Just because the men's and women's basketball teams went ahead and tipped off their seasons earlier this month didn't mean that our fall sports student-athletes were finished. Far from it.
The Seattle University women's soccer team made history in more ways than one when they defeated Kansas City to win the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 10. The victory made them the first SU women's team in any sport to qualify for an NCAA Division I tournament. Ever. It was also the first NCAA berth for any team, men's or women's, since SU's reclassification as an NCAA Division I school.
The women's historically significant season came to an end this Saturday when they fell to the University of Portland in the NCAAs after hanging with the Pilots for most of the match. A day later, though, the men took the baton, winning the WAC and punching at ticket of their own to the NCAAs. They will face fellow Jesuit school Creighton in the first round at 5 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 21). It's the first an SU men's team sport has qualified for an NCAA Division I tournament since the men's basketball team made an appearance in 1969.
These are exciting days for SU athletics, with the action and accolades coming fast and furious. Consider what took place over Veterans Day weekend, alone. Within the span of 72 hours, Redhawk fans had the opportunity to catch the women's swim team take on Oregon State and a men's intrasquad meet before heading down the halls of Connolly for the women's basketball team's home opener; return to Connolly for the women's swim meet against Idaho and another men's intrasquad meet before crossing 14th Ave. to cheer on the men's soccer team in their regular-season finale at Championship Field; shoot over to Montlake for the men's basketball team's season opener against the Washington Huskies; and then head back to campus to celebrate the women's soccer team's NCAA berth at a party. In other words, to follow SU's student-athletes that weekend, you had to be pretty athletic yourself. And in the midst of this whirlwind, head coaches Julie Woodward and Pete Fewing were named WAC Coach of the Year in women's and men's soccer, respectively.
Then there's the volleyball team which ended their regular season with a 9-7 conference record and now await their seeding and opponent for this weekend's WAC Tournament. And let's not forget that just a few short weeks ago SU's cross country team became the first Redhawk squad to host a Division I conference championship event when they rolled out the red carpet at Jefferson Park Golf Course on Nov. 2.
"This is by far the most exciting and energizing time in SU athletics since I've been here," said Bill Hogan, who took over as athletics director in 2006. "It is satisfying to see all the hard work that has been put into all our programs yielding these great results. I am so proud of our student-athletes and coaches."
With the fall season cascading upon winter, Hogan and his colleagues in the athletics department have been scrambling to keep pace. This past weekend, Sports Information Director Jason Behenna had to feel a bit like a ping-pong ball being bounced between Seattle and Colorado Springs. After flying out to the Air Force Academy's Cadet Field to cover the men's soccer team's victory in the WAC Tournament semifinals on Friday, Behenna caught an early Saturday morning flight back home to attend the men's basketball team's victory over Evergreen State at KeyArena. He then circled back on another early jaunt to Colorado for the WAC championship game before flying back to the Emerald City.
While the women's soccer team enjoyed early success heading into its historic conference season, the men found a different path to their WAC title. Starting the season 0-6-1, things were looking pretty bleak for the team. Then a light went on, literally, as Fewing says the turnaround came in the Redhawks' Oct. 8 match against the nationally ranked University of Washington Huskies-the first-ever night game at Championship Field. Though the Redhawks wound up losing the match 2-0, the coach said in an interview with Sounders FC that the team came away feeling they could compete with anyone. And have they ever. They went unbeaten (6-0-3) the rest of the regular season to clinch the WAC title, before winning the conference championship and secure their NCAA berth. True to their comeback ways, the team had to overcome a 1-0 halftime deficit to earn the victory.
Of course it was the women's basketball team, led by Joan Bonvicini, that got this run of conference championships rolling when they became the first SU team since the reclassification to win a regular-season title last year. Heading into this season the women were favorites to win the WAC again, and despite losing three tough games to start the season (including the Huskies and Washington State Cougars), there's no reason the team can't repeat.
The men's basketball team is proving an exciting ticket. After holding their own against the Huskies in the season-opener, losing by just 10 points, the team came back from a double-digit deficit to beat Cal State Fullerton in dramatic fashion in their first game at the Key last week and then went on to defeat Evergreen State, 100-59, before falling to a tough Boise State team last night.
All of which is to say…Whew! If the fall season and early part of winter are any indication, we'd best strap ourselves in tightly for what's looking to be a thrilling ride on the Redhawk Express.
Follow all the Redhawks action as best you can at www.goseattleu.com.