A cold, steady drizzle descended on the city of Denver following DU’s 10-9 loss to Towson. Much like the DU hockey team in Tampa, a two-goal deficit was just too much to overcome. The sticks that were flying into the air were not ours – again. The gloom engulfed Pioneer fans and the weather followed.
But really, is there anything to be feel bad about?
This has been the most successful year in the history of Denver athletics. Nearly all the athletic teams qualified for their respective NCAA Tournaments and the ones that didn’t are gearing up for next year.
When we rebooted LetsGoDU at the beginning of the school year, we wanted to offer Pioneer fans original content and a platform for them to voice their opinions. It has been fun and we hope you have enjoyed it half as much as we have.
And what a year it has been!
It would be impossible to recognize all the athletes and coaches in a single article so I will share my favorite five moments of the year – and please feel free to share your favorites as well. My bias is always tilted toward sports that may not get as much recognition as some of the others – I have always appreciated all the athletes who compete for DU – sometimes in relative anonymity. Some may call these ‘secondary sports’ but when you look at how hard these athletes work and the elite performances they produce, there is nothing ‘secondary’ about them.
- Sophomore Linn Erikson put on one of the most dramatic athletic efforts I have ever witnessed. Her performance in the Nordic 15k Classical final event in the NCAA Championships in Steamboat put an exclamation point on DU’s 23rd National Ski Championship. Skiing alone, with deteriorating snow conditions and a charging pack of skiers, she singlehandedly crushed teams from Utah, Colorado, and the best of the rest in the final several miles of the race to put a stamp on DU’s NCAA national championship title.
- Gymnast Nina McGee. What else can you say? She was the model of consistency all year, receiving two 10’s on her specialty, floor exercise, during the season. Then, she went to Fort Worth, Texas for the NCAA Finals and put it all together for Denver’s first ever individual gymnastics title. She did all of this with two rods in her shins and as an individual entrant against the titans of collegiate gymnastics.
- LetsGoDU predicted an 11-win season for the men’s basketball team. Instead, behind three outstanding freshmen – Thomas Neff, C.J. Bobbit, Joe Rosga, – the team outperformed expectations at 16-15. They continually came back from losses and deficits and never gave up. Then, they took South Dakota State, the Summit League champion and gold standard, to the final seconds of the conference semifinals – dropping a heart breaker, 54-53, in the waning seconds. Rodney Billups has inherited a solid core of players that are tough as nails. Add a few more key pieces and this program can make history.
- DU’s women’s volleyball team, led by sole senior Sarah Schmid, went 27-8 overall and 13-3 in the Summit. They won their conference regular season and hosted University Nebraska Omaha for the League Championship for an NCAA bid. DU showed guts and determination – storming back after trailing 2-0 to the Mavericks. Anyone who attended that match will remember the Pioneers rallied in the final set, avoiding near certain defeat, to earn their second consecutive NCAA berth. They are on a trajectory to become DU’s ‘next big thing’.
- Coach Montgomery never changed – but we did. Just three years ago, he replaced a coaching legend and this year, he carved out his own place in DU’s hockey coaching family. He could never be George or The Chief – he was ‘Jim’. He did everything right from honoring DU’s past, holding steady during a mid-season swoon, while implementing his ‘200 feet of relentless Pioneer hockey’ philosophy. He led the Pioneers all the way to Tampa where they almost pulled off an epic third period comeback against North Dakota in the Frozen Four. And who could forget Coach Montgomery in his letter jacket at the electric Battle on Blake?
Last time I looked, DU held a 174 point lead for their eighth 1-AAA Directors Cup in nine years – the best athletic department in the region and the best non-football school in the land.
See what I mean? There’s some sunshine behind those clouds.