On the Call

(From top right): Olivia Crawford, ‘20, Stephanie Verdoia, ‘15, and Katie Favilla, ‘10.

Three former Redhawk standouts take the mic broadcasting the games they once played.

After starring as student athletes, three alumna recently returned as analysts on Seattle University’s ESPN+ telecasts. Stephanie Verdoia, ’15 (soccer), Olivia Crawford, ’20 (basketball) and Katie (Antich) Favilla, ’10 (softball) are now sharing insights on their sports as color commentators.

For each, the gigs came about through connections they’ve maintained with the teams for which they played and excelled. When they’re not commentating, Verdoia is an attorney representing student athletes, Crawford works with youth who have been impacted by the justice system and on violence prevention programs and Favilla is a lead sonographer.

“Broadcasting has made me feel closer to the program,” says Favilla, who made a name for herself on the diamond as a slap-hitting, base-stealing phenom. “I root for these women like they’re my little sisters. I want this program to succeed because of how much it gave me and how much I enjoyed it.”

Following graduation Verdoia played professionally before transitioning to coach with OL Reign Academy.

“One of my favorite things is to break soccer down for people who are learning, developing as players or like to watch the game and understand more of why certain things are happening,” she says. “So I’m basically doing that for the Redhawks, a team I love watching.”

Having played professional basketball and coached at Saint Martin’s University, Crawford focuses on “what’s going on in the athlete’s mind and the coach’s mind. I feel I can bring an informed opinion and lived experience to the broadcast.”

All three appreciate the rapport they have with their respective play-by-play partners: Verdoia is paired with Andrew Harvey, Crawford with Russell Brown and Favilla with Greg Sexton. There’s really no playbook for color commentary, but the former Redhawk standouts have artfully negotiated a steep learning curve while carving out distinctive, complementary roles.

“I’m more of an analytical person and Russell is really good at the play-by-play, so we have a nice balance,” says Crawford.

Verdoia says she’s worked on finishing her thoughts and knowing when to contribute. “There has to be a purpose. I don’t want there to be too much talking from me—even though I’m the color commentator—because when I watch soccer, I like when the game has its own rhythm and it’s not filled.”

Like Crawford and Verdoia, Favilla enjoys delving into the intricacies of the game she loves, often predicting what might come next (à la NFL-player-turned-analyst Tony Romo). “I like explaining to the audience, ‘OK, you’ve got runners on first and second and you’ve got your six-hitter up. This is what I think coach is going to do.’”

And Favilla always keeps her primary audience in mind—the family and friends of the players. She recounts a time there was a knock at the door of the broadcast booth. Favilla thought it was just someone looking for the restroom, but it turned out to be the father of a player on an opposing team. He had watched one of Favilla’s broadcasts and wanted to thank her for speaking about his daughter’s game in glowing terms. “That solidified it for me,” she says. “This is what I should bring to the broadcast.”

Redhawk Résumé

STEPHANIE VERDOIA, ’15, Political Science

  • Women’s soccer all-time statistical leader in seven different categories, including scoring; recipient of numerous awards and recognitions; and 2022 SU Hall of Fame honoree
  • First Seattle U student athlete from a women's team to be drafted by a United States pro league when she was selected by the National Women's Soccer League’s Boston Breakers in 2015

Day job: Represents student athletes as an attorney specializing in sports litigation with Hagens Berman in Seattle

On time at SU: “As team captain, I was often relied upon for using my voice. I think I was at a place in my life where I wasn’t super comfortable with that just yet, but I was given a little nudge by the team and the coaches and I found my feet. And that’s carried me forward into everything I’ve done in life.”

OLIVIA CRAWFORD, ’20, Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology

  • After transferring to SU as a junior, ranked second on the basketball team for assists and steals and often deployed to cover the opposition’s top perimeter scorer
  • Signed with Vestri, a professional team in Iceland in 2020

Day job: Works at Choose 180, a nonprofit in Seattle that supports youth and young adults who have been impacted by the juvenile justice system, as well as with violence prevention programs with the YMCA

On time at SU: “Seattle U … is definitely a place I call home. This is a one-of-a-kind experience.”

KATIE FAVILLA, ’10, Diagnostic Ultrasound

  • Holds SU’s all-time stolen base record and is in the top 10 of five other all-time  categories for softball
  • Originally a walk-on, helped lead the program’s transition from Division II to Division I

Day job: Lead sonographer at Virginia Mason in Seattle

On time at SU: “Wins, losses, games aside, my teammates are the greatest thing to come out of my four years at Seattle U (other than my husband). These are women who, through it all, will always be there for you.”

This story originally appeared in the spring edition of Seattle University Magazine, out now.

Written by Mike Thee

Wednesday, May 3, 2023