Junior forward Ryan Kelly celebrates a goal during UM-Dearborn's 10-4 win over Oakland Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Clark Park. Kelly scored two goals in the win. (Ricky Lindsay/MJ)

By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor

What a year 2014-2015 was athletically at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

From a new Athletic Director and a handful of coaches to a on-field success, several moments stood out.

With this being the Michigan Journal’s final issue until September, I wanted to reflect on athletics during the past school year.

I guess the best way to do that is to start at the top.

We witnessed the twilight of careers for two extraordinary athletes — Jalissa Williams and Jase Paciocco — this school year. If there was a Mount Rushmore for UM-Dearborn athletics, both would be deserving members.

Williams is one of the best basketball players I have had the pleasure to watch. She could dominate teams on her own, regardless the foe. Williams ended her four-year career as one of the best players to ever play at UM-Dearborn, maybe the WHAC, too. And she was a Journalism and Screen Studies Major. You just can’t top that.

Paciocco and I weren’t as acquitted as say, former hockey player Micah Collier, but he was nonetheless a big part of my hockey coverage the past few years. Nothing seemed to phase him during the past two years at UM-Dearborn. He sort of took everything in stride and was always a reliable interview. Whether the Wolverines won big or lost a crushing defeat, you wanted a Paciocco quote.

One of my fondest memories over the past year: Paciocco reading an MJ during a broomball game. When you pour your heart and soul into something like the MJ, seeing that makes you smile.

The rebuilding of the men’s basketball team under first-year head coach Taylor Langley was a thing of beauty. But Brandon Kennedy’s return to the court is what I live for.

It was one of those “fall in your lap” type moments. I showed up to the Fieldhouse the eve of the Super Bowl to hone my photojournalism skills and discovered Kennedy was playing in his first game since leaving the team to finish his pre-medicine studies.

Talking to Kennedy in the basement of the Fieldhouse after the game, his passion for basketball was exuberating. He really loved this game and was gracious to get a shot at playing again. A lot of people take these things for granted; he didn’t.

Event-wise, hockey’s outdoor game at Clark Park was the pinnacle of the year. Outdoor hockey in Michigan — what could get better than this? Only the Wolverines could take an already special event and wrap a bow on it, defeating Oakland 10-4. It was quite the message to the nation for a team that never dropped out of the Top 25 all year.

It’s not everyday you witness history, let alone several times in a span of a few weeks.

Ruben Cabello and Dylan Hatcher set career records for lacrosse last month, and in a way, ushered in a new era for the program. Take Cabello, for instance. He didn’t play lacrosse until he arrived at UM-Dearborn. And he became one of the most prolific players in program history in a matter of two years. Just imagine what a player that grew up with the game could do. It’s all possible in the Wolverines’ near future.

Over on the diamond, the Wolverines are turning heads in the WHAC. At 14-14, the softball team is off to one of its best starts since the 2010 season. And there’s still 18 games left in the season.

Of course, not everything was cheery this year.

The volleyball team set unwanted history by completing a nightmarish season with an 0-32 record. Several key players — Jeff McFarland, Deonte Bell, Williams and Paciocco – had seasons cut short due to injuries. Bell, who figured to be Langley’s starting point guard as a freshman, missed the entire season.

This past year was one to remember athletically at UM-Dearborn. And I’m thankful to have been a part of it from start to finish.

To the athletes and coaches, thank you for working with the Journal and allowing us to share your stories. Until next time.