Jan. 7, 2010
Each week, it seemed, one draft analyst or another would offer his opinion on Locker's projected stock in the eyes of NFL general managers. Those opinions varied, but not that widely, as most agreed he'd be a sure-fire first-rounder, with some opining that Locker had a chance to be the No. 1 overall pick.
Sure, fans brought it up and, at the season-ending, 42-10 win over California, the crowd made its thoughts on the matter clear with loud, repeated chants of "One More Year" and the like.
Fans also debated what Locker might do. Some were absolutely certain he'd leave, seeing too much risk in returning. Others sought out reasons he might stay. Both sides went back and forth for weeks and months.
But in press conferences, the media seemed content to leave the subject alone for the most part, at least until the season ended.
However, in the aftermath of that victory over Cal, the intensity picked up immediately.
Essentially, Locker had the better part of a month and half to make his decision, if he wanted to take that much time. The mid-January deadline for underclassmen to enter the Draft seemed a long time away for Husky fans.
But, in customary Jake Locker fashion, the Husky QB made his decision quickly, and announced it with minimal fanfare.
As the story goes, on Dec. 14, Locker and his chocolate labrador retriever puppy "Ten" walked into Coach Steve Sarkisian's office in the Graves Annex, where quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier were chatting and stated simply, "I'm staying."
A statement was released to the press, but Locker, in the midst of final exams and with the holiday break on tap, would wait until the new year to speak to the media.
It was an early Christmas present for Husky fans everywhere. In the Northwest, on sports talk radio, on internet message boards and on facebook and twitter, the word spread like wildfire. "Jake's coming back" was the news.
As Coach Sarkisian, at the time making the shift from in-season coaching to full-bore recruiting, put it, "This is the first time in history I've ever signed a 10-star recruit. Forget four- or five-star recruits. We got a 10-star recruit today."
But the Huskies boasted the National Player of the Year in Danielle Lawrie and not only were playing for their own pride, having been to eight previous World Series and coming up empty handed, but also playing for conference pride as the Pac-10 which - despite having won 21 of the 27 NCAA Division I softball championships - was being overlooked by their rivals from the south.
The Huskies came in riding a wave of momentum after their uber-emotional 15-inning Regional victory over UMass followed by a far less stressful Super Regional sweep of Georgia Tech, with Danielle Lawrie looking as strong and as motivated as ever. UW also had the confidence in knowing they had played - and defeated - six of the seven other teams in the series, including a 1-0 victory over Florida early in the season.
The Series started with one of those familiar foes in Georgia, but UW was able to squeak by in the opener, 3-1, on the strength on freshman Niki Williams' two-run home run. Next for UW was the defending national champion Arizona State Sun Devils, who had Lawrie's number unlike any team in the regular season. Having allowed 12 runs in 16 previous innings to the champs, Lawrie was out to prove herself and that she did, throwing a two-hit shutout over eight innings while sophomore Morgan Stuart sent the Huskies into the semifinals with a walk-off single for a 1-0 extra-inning win.
With the SEC momentum building after they sent three teams to the semifinals, the Huskies continued to carry the banner for the conference as the lone West Coast team remaining. After dropping a heartbreaking, nine-inning 9-8 game to Georgia that put them on the brink of elimination yet again, the Huskies fought back and knocked the Bulldogs out later that night, with Lawrie coming back from a rough outing earlier in the day to strike out 12 and belt a grand slam, sending UW into the Championship Series with a 9-3 win.
The finals turned out to be the SEC-Pac-10 showdown everyone hoped for, pitting the No. 1 Gators and No. 3 Huskies along with the nation's top two pitchers in Lawrie and Player of the Year runner-up Stacey Nelson.
The Huskies made a statement in game one, shocking the Gators and much of the crowd with an 8-0 blowout behind Lawrie's two-hit shutout and senior Ashley Charters' big game. The offense was clicking on all cylinders finally after a season of inconsistency, with freshmen like Williams (World Series-records of seven RBI in a game and 10 in a series) and Kimi Pohlman and sophomores Stuart and Jenn Salling peaking at the right time.
Facing elimination, the Gators put up a fight in game two the following night, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning but the Huskies showed they were determined to end things right then and there. After answering right back with two of their own in the bottom of the first, the Huskies pushed across the go-ahead run in the third inning then sat back and watched as Lawrie got stronger with every inning. After the Gators put the tying run on base in the bottom of the seventh inning with their semifinal hero and senior superstar Ali Gardner at the plate, Lawrie turned it up a notch and fittingly ended the season with a strikeout, giving the Huskies the program's long awaited first National Championship.
Lawrie would go on to be named the Most Outstanding Player, while Charters, Pohlman, Stuart and Williams were named to the All-Tournament team. But it was a total team effort that finally brought the right hardware back to Seattle for the school's third national championship of the 2008-09 school year.
When the Husky volleyball team was on its game this season, they rolled over their opponents quickly and efficiently. Washington had sweeps over Top-10 teams in Minnesota, which went on to reach the Final Four, Florida, Oregon, and UCLA, but the sweetest win of the season was UW's 3-0 takedown of 5th-ranked Stanford on Nov. 6 in Seattle.
The Cardinal had handed Washington its first loss of the season earlier in the year in Palo Alto, a five-set nailbiter that went to 15-12 in the final set. The Huskies were eager to get the Cardinal on their home court to return the favor, and snap a four-match losing streak against Stanford.
With 4,557 fans in attendance, the Huskies reeled off a 25-21, 25-23, 25-19 sweep of Stanford, the first time the Cardinal had been swept in a Pac-10 match since 2006.
In the first set, senior Jill Collymore brought UW to set point with her fifth kill of the set, and ended it with her sixth. The Huskies outhit the Cardinal, .303 to .194 led by Collymore's .600 percentage (6-0-10).
The Cardinal got even at 22 apiece in set two, but sophomore Bianca Rowland put the Huskies right back ahead with a finish. Senior Airial Salvo flew in and cranked an attack crosscourt for a kill to bring up set point. A bad set saved one for Stanford, but Collymore crushed the next set from junior Jenna Hagglund down to the floor and the crowd erupted, cheering the 25-23 win and the 2-0 lead.
Washington pulled away mid-way through set three, taking leads of 19-13 and 21-14. Stanford crept to within 23-18, but Collymore wound up for two more bombs for UW's final two points and Washington closed out the match, 25-19. The Huskies hit .308 in the final frame compared to .211 for the Cardinal, with Salvo and Collymore combining for eight kills and just one error on 20 swings.
Collymore and junior Kindra Carlson both posted 12 kills and Collymore fired four aces along with a .385 attack percentage to put the pressure on the Cardinal. Hagglund had a double-double with 37 assists and 13 digs, and directed the Huskies to a .262 hitting percentage while Stanford hit .226. Senior All-American Tamari Miyashiro's 15 digs anchored the defense.
"For the most part we put the pressure on them, kept in on them, and finished the thing," said head coach Jim McLaughlin after the match. "When you have a good plan and good execution you can beat a really good team in three, and we were good tonight. The women played intelligent ball tonight."
Washington went on to earn the No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, making the tourney for the eighth year in a row. The Huskies were forced to travel to Fort Collins, Colorado, however, and were upset 3-1 in the second round by Colorado State, playing on its home court.
The Dawgs combined for a four-round total of 16-under (365-360-347-352 1424), distancing themselves from second-place Oregon, which finshed 2-over.
Leading the way for the Huskies was Darren Wallace, who had the tournament of his life. The Washington junior earned medalist honors by a four-stroke margin, and was the only player to card all four rounds at par or better, shooting an 11-under, 277 (70-72-65-70).
"It feels great," Wallace said at the time. "We worked so hard for this all year; I've been working hard myself trying to reach my goals and this was one of them. It's great."
Wallace etched his name in UW history alongside Erik Olson (2005) and Clint Names (1961) who won the individual title along with the team. Wallace is the fourth Husky to win the Pac-10 individual championship -- O.D. Vincent also won it in 1988.
Coming into the final round, the Huskies enjoyed an eight-stroke lead over the Ducks. Paired in twosomes with Oregon the final two days, Washington really shined, hitting shots when they needed to.
It was the fifth conference championship in program history, and the second in coach Matt Thurmond's eight-year tenure.
Finishing runner-up behind Wallace was Nick Taylor at 7-under. Taylor (76-70-67-68 281) made a charge at his teammate, shooting a combined 9-under between rounds three and four, but still came up short. But Taylor wasn't the only player to finish in the top 10, as sophomore Tze Huang Choo was eighth at 1-under. Junior Richard Lee finished in a tie for 11th place at 1-over while Chris Killmer was 24th and Jens Bracht was 38th.
This year, Schaaf crossed the line first or second in every race she ran, and that included the 2009 NCAA Championships on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Indiana. In a race that was all but awarded to senior competitors Jenny Barringer of Colorado and Susan Kuijken of Florida State before the gun went off, it turned out to be Schaaf battling Illinois' Angela Bizzarri for the national crown.
Barringer and Kuijken went out hard by themselves with Schaaf leading the chase pack early. About halfway through the race, Barringer, a 2008 U.S. Olympian and multiple NCAA champ, collapsed due to what turned out to be an overwhelming anxiety attack.
Much to everyone's disbelief, it was now Kuijken's race to lose, but she had a long way to go it alone. Kuijken had a 13-second lead at the 4,000-meter mark, but faded badly coming around the turn into the lengthy final homestretch, and Bizzarri and Schaaf rolled past the Seminole senior.
In planning for the race with head coach Greg Metcalf, Schaaf thought she might be running with Bizzarri and attempting to out-kick her down the final straightaway. She just didn't think it would be for the win.
Nearly exhausted physically and emotionally, Schaaf made a final surge with about 400 meters to go and grabbed a small lead, but Bizzarri, the 2009 NCAA 5,000-meter champ on the track, had a bit more left in the tank, and she made a counter move to take the lead for good.
"I didn't see Susan (coming up) then all of a sudden she was just there. I was just going along for the ride with Angela," said Schaaf. "I was just running as hard as I could, going with her. We were kind of both going back and forth, surging and reacting, then near 5k she had a little bit more of a final surge."
Bizzarri got the win in 19-minutes, 46-seconds over the 6,000-meter course, and Schaaf took second in 19:51. It was the best finish ever by a Husky, matching the runner-up effort of Regina Joyce in 1982.
The Husky women fell short in their repeat title bid, taking third in the team race, but will return six of their seven NCAA competitors next year. Schaaf went on to capture numerous postseason honors including her second-straight Pac-10 Athlete of the Year award plus West Region Athlete of the Year and was named one of four finalists for the Honda Award.
Schaaf was also nominated as a 2009 Seattle Sports Star of the Year. Fans can vote for her here.
While the Washington women's soccer team had plenty of memorable moments during their 2009 season - advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season, defeating Ole Miss in the First Round and nearly pulling off a huge upset against No. 2 Portland despite playing a player-down for an entire half - the moment that will always burn brightest in the memories of the 2009 Huskies will be touching down in the soccer mecca of the world: Brazil.
The Huskies embarked on a truly life-changing experience in the summer of 2009, packing their bags for a two-week adventure in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Husky players and coaches to see the sport of soccer, or futbol, where it is a way of life and a culture for the people of Brazil.
The Huskies raised over $70,000 for the trip and players and coaches chipped in to cover some costs to send the entire team and several staff members to experience the beauty of South America's soccer mecca. The team learned valuable lessons about soccer's place in their life and saw what the sport means to people struggling with poverty. And their successes in the 2009 season may not have been possible without the tremendous impact the summer trip had on all involved, as individuals and as a team.
Head coach Lesle Gallimore summed up the impact of the trip best.
"They know that's an experience that will catapult them into being better players mainly from the standpoint that they got to see what soccer is like in a culture where soccer is everything. They were able to see how much joy there is for the game. You can talk about competition and expectations and all those kind of pressured-filled, negative, intense feelings that can be around it at times, but in Brazil everything having to do with soccer is happy and joyful. I think our kids picked up on that and it's that light bulb you want to have go on within your student-athletes that says, `yeah it's hard work. But if you work hard and you dedicate yourself to something it can still be really fun and rewarding.'"
The Huskies played a handful of games on their trip against teams of various levels of play, but it was their time in the favelas, the moments where they learned about the contrast between the rich and poor in Brazil and the fun times spent learning about Brazilian dance, food and history that changed their lives forever.
Washington's 2009 football season was full of exciting, down-to-the-wire games, but there was no game that could top the Huskies' thrilling 16-13 win over third-ranked Southern California back on Sept. 19.
USC, the seven-time defending Pac-10 champ, came to Seattle fresh off of a win over eventual Big Ten winner Ohio State, in Columbus, while the Huskies were 1-1 after a loss to LSU and a win over Idaho.
The game had more than its share of buildup thanks to the fact that it represented the first UW-USC game since the arrival of Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt, who'd run the offense and defense for the Trojans before coming to Montlake.
But while that fact piqued interest, not many gave the Dawgs more than a fighting chance to win.
Things didn't look good at the start as the Trojans easily marched 80 yards on six plays for the game-opening score. After a UW punt on the Huskies' first possession, USC kicked a field goal to make it 10-0.
However, from that point on, hampered by three turnovers and a stiffening Husky defense, the Trojans, who ended the day 0-for-10 on third down, managed only three more points.
Jake Locker rushed for a TD and Erik Folk kicked a field goal to make it a 10-10 game at the half. After a scoreless third period, Folk made a 46-yarder to put the Huskies in front, 13-10. The UW then held USC to a field goal that tied the game at 13-13 with 4:07 remaining in the game.
Later in the drive, Locker connected with Kearse on a 19-yard pass that, coupled with a penalty, put the ball on the USC eight-yard line. After a running play to take time off the clock, Folk lined up for a pressure-packed chip shot.
His 22-yard boot split the uprights and Husky Stadium went nuts. With three seconds still on the clock, the UW still needed to kick off, but a forward lateral killed off the Trojans' last change.
The scene on the field after the final gun was as jubilant and intense as any celebration ever at Husky Stadium. The lower-level stands emptied onto the turf as everyone in the upper deck took photos of the scene with cameras and cell phones.
And everyone who was there will remember it for a long time.
The Huskies always raised their game to the level of their opponent, as evidenced by a huge 2-0 upset of then-No. 5 California in Berkeley early in Pac-10 play.
The Huskies came into the match struggling against Cal of late, having not defeated the Golden Bears since 2005 and going 0-6-1 in that span.
It all came together for the Dawgs on this day, however, as the Huskies got goals from Matt Van Houten and Brad Keller - the first of Keller's career - and Rylan Hawkins made six saves to give the Dawgs the huge upset.
Keller was the star of the day, setting up Van Houten for the eventual game-winner in the 23rd minute and tacking on some insurance in the 54th minute, a performance which earned him Pac-10 Player of the Week honors a few days later.
Hawkins, meanwhile, came up big in goal as he did all season long, stopping six shots, three of which came off the foot of Cal's All-American Andrew Wiedeman. Hawkins and the Husky defense handed Cal its first shutout of the season and also handed the Bears their first home defeat of the year in six matches.
Cal came into the game 7-2 and was coming off a huge victory over Stanford to open Pac-10 play but the Huskies' victory sent them into a tailspin, as the Bears would go on to win just two of their final eight matches. The Huskies finished strong in Pac-10 play, later drawing with Cal, 1-1, and Stanford, 0-0, along with eventual Pac-10 champion UCLA, 1-1, but it was their victory over the Bears on their home field which was the crowning moment in the season.
Chan trailed 23rd-ranked Maria Sanchez 2-5 in the third set at No. 1 singles with the overall match tied at 3-3. From there, Chan locked in and won three straight games to level the deciding set at 5-5, then Sanchez held serve for a 6-5 lead. Chan fell behind 0-30 in the next game, but Sanchez never got to match point as Chan came back to hold and force the tiebreaker.
Taking over as the aggressor, Chan won five of the first six points in the tiebreak and raced to her bench during the changeover, sensing the upset just two points away. Serving at 2-6 down, Sanchez double-faulted and the Huskies rushed to embrace their teammate.
To reach that pivotal moment, the Huskies still had to post three points against the Pac-10 Champion Trojans. It was a team effort, that required a complete culture change from past years according to head coach Jill Hultquist.
"I had tears of joy afterwards," said Hultquist. "They've worked so hard and worked together as a team this year. At the beginning of the weekend I reminded them my record the first two years. We didn't play for each other, and the result was we won three matches. I told them how working as a team had got us to 16-7 and that's what it was going to take this weekend."
The Huskies (18-7) pieced together the win thanks to a stellar showing in doubles play, and earlier wins from freshman Samantha Smith and junior Aleksandra Malovic. UW led 3-1 after Malovic's win, but USC came back to win at second and third singles to set the stage for the dramatic conclusion.
USC had only lost twice all year. The loss snapped a 13-match win streak for the Trojans, who had won the Pac-10 with an 8-0 mark and were the first team other than Stanford to win the Pac-10 in 21 years. It was only the second win ever for the Huskies over the Trojans, but Washington had gained confidence in a 4-3 defeat to USC earlier in the year in Seattle, when Malovic and Joyce Ardies fought back to win third set tiebreaks despite the outcome of the match already being decided.
Washington had its run ended in the Round of 16, but returns every player for the 2010 season, and fantastic fall seasons from Chan and sophomore Denise Dy has the UW aiming even higher.
The only thing better than two Huskies on the LPGA Tour is three Huskies on the Tour. For one weekend in early September, that came to fruition when Amber Prange (2004-07) earned a sponsor's exemption and participated in the CN Canadian Women's Open with Friberg and Mackenzie.
While Friberg and Prange failed to make the cut in the tournament, Mackenzie was able to represent the Dawgs well with a 33rd place finish and $17k payday. Although things didn't turn out with a 1-2-3 Husky finish, it is a source of pride that three UW grads were all on the links at the highest level on the same weekend. Mackenzie would ultimately have her best season as a professional, winning $140,671 and making the cut in 10 of 16 events.
Mackenzie, Prange and Friberg weren't the only Husky alums making coach Mary Lou Mulflur proud in the golf world. Kelli Kamimura (1999-2002) was named the head coach at Washington State University, while Nancy (Kessler) McDaniel (1985-88) continues to shine at California, including a win at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational this October at Sahalee Country Club.
There was plenty to play for in the 102nd football meeting between Washington and Washington State.
The cross-state rivals met in the Apple Cup on Nov. 28 at Husky Stadium with the home-team Dawgs ready to wash away a couple of different bad tastes.
For one, the '09 Huskies had lost four straight and were looking to get back to the winning ways that had so energized their fan base through the first half of the season. Secondly, the players remembered last year's Apple Cup result and didn't want anything like that to happen again.
In fact, WSU had won two straight Apple Cups coming into this year's game. Never in the 101 years prior had the Cougars managed to win three straight over the Dawgs.
Thanks to an all-around performance on both sides of the ball, the Huskies were able to make things right for themselves with a dominating, 30-0 victory.
Both the offense and defense shined in the game. Quarterback Jake Locker threw for 196 yards and rushed for 94 more. Chris Polk ran for 130 yards and a score and Jermaine Kearse racked up 94 receiving yards, including a 50-yard TD.
The defense held WSU to just 47 yards on the ground and only 116 through the air. Cougar QBs suffered through five sacks and the Husky D never allowed Washington State past the UW 33-yard line.
It was the first shutout in the Apple Cup in 45 years, dating back to a 14-0 Husky win in 1964.
All that, and the home crowd was in its top voice all night.
Afterwards, Gov. Chris Gregoire presented the Apple Cup trophy to the Husky players and coaches, who spent plenty of time passing it around and snapping photos with one another.
"Those are moments they're going to have for a lifetime," Coach Steve Sarkisian said after the game. "That celebration there with the Apple Cup trophy and the seniors taking pictures, they're going to have that memory forever and hopefully make one more next week."
The Dawgs did indeed make one more good memory the following Saturday when they closed out the season with a solid 42-10 win over 19th-ranked California.
The Huskies hosted a pair of ranked teams and national powers in No. 9 Oregon State and No. 14 Illinois, both teams that would go on to advance to Nationals. On this night, however, the Huskies were in top form, posting a season-high score to defeat both teams along with Eastern Michigan.
As a perennially top team in the nation and the Pac-10, Oregon State had owned the Huskies over the past few years. UW had not defeated Oregon State since 2003 - which included 12 meets - but things would change on this night.
The Huskies scored a season-best 196.00 and knocked off their rival Beavers, who finished third with 195.800, along with Illinois, which was second with 195.900.
As a team, Washington won both the beam and the floor. Senior Ashley Houghting picked up the Huskies' sole individual title with a win on the floor, posting a 9.90.
Sophomore Haley Bogart was also a big contributor on the night, posting a career-best 39.125 in the all-around, which was also a Huskies season-high.
The Huskies set the tone from the beginning, with four athletes setting or tying career-best scores on vault. After another solid performance on bars, it was on the beam where the Huskies won the meet.
The Huskies recorded a season-best score of 49.225 on the beam with senior Kelly Gilbert posting a season-best 9.800 and Houghting following with a career-best 9.875. Sophomore Kristen Linton tied her season-high with a 9.825 and Bogart tied her career-best score of 9.875.
In the fourth rotation, UW clinched the upset wins with sophomore Karen Cain leading off with a season-best-tying 9.750 and freshman Hatsune Akaogi piecing together a career-best 9.650. Houghting anchored the GymDawgs with a near-perfect 9.900 to boost the Huskies to a team score of 48.900. Houghting's score was good enough to win the floor title, her sixth of the season.
"I'm so proud of them tonight because every single person on the team contributed," said head coach Joanne Bowers after the meet. "Everybody was positive and everything just came together. For our seniors, this is the highest score they've ever had. They've never beaten Oregon State in their four years and not in the three years I've been here, so this is huge for us, for our team and for our program. I'm just thrilled. I'm not surprised that we could do it. I'm just so glad that we finally did."
The in-state women's basketball rivalry between the Huskies and the Cougars has been pretty one-sided over the last decade-plus. In 2009, Washington made sure it stayed that way. In both meetings with their Pullman counterparts in 2009, the Huskies came away with victories to extend their winning streak in the series with the rival Cougars to 28 games. Their streak also stands at 14 straight games over WSU on the road.
The Pac-10 opener back on Jan. 3, 2009, didn't start auspiciously, as the Cougars raced out to an 11-3 lead at Bank of America Arena. But led by junior guard/forward Sami Whitcomb's team-high 17 points, including 13 in the second-half, Washington roared back to dominate the second half and come away with a 71-58 win.
UW head coach Tia Jackson praised her team's tenacity but foresaw a tough rematch in the future: "Washington State is a much better team than they were last year, so I definitely see it being another fight come the end of the season at their place."
She was right. In their second meeting over in eastern Washington on March 6, Whitcomb again led the team with 18 points while Kristi Kingma chipped in 13 in a back-and-forth battle that featured 10 lead changes and five ties, and was played in front of one of the larger crowds to fill Beasley Coliseum for a women's basketball contest.
The Cougars kept it close late, rallying to take a 55-54 lead with just 2:36 remaining. But the Huskies answered, finishing out the contest with an 8-0 run own, sparked by Kingma who started the run with a jumper to put UW up 56-55 and iced two free throws with UW holding a three-point lead and just 20.8 seconds on the clock. The Huskies would win the game by a score of 62-55. The 28-game win streak dates back to the 1994-95 season.
In 2008-09, the Washington men's basketball team was able to accomplish something that hasn't been seen in the lifetime of many Husky fans. By winning the Pac-10 Conference title outright, Washington was alone atop the standings for the first time since 1953, when the league was known as the Pacific Coast Conference.
Sure, the Huskies shared Pac-10 titles in 1984 (with Oregon State) and 1985 (with USC), but they never ruled the roost outright. This time, Washington at 14-4 remained as the last team standing - all by its lonesome.
"I've been very blessed to have been in some special situations in athletics, different championship situations," said coach Lorenzo Romar, who wasn't even born the last time his alma mater won an outright conference title. "But the biggest satisfaction for me, is that our guys they don't understand how special it is. That is something they can remember for the rest of their lives. And for me, this was my greatest moment as a head coach."
There were some bumps in the road and some demons to be exorcised, but ultimately the Huskies met enough of the challenges to prevail and form a memory for the ages.
The first stiff test came in the form of a road game against cross-state rival Washington State, who had won the previous seven meetings. But that snowy January afternoon in Pullman, the Huskies were able to break open a close game and cruise to a 20-point victory. They would return home to beat Stanford by one point, before losing a heart-breaking three overtime contest to California, a game for the ages that could have went either way. Washington was able to respond with a road sweep over the Oregon schools and home sweeps of USC and UCLA to stand at 6-1 after seven games.
The Huskies had no time to gloat with their new found success. Up next, was the toughest four-game stretch of their schedule - road trips to the Arizona and the Bay Area schools. They would drop the first games of each series, first Arizona and later California, but were able to answer back two days later to secure the road splits. Among the wins, were impressive showings against No. 14 Arizona State and Stanford, a team the Huskies had lost to in the previous 15 meetings at Maples Pavilion dating back to 1993.
At 8-3, Washington would have five of its next seven conference games at home. A home sweep of the Oregon schools left Washington in control of its own destiny, but they followed those victories with a loss at UCLA that left them tied with the Bruins. Washington would retake control of the conference just two days later when they beat USC, while Washington State upset UCLA. If the Huskies were to win their final three games at home, they would be champs.
It would not be an easy task, though, as No. 14 Arizona State, Arizona and WSU remained on the schedule. First up, Washington was able to escape in an overtime heart-stopper against Arizona State with the win, before a hard-fought five-point triumph over Arizona. At the very least, Washington had clinched a share of the Pac-10 title.
The Cougars were all that stood between Washington and the Pac-10 title, and the Huskies were not going to let this one slip from their grasps. For added extra motivation it was senior day and it might have been the last added incentive the Dawgs needed that day. The Huskies controlled the game from the get go and got a balanced attack to shut down the visitors from Pullman.
When the final horn rang, Venoy Overton threw the ball into the air and a wild celebration ensued. Jon Brockman hugged his coach, both with tears in their eyes, Overton danced on the scorer's table and the crowd swept up freshman sensation Isaiah Thomas and carried him on their shoulders like a newly crowned king. The cherry on top came when all the players and coaches took turns cutting down the net, capping perhaps one of the most surreal days in recent Husky history.
While it may have took 56 years to reach the pinnacle of the conference, the goal of Romar and the program is to ensure that future generations will be able to celebrate Pac-10 championships more regularly. Considering Romar's eye for talent, prowess on the recruiting trail and coaching ability, it is not far-fetched to believe that won't happen again in the near future.
"We recruit kids and we tell them they have a chance to do some special things here," said Romar. "And to see our team go through what we did last year, I'm just really happy for them and that is probably the most gratification I get out of it all."
It was the equivalent of a 30-point halftime deficit on the basketball court or the gridiron. If there was a run rule in tennis similar to softball, the Texas Tech Red Raiders had the clinching run on third needing one more base to sew up the blowout win.
In other words, things were grim for the Husky men's tennis team in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Championships, May 8th in Austin, Texas. Washington, seeking its first tourney win since 2006, quickly fell into a 0-3 hole against Texas Tech, as the Red Raiders took the doubles point, and won the top two singles matches emphatically.
Meanwhile, at fifth and sixth singles, senior Ryo Sekiguchi and sophomore Tobi Obenaus were quickly down a set, losing 6-2 and 6-1 respectively in their openers. The Huskies did manage to get on the positive side at No. 3 singles, where Martin Kildahl earned a 6-2 first set win, and junior Derek Drabble came back from 5-2 down in his first set with five straight games to take a 7-5 lead at No. 4 singles. But just as quickly those two lost their second sets to make the road back even longer.
In the best of seven showdown, Washington needed to win all four remaining matches, including comebacks from Sekiguchi and Obenaus who had been so outclassed early. Facing Milos Kustudja at the No. 6 spot, Obenaus fell behind again in set two, and Kustudja took a 5-3 edge, and held a pair of match points up 40-15 on his own service. One last miscue by Obenaus on either of the two points and UW's season would be over with an inglorious 4-0 sweep.
Somehow Obenaus managed to stave off the match points, and wound up getting the break of serve. He forced a second set tiebreak, and took the breaker 7-2. Washington was still alive, but it was still a long climb back. Sekiguchi raised his level of play in the No. 5 match, and forced a third set with a 6-4 win over Michael Breler. That meant all four matches would come down to third and final sets.
Obenaus' survival energized his teammates, and surprisingly, the Texas heat coupled with the likely disbelief at still being on the court seemed to wilt the Red Raiders moreso than the men from the Pacific Northwest. Consequently, the third sets turned into a route equally as one-sided in the Huskies' favor as the first sets had been for Texas Tech.
The matches went off court in perfect order, with Kildahl finishing his match with a 6-3 third set win at No. 3. Drabble followed with a 6-1 victory at No. 4, and Sekiguchi rolled to a 6-1 win as well at No. 5. Finally, Obenaus touched off the wild celebration with yet another 6-1 third set route.
Although the Huskies were unable to get past 12th-seeded Texas the next day (the Longhorns reached the NCAA semis), the win will forever be one of the greatest comebacks in program history, and a lesson in fighting to the last point for the four Huskies that return from that match for the 2010 season.
"It is, for sure, the greatest comeback that I've been a part of. This was special," said head coach Matt Anger. "As the match was going on, I thought maybe we were more ready and able to handle the weather. We were trying to finish the right way. If someone is going to get you, they have to earn it."
Two months later, no one has managed to really settle on an official title. Is it the "Immaculate Interception," the Immaculate Deflection" or something else?
For the 61,621 in attendance under the lights at Husky Stadium on Oct. 14, it was unlikely, to say the least, or to put it more grandly, a miracle.
With 2:55 on the clock in the fourth quarter, a Jake Locker touchdown pass to Kavario Middleton had drawn the Huskies within five points at 33-28. The Dawgs eschewed the onside kick and went deep with the kickoff. Arizona took over at its own 37.
Certainly not an impossible comeback scenario for the Huskies, but Arizona's offense had been having its way much of the day. By game's end, the Cats had out-gained the Dawgs, 461 yards to 256, and won the time of possession battle by an unprecedented 19-plus minutes.
However, on Arizona's first play of the drive, lightning struck. Quarterback Nick Foles, who had been spectacular all night, threw a short pass towards the Husky sideline, but the pass was underthrown, bounced off the foot of receiver Delashaun Dean and into the arms of Husky linebacker Mason Foster, who sprinted down the north sideline and into the endzone for the go-ahead score.
Husky Stadium went nuts.
With 2:37 still on the clock, the game wasn't over. But freshman Desmond Trufant's interception on the UW 22-yard line snuffed out the Cats' last hope and secured a 36-33 victory for Washington.
After the game, Foster, who was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week (he also had 11 tackles) was asked what he was thinking as he raced towards paydirt.
"Don't get caught," he said.
In the aftermath, there were videos and still photos that people claimed proved that the ball hit the ground, or proved that it didn't. No one ever came up with definitive proof either way.
What's certain is that Husky fans in the house will long remember the Miracle on Montlake.
Ask anyone involved with the Washington softball team's run to the 2009 National Title, and they'll tell you the defining moment of the three-week odyssey was no doubt the epic 15-inning, win-or-go-home victory in the Regional Final, which included a legendary performance by National Player of the Year, Danielle Lawrie.
Faced with perhaps the most difficult challenge of any of the top-eight teams in the country heading into the NCAA Tournament, not only did the No. 3 seed Huskies have to hit the road for their first round games, they had to face a highly underrated UMass team, whose ranking did little justice to their talent, starting with All-American pitcher Brandice Balschmiter.
The first two games for UW went off without a hitch as the Huskies breezed past Sacred Heart, 9-1, then knocked off Balschmiter and UMass, 3-1, to earn a berth in the Regional Final. UMass then set up a rematch by coming out of the losers' bracket, but would have to defeat the Huskies twice on Sunday to advance.
With the Huskies feeling confident and their ace on the mound, fresh from two relatively stress-free games, it seemed a berth in the NCAA Super Regional was just a couple hours away. Turned out, it was more than eight hours away.
UMass came out swinging against Lawrie, and with a lineup full of aggressive, free-swinging hitters, built a 3-0 lead after three innings and never looked back, forcing the if-game with a 5-1 win. With the Minutewomen swinging the hot bats and Balschmiter limiting UW to just three hits in the game, the tension started to build in the Husky dugout. Could this team of seven seniors and one of the best pitchers in the nation be eliminated without even reaching the Super Regionals?
With just 20 minutes to regroup between games, the Huskies re-focused and came out ready to strike back, led by their senior All-American Ashley Charters, who led off the game with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jenn Salling. The game stayed that way through three innings, with Lawrie facing trouble in the first two but escaping, striking out five batters along the way.
But the Minutewomen showed their fight again in the fourth when Samantha Solato hit a towering home run off Lawrie to even the game.
What followed over the next 11 innings will go down in history as one of the most heart-stopping stretches in NCAA softball history.
The teams traded zeros over the next 10 innings, with most of the pressure on Lawrie to keep her team in the game as the visiting team. Every time the Huskies would mount a rally and Balschmiter would wiggle out of it, Lawrie knew she was in for at least two more innings of work.
In her first must-hold inning, Lawrie retired the side in order in the seventh. But it wasn't that simple. A key defensive switch before the inning started may have saved the season for Washington.
Junior Amanda Fleischman was inserted into right field for senior Lauren Greer, giving the Huskies a bit more range in the outfield. That proved to be a huge move by head coach Heather Tarr as All-American Whitney Mollica ripped a long fly ball down the right field line that for a moment seemed to hang in the air as Husky players held their collective breaths and UMass players braced for an epic celebration.
But Fleischman, possessing long strides and long arms, chased the ball back to the warning track and reached over the low wall, bringing back the potential walk-off home run.
Pumped up from their new life, the Huskies put two on with nobody out in the top of the eighth and looked like they would turn the momentum into the go-ahead run, but Balschmiter proved too tough again.
Lawrie continued to escape out of her own jams, twice facing runners in scoring position with one out and both times striking out the next two batters. She seemed to put a little more on each pitch with every runner that reached base. Nearly out of gas and emotionally spent, Lawrie grinded out the next three innings, continuing to baffle UMass hitters and racking up more than 20 strikeouts.
The Husky hitters, meanwhile, were just as mystified by Balschmiter. They had runners in scoring position in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings, twice having runners gunned down at the plate, one of which resulted in freshman Kimi Pohlman being ejected from the game.
The Huskies hit a standstill in the 12th-14th innings, failing to get a runner on base, with Balschmiter retiring 12 batters in a row. But after Lawrie retired UMass' 8-9-1 hitters in the 14th, things finally took a turn in the Huskies' favor.
With every kind of rally-hat or helmet or superstition working in the dugout, senior Alicia Blake started things off with a one-out single, followed by singles from freshman Niki Williams and Charters to load the bases. After Balschmiter recorded another strike out to put her on the brink of another escape, and with Lawrie unsure of how much longer she could go on, these were desperate times in the Husky dugout.
Then, Jenn Salling hit a ground ball to third base which seemed like it would end the rally, but hustling down the line, Salling just beat the throw from the UMass third baseman and the flood gates opened. Husky players came streaming out of the dugout as if they'd won the National Championship.
That brought up Lawrie, who knew one run might not be enough with the heart of UMass' lineup coming to bat in the bottom of the inning. The All-American gave herself some breathing room by ripping a single to right-center to bring in two runs and stun the Minuetwomen.
Breathing was a problem for Lawrie, however, as she was so overcome with emotion she had to come out of the game to catch her breath and get focused for the bottom of the inning. Meanwhile, Morgan Stuart ripped another single to make the score 5-1.
Having finally collected herself and focused for one final push, Lawrie allowed a leadoff single and another batter to reach on an error, making things tense yet again. But after Stuart turned a double play to put the Huskies one out away, all that stood between Lawrie and the Super Regionals was Solato.
Deliberately taking a deep breath before every pitch, Lawrie exhaled one last time and caught Solato on a change up for her record 24th strikeout to end the game after five hours, 13 minutes and 494 pitches between the two great pitchers. So tired was Lawrie that she could muster no reaction after the strikeout, simply letting herself relax for the first time all day and letting her teammates mob her in the pitchers' circle.
All told, Lawrie had thrown 395 pitches in 22 innings throughout the two games that Sunday, a performance which may have clinched the National Player of the Year award. She had set a school record for strikeouts in a game, recorded the third-most in Pac-10 history and became one of just 15 pitchers in NCAA history with 24 or more in a game.
"This team has worked so hard and the thought of us going home tomorrow, that just couldn't happen," Lawrie said following the game. "I told the girls earlier this season that I would never give up on them."
It's impossible to measure the impact the game had on the rest of the Huskies' season, but most would agree they would not have won the program's first National Championship without such adversity. Facing another win-or-go home game in the Women's College World Series semifinals against a scrappy Georgia team, the Huskies had their epic UMass win in the back of their minds, knowing first, that Lawrie would fight until her team won and second, that they had the heart to overcome any adversity that came their way.
The Huskies weathered a blistering start from their biggest rival Cal, and struggled to keep pace with Stanford at the onset of the race. At the 500-meter mark on Lake Natoma, Cal looked in control. Perhaps it was all part of the game plan?
"We knew we had to weather a really strong first 500 meters by California and Stanford to have a chance," said head men's coach Michael Callahan. "We were really just trying to stay close enough to make a run for it in the second 1,000."
Cal and Stanford proceeded to take turns at the lead, with the Cardinal gaining strength in the middle portion of the race. The Huskies were not far back, but could not make moves on any of their opponents. It wasn't until the last 500 meters, with Cal up three seats, that the Huskies made a charge. With just 15 strokes left in the race, Washington powered through the Golden Bears and took the championship by a second, relegating Cal to a second-place finish.
To make such a move so late in the race requires an inordinate amount inner strength honed through what Callahan called the "Washington culture," where everyone inside Conibear Shellhouse pushes each other to be at their very best.
"I think we always kept confidence in ourselves," said seven-seat Simon Taylor, "We never underestimated California. We know they're good. And with 500 meters to go, we were about three or four seats down and we knew we had a challenge on our hands, but at the same time, we knew that we could take it if we wanted it."
Men's Varsity Eight:
1, Washington - 5:50.91; 2, California - 5:51.80; 3, Stanford - 5:56.45; 4, Brown - 5:58.73; 5, Harvard - 6:01.64; 6, Boston University - 6:02.68.
With more than a hundred athletes, each one with a particular high point to their season, choosing just one highlight from the 2009 track & field season is nearly impossible. Husky athletes knocked down 10 school records indoors and out, claimed five Pac-10 titles and made some lasting memories with pressure-packed performances. Here are just a select few of the most memorable moments.
Junior Katie Follett headed to Pac-10s in Eugene, Oregon with a chance to become the first Husky woman ever to win back-to-back conference titles, as she had captured the 1,500-meter run the year before at Arizona State. However this year she was not the favorite, as Stanford senior Lauren Centrowitz had one of the nation's fastest times, a full 10 seconds quicker than Follett's season-best. Still, when the gun went off in the final, Follett went straight to the front to control the pace, and Centrowitz was content to sit back.
Heading into the final lap on a pace slower than the preliminary rounds, Washington State's Lisa Egami made a move up front, but her lead was short-lived, as Follett and teammate Kailey Campbell both moved back out front and the pace picked up. With 200 meters to go, every woman broke into a full sprint with Stanford All-American Alicia Follmar coming up on the outside to challenge. Centrowitz stumbled, dropped back, and was not a factor again. Follett and Follmar were neck and neck down the entire home stretch, with Follett just outleaning Follmar by four hundredths of a second for the win. The look of determination on her face spoke volumes about her will to win. After the race Follett said she was thinking of wins the day before by her teammates Mel Lawrence (steeplechase) and Anita Campbell (10,000m) and drew inspiration from them.
The most dramatic finish in the field events came courtesy of junior Zack Midles, whose NCAA chances came down to one final hammer throw at the West Regional Meet in Eugene. The top five finishers would earn a ticket to the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and with one throw remaining, Midles sat in sixth-place. With his family looking on, including his father Dwight and older brother Adam, both All-America hammer throwers in their time, Midles paced back and forth by the cage, focusing his thoughts. When his turn came, he timed his throw perfectly, and sent the hammer 210-feet and 9-inches away, his best throw of the day and good enough to leapfrog two competitors in front of him and clinch his first ever NCAA trip. Midles celebrated with his family and teammates, and a few weeks later he would join his family's All-America fraternity as he placed 13th at the national meet.
Mel Lawrence already had two phenomenal cross country seasons in the books when she began her first track campaign earlier this year as a redshirt freshman. She enjoyed a great indoor season, setting the school record in the 3,000-meters and making NCAA Indoors. But Head Coach Greg Metcalf, a steeplechase All-American for UW in the early 90s, was probably most excited to turn Lawrence loose in his old event once the outdoor season opened up. Lawrence was a junior national champion in the steeplechase, though it had been two years since her last run. Lawrence made a splash as one only can in the steeple in her first try at the UW-WSU dual meet, breaking the school record by 30 seconds in the win. She went on to dominate the steeple at the Pac-10 Championships and West Regional Championships, lowering her school record down to 9:52.77 in the process.
At the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas on June 12, Lawrence and every other steeplechaser was in the shadow of American record-holder and 2008 Olympian Jenny Barringer of Colorado, who was running her last college track meet. Barringer got the win, but Lawrence came in third behind only Barringer and another senior, Nicole Bush of Michigan State, and in the process took down the Pac-10 Conference record held by former Olympian Lisa Aguilera. Lawrence's time of 9:40.98 was nearly six full seconds faster than Aguilera's best of 9:46.43. Lawrence joins Aretha Hill (discus) as the only two Husky women to hold Pac-10 records. She went on to finish fifth in the event at the USA Track Championships, establishing herself as a future great.
While Lawrence was rolling to records in her first track season, senior Austin Abbott had been targeting the storied school records in the mile and the 1,500-meter run his whole career, ever since cracking the four-minute mile barrier as a freshman phenom. Yet for much of his career, Abbott's focus was on the 800-meters, and it wasn't until 2009 that he moved up and had another shot at the longstanding marks. At his last home meet indoors, the Last Chance Meet on March 7, Abbott used his powerful finishing kick to run a lifetime-best mile of 3:58.23, and overtake the marks of Eric Garner (3:58.93; 2002) and Greg Gibson (3:59.24; 1974). Garner was running in the very same heat for Brooks Eastside, and Gibson was on-hand as well, so the three four-minute milers in UW history were able to gather for a picture afterwards.
"Eric, who had the record, said to me while we were warming up, 'You're having a great year, just beat my record already.' And here I had been trying not to think about that," said Abbott. "But I've had my eye on that for a while so to finally take it down in my last opportunity, I'm really happy."
Moving outdoors, Abbott took aim at Bruce Stirling's 1,500m mark of 3:39.89, which had stood since 1987. Abbott was left frustrated after running 3:41.70 at the Mt. SAC Relays in mid-April, as in his mind he had missed his best chance to break the record with postseason meets generally being slower, tactical affairs. And indeed his runs at the Pac-10 and West Regional Championships were much slower. Abbott headed to NCAAs in Arkansas for his collegiate finale, and got wind from Coach Metcalf that his first preliminary heat would go out fast. In what could have been the final race of his career, Abbott made it one of his best. He followed his personal script down to the letter, going from the back of the pack early on up to just behind the lead group, staying out of any traffic, and then unleashing a powerful finishing kick over the final 150 meters on the outside. He crossed the line second in the semifinal in 3:39.63 and upon seeing his time Abbott raised his arms in triumph. He went on to place seventh in the final, earning the sixth and final All-America honor of his storied career.
Husky golfer Nick Taylor received numerous honors, including the McCormack Award for the World's Top Amateur, and won a UW-record three NCAA events during the 2008-09 season. Despite all the accolades, it may be a 36th-place finish that stands out most to the All-American golfer.
What's the big deal about a 36th-place result? When that 36th-place finish comes in one of the PGA Tour's four major events -- the U.S. Open -- and is the best finish among all amateurs entered in the event, it is an accomplishment that etches your name in golf history books.
Rain storms doused Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y., forcing the cancellation of Thursday's play and wreaking general havoc over the course. The wet conditions proved to be favorable for Taylor, who grew up honing his skills in Abbottsford, B.C., and he stormed out of the gates and made an early charge up the leaderboard.
The field tried to jam two rounds of action into Friday and Taylor was able to complete 32 holes and was tied for sixth at 2-under par before play was suspended due to darkness. He shot an unremarkable 3-over 73 in the first round, before grabbing the attention of the golf world with by shooting 5-under through the first 14 holes of the second round. He hit a remarkable six birdies in those 14 holes, including chipping in from the sand as darkness crept up on him on the Par-3 14th hole. He would hold steady the next morning to not only make the cut, but equal the best round ever by an amateur in the U.S. Open with a 5-under 65.
"It's a good feeling to be able to make the cut and play the weekend," Taylor said to the Associated Press. "You know, I'm a couple under par, have really no expectations ... so just go out and play as well as I can and not have any pressure out there for the most part."
On Sunday, the field tried to cram 36 holes into one day and Taylor was not able to maintain the momentum from the day before. He bogeyed six holes and shot a 5-over 75 in the third round, followed by two bogeys through six holes of the final round. He found himself in 34th place at 6-over for the tournament before darkness halted play. Taylor would return to the course on Monday and ended up equaling his third-round 5-over 75. He would ultimately end up in a respectable 37th place at 8-over-par 288.
Although he did not win the U.S. Open, Taylor put on display what UW fans have known for a long time on one of golf's largest stages -- that one of the world's best golfers represents the Husky purple-and-gold.
Even Kyle Conley would agree that, through much of his career at the UW, he was a bit streaky at the plate. The good part of that was that when Conley, a slugging right fielder from Richland, Wash., got hot, there was no one hotter.
One such instance came early in the 2009 baseball season.
It was Sunday, March 8, and the Diamond Dawgs were in Reno to take on the Nevada Wolf Pack in the third game of a three-game series. The teams had split the first two.
Not surprisingly for a place like Reno in early March, it was cold, crisp and very clear at Peccole Park, which sits on a hill overlooking the casinos of "The Biggest Little City In the World." On that afternoon, Conley put on a display worthy of casino showrooms beyond the outfield fence.
After drawing a walk in his first plate appearance, Conley came up with the Dawgs trailing 1-0 in the third. With Andy Bethel and Pierce Rankin aboard on singles, he belted a home run to straightaway center, giving the UW a 3-1 lead.
Nevada drew even with two runs in the fourth but, in the fifth, Conley was back at the plate again. This time, he blasted a two-run homer deep to left, giving the Huskies the lead once again.
Conley came up again in the seventh. This time, Rankin was standing at third, thanks to a one-out triple. Conley's bid for a third homer was a long blast headed out to center field. But, it was caught by the Wolf Pack's leaping center fielder up against the fence, just shy of leaving the yard. Rankin scored easily on the long fly.
Conley's last at bat led off the top of the ninth inning. This time, he had the distance as he slammed a solo homer to left field.
Washington won, 7-4. Conley had hit three home runs and, thanks to the sacrifice fly, he had driven in all seven runs, both remarkable feats in their own right.
Not surprisingly, Conley was named Pac-10 Player of the Week. He went on to hit 19 round-trippers on the year and finished his Husky tenure tied for the school record with 42 homers.
Conley was named first-team All-Pac-10 for the second straight season and was then drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh round of the big league draft.