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Locally: Aaron Lewis promoted from interim to head coach of Gonzaga men’s soccer

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 3, 2022

From staff and news services

Aaron Lewis, who took over the Gonzaga University men’s soccer program on April 21, 2021, as interim head coach and proceeded to guide the Bulldogs to their most wins in five seasons, has been retained with the interim tag removed. He’s now the head coach.

Lewis had been elevated from assistant coach, a position he acquired heading into the 2019 season. He came to GU after six highly successful seasons as the men’s soccer head coach at his alma mater, Corban University.

“We are excited for the future of Gonzaga men’s soccer under Aaron’s leadership,” GU director of athletics Chris Standiford is quoted in the announcement. “His enthusiasm for his staff and players, along with his passion for the game, contributed to the momentum this fall.”

Under Lewis, GU’s improvement included posting a 7-10 record (2-5 in the West Coast Conference). In the three previous seasons, the Bulldogs had a combined 8-33-1 record, 3-6-1 in the WCC. It was GU’s first seven-win season since 2016.

The Bulldogs had a four-game winning streak during the 2021 season that included three shutouts and a come-from-behind 3-2 victory, and had three players earn All-WCC honors. Junior Demitrius Kigeya and senior Frankie Ljucovic were on the second team and Caleb Kiner was named to the WCC All-Freshman Team.

Basketball

The Northwest Athletic Conference, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in December, announced last week it will delay the start of its men’s and women’s conference basketball schedules until Jan. 17.

They were to have started Wednesday, Jan. 5. Community Colleges of Spokane is scheduled to open at home Jan. 17 against Wenatchee Valley and North Idaho College teams will open at Blue Mountain.

“We believe this decision is beneficial to our student-athletes, coaches and the athletic support staff, as the cancelation of games within the NWAC and across the athletic landscape continues,” said NWAC executive director Marco Azurdia in a release.

“Our goal is get our league games played as they are the most important games on the schedule, give our student-athletes a sense of normalcy as they work toward a championship opportunity, while being as safe as possible.”

The NWAC release said the decision gives student-athletes returning from holiday break more time to get tested, follow through on safety protocols, and if needed, isolate and quarantine. With almost all NWAC scheduled games prior to Christmas and the week before New Year’s Day canceled, it allows for players to get back into playing condition.

Bill Bopp, a Sandpoint native regarded one of the top high school basketball referees in Idaho, has retired, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.

“It was time,” the newspaper quoted Bopp, 61, who worked high school games for 36 of the past 37 years, including an estimated 38 state tournaments (20 boys, 18 girls).

He said injuries – he pulled a hamstring muscle working a girls state tournament championship game in February – were part of the reason he decided recently to step aside. “The last two years I’ve been contemplating it, and finally I pulled the pin.”

College scene

Noah Elliss, a 6-foot-4, 360-pound defensive lineman at Idaho, has been selected to play in the 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl on Feb. 3 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Elliss, who earned All-Big Sky Conference football honorable mention following the 2021 fall season, played 21 games for the Vandals, accumulating 93 tackles, 10 for loss, and had three sacks and a fumble recovery.

High school sceneAlyssa Randles, a junior at Coeur d’Alene HS, won the girls 126-pound bracket at the Reno Tournament of Champions wrestling tournament Dec. 16-18 in Reno, Nevada.

Randles compiled a 4-0 record, winning three matches by pins and capturing the championship with an 11-0 major decision over Makenzie Shaw of Chico, California.

Hockey

Defenseman William McIsaac from Vancouver, British Columbia, the Spokane Chiefs’ second-round selection (28th overall) in the 2021 Western Hockey League Prospects Draft, has signed a WHL standard player agreement.

The 6-foot-3, 170-pound McIsaac is playing up as a 15-year-old on his school’s U18 prep team. Spokane assistant general manager Jim Hammett said he is a “big, mature-style player who is well-rounded and can play everywhere. He has great defensive sense and can contribute on offense as well with a strong shot.”

McIsaac is the fourth prospect from the Chiefs’ 2021 draft class (2006-born) to sign. All can play up to five games with the Chiefs this season as affiliated players and will be eligible to play in Spokane fulltime in the 2022-23 season.

Letters of intent

North Idaho College volleyball: Rylee Hartwig, MH, Post Falls HS.

Columbia Basin College softball: Alexis Blankenship, SS/utility, Coeur d’Alene HS.

Arizona Christian University women’s basketball: Kendall Pickford, G, Lake City HS.

Volleyball

Kelsie White, a three-year starter at middle blocker for Montana State and a three-time Big Sky Conference All-Academic selection, has signed with Gonzaga as a grad transfer, the Bulldogs announced.

White, seventh in Bobcats’ program history with 327 block assists (she had 485 kills and 398 blocks), last appeared for MSU in 2019. She chose to leave the program ahead of the COVID-delayed Spring 2021 season to focus on her academic pursuits in elementary education. She will work on a master’s degree in organizational leadership at GU.

Hannah Pukis, a two-time Pacific North All-Region setter and an AVCA All-America honorable mention after the 2021 spring season at Washington State, who put her name in the NCAA transfer portal last month, has joined Oregon, the Ducks announced on their website.

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