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Oracle Insight: Grace is top athlete for 2008-09

Last year was one of the most successful athletics years in USF history, with three sports claiming significant postseason trophies.

The men’s soccer and tennis teams took home a Big East championship, while the women’s basketball team won the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) – its first postseason basketball title.

A majority of the reasons behind these successes is the players on the field.

Last week, the Oracle launched a two-part series, counting down the top 10 athletes for USF in the 2008-09 season. Today, the list concludes with Nos. 5-1
5. Mallori Lofton-Malachi, women’s soccer goalkeeper

Mallori Lofton-Malachi was mighty impressive last season in goal for the Bulls.

A native of Philadelphia, Lofton-Malachi set school records for saves (117) and shutouts (7) in a season. She ranked seventh nationally and second in the Big East in save percentage (.873) while leading the conference in saves per game (6.44).

Entering her senior season, Lofton-Malachi played every second of every game last year. She even earned a call to the U-21 U.S. women’s national team camp, where U-21 coach Bill Irwin referred to her as “the most athletic goalkeeper in the country.”

4. Dominique Jones, men’s basketball guard

Dominique Jones was one of the lone bright spots on the USF men’s basketball team last season.

A junior from Lake Wales, Jones led USF in scoring the last two years, earning him conference honorable mention honors each year.

Jones surpassed 1,000 career points in 58 games, becoming the second fastest to reach that mark in USF history. Only Tony Grier reached 1,000 in fewer games. Jones capped his 2009 season by being selected as one of only 16 players to compete in the USA World University Games training camp in May.

3. Tyrone McKenzie, football linebacker

Not only was Tyrone McKenzie the best player for USF last season, he was one of the best players in the Big East.

McKenzie was voted consensus first-team all-Big East after leading USF in tackles for the second consecutive season. His 116 tackles ranked second in the conference.

His efforts did not go unrecognized, as McKenzie was drafted No. 97 overall by the New England Patriots in April’s NFL draft.

2. Randy Fontanez, baseball pitcher

Randay Fontanez never had a bad start for the Bulls this spring.

In only his sophomore season, Fontanez led USF in ERA and ranked second in the Big East (3.09). He was 6-1 in conference games with an ERA of 2.69. He also made 13 starts, six of them complete games, which led the conference.

Fontanez also ranked second in the Big East in innings pitched with 99. He pitched well when the stakes were the highest, giving up just two runs in eight innings in a Big East tournament game against Pittsburgh.

1. Shantia Grace, women’s basketball guard

Shantia Grace lacked height but not skill.

One of the best players in the program’s history, Grace, a 5-foot-8 guard, ranked first on the team in scoring (14.9) and assists per game (4.7), helping her earn a first-team all-Big East selection.

Grace also set school records with 44 points and eight three-pointers in an out-of-conference game Nov. 23. More importantly, she led the Bulls to their first WNIT championship in school history with a 75-71 victory over Kansas on April 4.