball in Edinburg after retiring in 1975. The Vietnam vet passed away Dec. 27, 2005 at the age of 62.
His son, Robert Garcia, Richard Flores and Garcia’s grandchildren were there on his behalf, where one of the granddaughters expressed her joy to know that her grandfather’s legacy would live on. Flores played for the Broncs in the late 1950s and is one of the winningest high school coaches in Valley history.
Manny Martinez, class of 1974 and Nancy Verástegui, class of 1997, both played golf for the Broncs and usually aimed for fairways and greens. Through their accomplishments they ended up landing on the greens of the Hall of Fame.
Martinez golfed for the Broncs from 1970-74 and became the first school golfer to qualify for the NCAA Championship in 1971, repeating the feat in 1973 and 1974. In 1973, he entered the 48th annual Mexican Amateur Tournament where he finished second.
At the ceremony Feb. 15, Martinez thanked his class of 2011 Hall of Fame Coach Tony Guerrero, who was in attendance.
“He was like a father to us. He took us all over Mexico to compete in tournaments. It was a great experience,” Martinez said of Guerrero, who coached the team from 1969-97.
The most recent Bronc to be inducted was Verástegui, who golfed for the Broncs from 1994-97 and finished her career with four wins and two second-place finishes. She qualified for the NCAA Regionals in 1997 and won the Sun Belt Conference Championship in 1995 and 1997. In 1997, she shot a career-best 223 to win the title, the fourth lowest individual score in program history. The three-time All-Sun Belt Conference honoree was named UTPA Female Student-Athlete of the Year, twice. She was the first Bronc to win a tournament title, scoring a 225 (81 and back-to-back rounds of 72) to take the Lady Panther Classic at Norwood Country Club in Lawrenceville, Ga. in 1994.
“With my family’s love and support, I was able to reach my dreams,” Verástegui said at the ceremony. “I want to say to anyone out there trying to reach their dreams, never give up and work hard. It’s worth the sacrifices.”
From 1990-92, Rene Guillen did nothing but run, win and set records. Guillen won the American South Conference Championship in 1990, earned All-Sun Belt Conference honors in 1991 and reached the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 1990 and 1991.
The 1990 ASC champion would set program records in the 4-mile and 8,000-meter runs in cross country and indoor track records for the 5,000-meter run while running in the conference championship in 1991. He would later go on to break the program record for the 10,000-meter run in an outdoor track and field event.
“UTPA gave me the opportunity to dream big and enjoy something I’ve always enjoyed,” Guillen said. “I know that traditions going to continue here.”
February 6th, 2014
Quick and quiet breaths come one after another as the phlebotomist says to stay calm and relax. She takes a light blue tourniquet and places it up above the crook of an elbow. “Breath,” she says, taking note of the blue vein as it begins to swell. Then there is a slight pinch, and a quick prick of pain as the needle hits home. Eight minutes later a bag of blood and plasma sit separated on a sterile white table.
This is the process of a simple blood donation. A process each of the Bronc baseball players went through in honor of Nolan Naranjo and Jiada Grace Ortiz, Jan. 30 at the UTPA Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex.
The drive was held by United Blood Services and is not solely for Ortiz and Naranjo, but the two have been sponsored by the team in the past with not only two previous blood drives but a bone marrow drive as well.
Both children are from the Rio Grande Valley were diagnosed with a type of rare bone marrow disease known as Aplastic Anemia. The illness affects the bone marrow the patient; this causes them to stop producing enough red blood cells and white blood platelets.
UTPA Assistant Coach Norberto Lopez explained that the blood drive was in honor of the children and marked another chance for the team, as a whole, to give back.
“We have been able to help a couple of kids in the past,” Lopez said. “They had some real rare blood disease…(Head Coach Manny Mantrana) wants to teach the guys, he wants to make sure that we teach them that it isn’t just about us and our lives. (It’s about) going every day and making sure that we are giving back and helping out.”
This event is by no means the first or last of its kind. This is the third year in a row that the Broncs have hosted the drive.
Recently, the baseball players paired with members of the women’s basketball team to host a bone marrow drive in November. The bone drive held Nov. 13 was to sponsor Naranjo, who was diagnosed with Pre-leukemia and was in need of a transplant.
Andy Fortuna, a Bronc outfielder, was present and donated at the January drive. He feels that he and the team should hold themselves to a standard where the community is also a priority.
“This is to set an example to the rest of the community,” the senior physical therapy major said. “If they see a group of guys in jerseys donating blood they will come around. Being a part of the University everyone looks at us in a certain way, we always try to set an example to everybody else.”
According to Fortuna this is a belief that the coaching staff has instilled in these players and has made the team what it is.
His coaches agree.
”We have been doing this for four years,” Lopez said. “And we might have a special group, cause they never complain. I’ve seen guys that are scared of needles and they are freaking out, they are almost turning white, but they still want to do it. And I think that is a testament to Coach Mantrana; he really preaches to them and tells them about giving back.”
Whether it is the ideals instilled in them by their coaching staff or peer pressure that keep them donating, the end, even first-timers see the value.
Jesus Garcia, a shortstop for the team, said sometimes it’s the little things that matter, and taking time out of their days to donate is a small price to pay.
”This was my first time,” Garcia said. “And you really don’t feel much. It did not bother me at all, it was for a good cause. We are doing a small part for something big and this is what we are doing, each of us, It will contribute little by little to something big.”
January 30th, 2014
With February just a couple of days away, some people count down to Valentine’s Day, but Feb. 14 also marks the start of Bronc baseball. Before Texas A&M-Corpus Christi comes to town, the Broncs have to see what they have and where they are before the season starts by playing against each other in the annual Green and White Series.
In the first game of the Green and White Series Jan. 25, senior pitchers Sam Street and Matthew Harrell combined to strike out 11 while only allowing five hits in nine innings as the White Team defeated the Green Team 4-2 at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium.
Street was 10-3 last year and earned Great West Conference Pitcher of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and All-GWC First Team honors. Street started the game for the White Team, allowing one run on two hits while striking out five batters in four innings while pitching.
Harrell, a right-handed reliever who compiled a 2.04 earned run average last year, pitched the final five innings. He allowed one run on three hits and two walks while he struck out six batters, including four of the last five batters he faced.
Head Coach Manny Mantrana explained that the mix of upper and lower classmen this year is good and has a lot of talent. Last year the Broncs had a record of 28-30 after going 30-22, the last winning season since 2000 when they went 31-19-1.
“Communication is huge. If you want to be a good defensive team you have to communicate. And if you want to be a good offensive team you have to communicate when you’re in the dugout; what the pitcher is doing, what his fastball is doing, how does his curve ball break,” Mantrana said. “So communication not only coaches the players, but player-to-player during the game becomes vital if you want to be successful.”
Sophomore second baseman Bryan Ramirez, a PSJA High graduate, led the White Team as a hitter by going three of four with a double and an RBI.
Freshman pitcher Andrew Padron, a Nikki Rowe alum, started for the Green Team and had a rough first inning when the White Team scored three runs. Padron was able to settle down from there, retiring six of the final seven batters he faced, and struck out two in his outing.
In game two of the Green and White World Series Jan. 26, the White Team scored six unanswered runs to beat the Green 6-3 in eight innings.
After being down 3-0 after the first three innings, the White Team got their first run off junior Blake English with two outs left in the fourth inning to make the score 3-1.
Before the eighth inning began, both teams were informed that it would be the last inning due to National Collegiate Athletic Association regulations that covers the amount of time a team can practice in a given day. On the first pitch that shortstop Jesus Garcia saw, he hit the ball into the left field bullpen for a home run to put the White Team ahead.
“Overall, for the first live action and live pitching these players have seen in six weeks, I thought they did pretty well against each other,” Mantrana said.
The Broncs will open the regular season Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. when they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in game one of a four-game series at Edinburg Baseball Stadium. Gates for the game open at 6 p.m.
Mantrana knows that there are always tweaks to deal with. After seeing his players play the first game, he saw that hitters need to be a bit more aggressive with runners in scoring position. His pitchers have to be able to keep their ball down better, and the base runners need to take those extra bases in order for them to be successful.
“Well, we want to compete, we want to have a good year and have the opportunity to be in the WAC tournament at the end of the year and have a chance at the WAC Championship and go to Regionals,” Mantrana said.
January 13th, 2014
The UTPA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics was saddened to learn that D. Joe Williams, a former Pan American College baseball player, cross country runner and track and field athlete, passed away in El Paso, Texas at the age of 77 Dec. 15, 2013.
In 1954, Williams became the first African American to participate in college athletics in the state of Texas.
UTPA athletic director Chris King is proud to have Williams as part of the University’s history.
“D. Joe Williams was a pioneer who had a major impact on the future of not only Bronc Athletics, but intercollegiate athletics throughout the state of Texas,” King said. “We will always remember Williams’ impact on society as well as our baseball and track and field teams.”
A member of the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame (Class of 2003) along with the Texas and El Paso baseball halls of fame, Williams played center field for the Broncs in 1954, hit .262 and helped the team go to the Big State Conference Championship.
Williams also took a pair of individual conference championships while participating in track and field, winning titles in the 800-yard and one-mile runs.
Before he became a racial trailblazer, he attended the segregated Booker T. Washington High School in McAllen, open from 1941 until 1957. During his time at this high school, he stole 26 bases as a position player and as a pitcher had a 10-3 record with 78 strikeouts. This got the attention of the St. Louis Browns in 1953, but the prospect went to college instead.
Born in Dobbin, Texas March 4, 1936, Williams moved to McAllen as a young boy, where at the age of 10 he picked up a baseball. He started to break down barriers; he was the first African-American to play in the Little League in the late 1940’s. During this time, he hit over .400 as a first baseman and pitched a one-hitter with one eye due to injury on the other. At the age of 16, he decided to played semi-pro in the Negro Leagues.
The Negro Leagues were formed in 1920 in a meeting that was held at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City. Andrew “Rube” Foster, a former player, manager and owner for the Chicago American Giants, and a few Midwestern team owners joined together to form the Negro National League. Then, rival leagues formed in the Eastern and Southern states to have competitive African-Americans play baseball.
After his time at what was then Pan American College, Williams went on to coach for five years at Charlie Brown High School in West Columbia before moving to the El Paso area. In El Paso, he was a teacher and coach for 47 years at Fabens, Socorro and Tornillo high schools.
He led the Fabens to three district titles in five years, where the team advanced to the regional finals each time. During this time Williams coached several players that would go on to play in the Mexican Leagues and in the minor leagues.
Also during his time at Fabens, he formed, coached and played for the Viejos, a semi-pro baseball team, where he was a two-time All-Star. He led the league in strikeouts as a pitcher in 1979 in his second to last season as a player.
After his playing career finished, Williams spent his time as an umpire on several levels of baseball. He would go on to be an original member of the Board of Directors for the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame and at one point he served as president.
“Like any trailblazer, Williams certainly changed things. Not long after he played here, our men’s basketball team won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championship in 1963 with four black starters,” said Goldberg, assistant athletic director for communications. “A few years later, the school now known as University of Texas El Paso, won the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship with five black starters…the inspiration for Glory Road.”
Most people remember Texas Western winning the NCAA National Basketball Championship in 1966 with the first all-black starting line-up. If it were not for D. Joe Williams, that story may not have ever happened. He leaves behind a family that will carry on his legacy, including wife a of 49 years, Thelma, two children, two grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
December 4th, 2013
In 1971 the Pan American College baseball team set the all time program for the most wins in a season. In total they scored 44 victories, at the time it was a record high for any Texas College or university.
The team was lead by Head Coach Al Ogletree, a UTPA Hall of Fame recipient and nationally recognized coach. He lead his team to the District VI regional tournament where they played the part of the underdog.
The team filled with not so well known players pulled off a huge upset as the team took down the University of Texas Longhorns, twice, taking the District VI Championship. That was the first time the Longhorns were shutout in consecutive games in 62 years.
Though the Bronc had the odds piled against them they made it to a fourth place spot in the College World Series. With a record of 2-2. By the end of the 1971 season they were selected as the top-ranked team in the country.