By Andy Crookston and Neil Roberts
The 2013-14 athletic year was a big one for soccer, volleyball, and women's basketball. All of these teams made headlines. There were huge upset wins, players earning conference recognition, postseason appearances, and a rival that finally was vanquished after nearly two decades of losing.
We started chatting towards the end of the school year about all the excitement we had following several women's sports over the course of the year. If you follow non-revenue sports, you have to find people that follow along with you to trade information and analysis since coverage is relatively small. We really get into non-revenue sports at WSU, so we hold our non-revenue following friends in high esteem.
After making a laundry list of big moments, we debated and ranked what we thought were the Top 10 moments for last year's WSU women's team sports:
10. Women's basketball upsets No. 10 Nebraska on the road
The Cougars made it clear to the Pac-12 that they were a force to be reckoned with last season. But, it wasn't certain that would be the case based on the results from their non-conference schedule. The Cougs struggled with consistency before Pac-12 play, going 6-6 in their non-conference schedule.
Despite the early inconsistency, there was one non-conference game that foreshadowed the Cougs' ability to eventually upset several ranked teams in conference play. On Nov. 30, 2013, WSU rolled into Nebraska and knocked off the No. 10 Cornhuskers, 76-72. Tia Presley led the way for the Cougars with 17 points.
9. Kyra Holt takes home all-conference honors
When coach Jen Greeny and husband Burdette arrived in Pullman to take over the volleyball program that had slipped from relevancy, they immediately went to work on the 2013 recruiting class. One member of that class made an impression on the Pac-12 conference in her first year at WSU. Outside hitter Kyra Holt earned all-Pac-12 honorable mention and all-Pac-12 Freshman honors in 2013.
8. Soccer makes the NCAA tournament again, hosts a first round match
The soccer program has been to the NCAA tournament four times in the last five years, and this year's tournament brought the first round to Pullman. It was the first time that the NCAA tournament had been hosted by WSU since 2000, and many people were expecting a crimson crowd would will the Cougs to victory. Unfortunately it didn't, but being able to watch an NCAA tournament match in Pullman is something we'll never forget.
7. The Tia and Lia Show earns all-Pac-12 awards
In 2012, Lia Galdeira, a scrappy guard from Hawaii, arrived in Pullman and made an immediate impact on women's basketball with an aggressive rim-attacking style and hard-nosed defense. Galdiera joined another talented guard, Spokane's Tia Presley, whose small stature put her under the radar of Pac-12 schools. Presley suffered a season-ending ACL injury that cut her 2012-13 short, but in 2013-14, both players stayed healthy and established themselves as a double threat to lead the team to its first postseason appearance since 1995. The efforts turned in by both players led them to receive all-Pac12 honors. No Coug had been named to the all-Conference team since Tricia Lamb in 1998-99.
6. Micaela Castain became the first Cougar soccer player to win Pac-12 Player of the Year
Senior Micaela Castain spent the last two years of her career dominating the pitch. Castain scored 11 goals in her senior season with 14 assists, and because of that, she enabled her teammates to be that much more dangerous. Outside of the fact that she didn't play for UCLA or Stanford, it really wasn't a surprise that the she won the Pac-12 Player of the Year.
5. Volleyball went undefeated in non-conference play
The volleyball program has been one of the best programs in the WSU athletic department, but it has struggled during the past five seasons. So when the squad quickly ripped of 13 straight victories in non-conference play, there was hope that the team would return to the NCAAs. While that didn't happen, the 13-0 start did guarantee the squad it's first above-.500 finish since 2009.
4. Women's Basketball makes a run to Pac-12 tournament semifinals to become postseason eligible
For the second time in three years, the Cougars reached the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. The most critical win came in the opening round when the Cougs outpaced Oregon, 107-100. The win guaranteed that the Cougs would become postseason eligible for the first time since 1995. But the Cougs weren't done yet; they followed up the victory by knocking off Lindsey Gottleib's No. 20 Cal Bears 91-83 in the quarterfinals behind Galdeira's 28-point effort. The Cougs would eventually lose to Oregon State in the semifinal round, but they certainly made their presence felt in Seattle.
3. Soccer beats No. 6 Stanford at home
Stanford made its trip to Pullman on Nov. 3, 2013, riding a 42-match unbeaten streak (and 26-match road winning streak in Pac-12 play), as well as a nine-match winning streak against the Cougs. Both squads took the pitch in driving snow, and clearly struggled to adapt to the conditions. The first half ended tied at zero.
The second half was clearly controlled by Washington State, as the team played more aggressive on the offensive and defensive ends of the pitch. That aggressiveness paid off when Jocelyn Jeffers knocked in the only goal of the match in the 58th minute. WSU ended the losing streak to the Cardinal and sent their seniors out on senior day with the win.
2. Volleyball upends No. 4 USC in a wild come-from-behind win
The Washington State volleyball team was in the middle of a three-game losing streak when No. 4 USC made the trip to Pullman on Nov. 15, 2013. USC raced out to an early two-set lead thanks to a potent offensive attack and a struggling Cougar defense. WSU's offense came out of the break (between the second and third set) on fire, and the Cougs pulled the set out 25-22. But the Cougs weren't done yet, as they also won the fourth set 25-22.
The Trojans came out in the fifth set on fire, controlling it ... right up until they didn't. The Trojans were up 14-9, and on match point when WSU reeled off the next five points to force the tie. After a back-and-forth scoring, the Cougs pulled off the come from behind upset victory in the fifth set, 21-19.
1. Women's Basketball breaks out the broom on UW after 19 year drought
No matter how closely WSU fans followed the team, there was one ugly factoid that was stuck in everybody's mind about the program: They hadn't beat Washington since 1995. That drought amounted to a total of 36 consecutive losses, many of which came at the hands of UW-turned-WSU head coach June Daugherty.On Jan. 6, Daugherty righted her past wrongs and coached the Cougars to an 82-80 victory over the Dawgs. Galdeira scored 28 in the Cougar victory and a much-improved Shalie Dheensaw logged a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
The Cougs were not happy just to snap the streak. Five days later, they began their own streak with another win over the Huskies in Seattle. Tia Presley scored 29 points in the effort and Dheensaw recorded a second straight double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Now and the future
For many, 2013-14 was the year of breaking a bowl drought and the end of Bone. This summary misses the huge year that women's sports enjoyed at WSU. Each of the women's teams at WSU achieved what wouldn't be quickly forgotten in a revenue sport.
If you're not already, get interested in one or two women's sports. It's a nice way to hedge your bets. For example, when the men's basketball team went through a dismal stretch, the women's team was playing in meaningful games and entertaining. The Pac-12 Network and the internet make following these sports really easy.