June 6, 2008

Gopher Sports 2007-08 Recap

Chances are pretty good that if you read this blog then you are already aware how the football, basketball and hockey teams fared this year. (Ugly, improved, disappointing in case you didn't know). But lets take a moment to recap all of the 23 Golden Gopher sports...

Big Ten Champions
Women's Cross Country
Women's Swimming and Diving
Women's Indoor Track & Field

I guess it was a better year for the women's side of the athletic department but here is a brief sport-by-sport run down.

Fall Sports

Football (1-11) - Tim Brewster's first season was highlited by his recruiting class while we suffered through a season as bad as any in memory. The football team has received enough coverage so we'll leave well enough alone.

Volleyball (18-13) - 11-9 which was good enough to be tied for third in the Big Ten. A streaky season for the Golden Gophers who started out 12-3, went on a seven game losing streak, split their next two and then finished the conference season winning five of their last six. Minnesota was the only team in the country to face all four participants of the Final Four (Cal, Stanford and the National Champs from Penn State). Heading into next year we return two very talented freshmen (Brook Dieter and Lauren Gibbemeyer) and currently sit as the 9th winningest volleyball program in the country.

W Cross Country (finished 12th at NCAA Championships) - Big Ten Champs (five runners in top 17) and NCAA Midwest Region Champs highlited a rather successful season for the women runners. SO-Jamie Cheever was the highest finisher at the NCAA meet finishing 33rd overall. We do return six of our top seven runners so 2008 could be another highly successful season for the women long distance runners.

M Cross Country (finished 8th at NCAA Championships) - JR-Chris Rombaugh finished 29th and FR-Hassan Mean finished 43rd to lead the Gophers. Mead and Rombaugh finished 2nd and 4th respectively in the Big Ten Championships as the Gophers finished 2nd to Wisconsin. We return three of the top five runners for next year.

Women's Soccer (9-8-2) - The season was nothing special but did manage to pull off the biggest upset in the program's history when the Gopher women knocked off nationally ranked (#8) Penn State 1-0 in double OT. The team finished 6th in conference and lost to Illinois in the first round of the B10 Tourney. With their sophomore and freshmen classes ranking top 50 nationally when they were recruited, it would appear that the next couple seasons could be improved.

Winter Sports

Men's Basketball (20-14) - again well chronicled on this particular blog. Much improved, incredible recruiting class and some new coach who given time just might make a name for himself.

Women's Basketball (20-12) - 11-7 was good enough for 3rd in the Big Ten. More importantly the women earned a their 5th bid into the NCAA Tournament in coach Pam Borton's six seasons. They return their best player in cup stacking champion, PG, Emily Fox who earned First team All-Big Ten honors in her junior season.

Men's Gymnastics - finished 5th (out of 6) in Big Ten Championships. SR-Mitchel Mays claimed an individual title on the vault. Mays was actually the heavy favorite to win an NCAA title on the vault but he "landed short on his Tsukahara double pike for a score of 15.625 and an eighth-place finish."

Women's Gymnastics - finished 6th in Big Ten Championships, but managed to finish the season with a #16 national ranking. Apparently the Big Ten was loaded as seven teams finished in the top 30 (6 in top 20).

Men's Hockey (19-17-9) - a disappointing season as the Gophers began the season with hopes of a Frozen four appearance but reality brought them down to a 9-12-7 WCHA record (7th place). Freshman Goalie, Alex Kangas, went on an unbelievable run during the WCHA tournament and Minnesota fell just short of their 15th conference tournament championship. The Gophers did manage an at large bid into the NCAA's but lost in their first round match up at Boston College.

Women's Hockey (27-7-4) - a more successful regular season than the men ended in much the same fashion. After finishing 2nd in the WCHA to Wisconsin, the Gopher women advanced to the championship game but lost to Wisconsin. They did of course make the NCAA tournament and were given the opportunity to avenge their previous 3 losses to Wisconsin but once again they lost to the Badgers to end the Gopher season.

Men's Swimming and Diving (3rd in Big Ten) - continued their streak of a Big Ten top 3 finish each and every season since 1989. The men scored more points this year in the NCAAs than they did a year ago when they finished 10th, but the added points this year were enough to garner an 11th place finish.

Women's Swimming and Diving (Big Ten Champs) - setting 14 team records and five events the women swimmers (and divers) won their third conference championship. The women continued their successful season and went on to finish 13th at the NCAA meet. Jillian Tyler earned Big Ten freshman of the year.

Wrestling - The Gopher grapplers followed up their 2007 National Championship season with their worst finish in the NCAA meet since 1996 finishing 10th. Not so bad, right? But when you have standards set as high as the Gophers', who have finished top 3 in nine of the last 11 seasons, 10th isn't exactly something to write home about. Second in the Big Ten, their best wrestler returning and the nation's top recruiting class on it's way there is no reason to believe the Gophers will not be back to their usual top three finish.


Baseball (20-35) - the baseball team is likely the biggest disappointment of the Minnesota athletic department. A decent showing in the non-conference season beating Tulane, Pepperdine and Missouri (all NCAA Tourney participants) turned out to be fools gold as the Gophers struggled mightily and finished last in the Big Ten. I'm planning to cover this in more detail soon, but it was their worst season since 1950. A very young pitching staff and much of their lineup potentially returning (depending on draftee decisions) should mean the Gophers will return to the top of the Big Ten soon.

Softball (29-16) - 4th place finish in the Big Ten. This was the highest Big Ten finish since 1999 and with only four seniors on the team 2009 could be a very successful season for the softball team.

Rowing - With the finest facilities around and a breakthrough season in 207, the women's rowing team finished 4th at the Big Ten Championships and 6th in the Central Region.

Men's Tennis (7-17) - 16 of their 17 losses came to ranked opponents and this young squad finished 4-6 in the Big Ten to cap their season. They will return 3 of their top 4 singles players and should be in fine shape to return to the NCAA tournament where they have been 13 of the last 15 years.

Women's Tennis (15-11) - a winning season and much of their roster returning this may have been a learning season. #1 singles was freshman Alessandra Ferrazzi from Brescia, Italy who will anchor the team in the next few seasons. Looking at the roster you see that the women's tennis team hails from exotic locations all over the world as Italy, Russia, Brazil, Australia and Neenah, Wisconsin are all represented. Bonus points to anyone who is actually reading this and can guess which of those locations I have actually been to.

Men's Track & Field - 5th place in Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Championships. The premier outdoor event, the 100m, was won by a Gopher for just the second time as Ibrahim Kabia established himself as the fastest man in the Big Ten (would have been 8th in SEC for those of you keeping track). Three other men won individual titles. Five Gophers will participate in the NCAA Meet (June 11-15 in Des Moines, IA). All five are underclassmen.

Women's Track & Field - This may be the most successful team in Gopher athletics this season. Big Ten Indoor Champs and 3rd place in Outdoor Championships. Eight individuals will be participating in the NCAA Meet next week.

Men's Golf - Big Ten runner ups to Michigan State with two golfers finishing in the top 10. JR-Victor Almstrom finished tied for 5th and SR-Clayton Rask finished 10th. Like several other sports this team was young and will return four of their top five golfers. Rask and Almstrom also participated in the NCAA Central Region Tournament finishing 11th and 41st respectively.

Women's Golf - While young squads has been a theme here, the women's golf team is the youngest of them all. The Gopher women finished 8th in the Big Ten (shooting their second lowest B10 score in team history) and the team was led by two freshman. Teresa Puga finished sixth individually at the Big Ten Tourney and Mary Narsizi finished 23rd. Essentially the entire roster returns (one senior who was not usually within the top 5), while this does not guarantee success they will have every opportunity to improve.

That covers all 23 sports that you can support in Gopher Athletics. As a group the University of Minnesota athletics finished 22nd nationally in the NACDA Director's Cup Standings. I do not believe that all of the spring sports are included in the most recent rankings so I would expect a little drop depending on how well our track athletes perform. A year ago we finished 20th but with the poor showing by football and baseball, coupled with slightly down years in hockey and wrestling the drop cannot be all that unexpected. How Notre Dame could even think about hiring away an athletic director from a team not in the top 20 of the Director's Cup Standings is beyond me.

Directors Cup Standings
Big Ten Teams
2 Michigan
3 Ohio State
4 Penn State
18 Wisconsin
22 Minnesota
23 Purdue
25 Michigan St.
29 Illinois
30 Indiana
32 Northwestern
50 Iowa

Take that Iowa!


storminspank said...

Sure, Iowa finished last in the Director's Cup, but at least Iowans can spell "highlight" correctly.


Tom said...

Leave it to an Iowa grad, known for their incredible academics and clearly not their sports, to be my human spell checker.

storminspank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
storminspank said...

But joke's on you, as I graduated from UNI.

Oh wait, does that mean the joke's on me?