On this final week of both the year and the decade, it seems appropriate to reflect on just a few of the many highlights achieved by the Cougs over the past 10 years. Make that the past 10 seasons.
You may even be surprised by some of the notables selected for mention throughout my series this week.
Whether the times are good or tough, Washington State University continues to march forward in a very positive fashion. Though attending WSU is primarily about the academic experience, we all enjoy the spirit of competition in the arena of athletics.
Since this sportswriter has never been accused of achieving academic excellence, I'll stick to what I know best about WSU—sports.
The task of selecting athletic accomplishments worthy of mention is a pleasurable experience. With selection comes the inevitable debate over what's included and what's omitted. Feel free to leave comments below to put my view of Cougar athletics on the straight and narrow.
Though there will be no priority placed on the accomplishments highlighted, my personal favorites will be saved for the final segment in this series. Consider that an indulgence leading into the celebration of a New Year.
2008 WSU Women’s Soccer
Washington State women’s soccer’s emergence as a national force planted roots with the hiring of Coach Matt Potter. Coach Potter guided his team to a record of 10-6-3 on the 2008 season and an invitation to the NCAA Championship tournament.
WSU faced No. 15 Texas in the opening round of the NCAA. The Longhorns were on their game, outshooting the No. 24 Cougs by a wide margin in the second half. Offensive pressure by Texas kept WSU from getting any rhythm in the game. As for establishing a rhythm for WSU women's soccer, that die was well cast.
It was no fluke a six-year drought for the chance to compete for a national championship ended with a trip to the NCAA for the Cougs.
A host of young WSU players earned All-Pac-10 honors, setting the stage for future success for women’s soccer at Washington State: Kiersten Dallstream and Lindsay Parlee were named second team; Carly Dobratz, Ali Fenter, and Elysse Van Leer received honorable mention. Fenter was also named to the All-Pac-10 Freshman Team.
2009 WSU Women’s Soccer
Coach Potter led the Cougs to an outstanding 14-6-2 record on a season that included a trip to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship. Washington State was ranked No. 14 in the nation, a testament to the solid team and program Coach Potter is developing.
The 14 wins for the Cougars tied the school record. Eleven of those wins were hard-earned shutouts. Then there are the historic highlights for Coach Potter’s squad. On the heels of the 2008 team advancing to the NCAA Championship tournament, back-to-back appearances for the Cougs was a Washington State first.
WSU advanced to the second round of the NCAA only to lose a heartbreaker to Maryland 1-0. The Cougs outshot and outhustled the No. 19-ranked Terrapins but couldn’t put one in the back of the net.
Once again in 2009, the All-Pac-10 Team was dotted with Cougar players, including Carly Dobratz, First Team; Meghan Berlingo and Kirsten Dallstream, Second Team; along with Mel Johnson and Mariah Cameron named to the Pac-10 All Freshman Team.
2006-2007 WSU Men's Basketball
The rebuilding of Cougar basketball begun under Coach Dick Bennett took a huge step forward in the 2006-2007 season.
Dick Bennett returned to retirement (you may recall Bennett was lured out of retirement by the challenge of rebuilding the Cougar basketball program) and turned over the reins of the Washington State men’s basketball team to his son, Tony.
You might say Coach Tony Bennett took the team and ran with it, but that wasn’t Bennett Ball. The deliberate style of play favored by the elder Bennett continued on under the guidance of the younger Coach Bennett.
A collection of unique players was molded into one when taking the hardwood and donning crimson and gray uniforms. Coach Bennett's roster had no "big name" players anyone outside of Pullman might recognize.
Heck, there were only two players on the roster from the state of Washington. The core of the team was the backcourt duo of Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low. Up front, WSU featured the feisty play of Robbie Cowgill and the athletic ability of Ivory Clark.
Coach Bennett patiently wangled through the regular season schedule and Pac-10 tournament with a 25-7 record, national ranking of No. 12, and the ticket college basketball is all about.
The Cougs earned their invitation to the NCAA Tournament, where they easily won their first game over Oral Roberts but then lost in double-overtime to Vanderbilt in the second round.
Considering how far the Cougar basketball program had fallen, finishing the 2006-2007 season with a 26-8 record ranks as one of the most memorable revitalizations of any collegiate athletic program.
Both Coach Dick Bennett and Coach Tony Bennett have earned a position of prominence in the history Washington State athletics.
Check back for the spotlight to pinpoint more Cougar sports highlights of the decade.
Originally published in Lew Wright's WSU Sports column for Examiner.com