It’s no secret at BYU: Football rules the roost.
So an 8-5 season, coupled with another loss to Utah plus a season-ending defeat, doesn’t exactly bode well for the slant of the Cougars’ school year.
In fact, rival Utah dominated the in-state series through a variety of head-to-head competitions.
But seasons aren’t built on one game, so let’s not look at them that way, either.
Just like my parents used to do come report-card time (when given a chance …) let’s accentuate the positive with a year in review.
∫ Cross country: The men took fourth at the NCAA championships and continues to be one of the great treasures in Provo. It helped having Jared Ward back after his ridiculous suspension for participating in a silly offseason costume run. We keep waiting for the NCAA to get some common sense. We might be waiting a while, right? ...
∫ Football: Oh, people love talking football around here. Bronco’s Boys didn’t exactly play with their hearts or red-zone conversion sense in San Francisco at the Fight Hunger Bowl. An upstart Washington team played stronger for an interim coach. But the hope is that 2013’s young talent level could lead to a big 2014, especially with a more manageable schedule. Quarterback Taysom Hill will have to get used to even more attention. Who knows what the future holds as far as independence and its value? Bronco must be worried, because he pleaded his case to some reporter in Austin, Texas, about getting into the Big 12 Conference. He won’t be a cowardly lion about preaching the benefits of admitting BYU. Oh, and speaking of Lions: Cougar fans have a new favorite NFL team now that Detroit has drafted Cougars high in each of the past two seasons, with Ziggy Ansah followed by Kyle Van Noy.
∫ Men's tennis: Few people may realize that one of BYU’s most accomplished head coaches is Brad Pearce. He went deep into Wimbledon a couple of decades ago, and nearly took out Ivan Lendl in his prime on the famed grass surface. Pearce has one son on a mission (John) but another, Matthew, came to BYU this spring (graduating early from Timpview) and had an encouraging freshman season. Brad Pearce is bringing in a loaded recruiting class, too, which is one of the highest ranked in the country.
∫ Women’s soccer: Had one of the rare conquests of the Utes, 1-0, at home on Sept. 6. Then Jennifer Rockwood’s team did its typical thing, getting to the NCAA Tournament and enjoying a run. BYU lost 2-1 in the second round, but it’s a team that is built to last. And it’ll get the voice of the Cougars, Greg Wrubell, calling a lot of their games next year.
∫ Volleyball: The Cougar women finished the season 24-7 overall and 15-3 in West Coast Conference play. This season also marked the second-straight year that the Cougars advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. The 2013 squad included the WCC Freshman of the Year in Whitney Young, All-WCC and All-Pacific South Region sophomore Alexa Gray, All-WCC senior Kathryn LeCheminant and All-Pacific South Region Honorable Mention sophomore Camry Godfrey. And, oh by the way,Tambre Haddock was selected by her peers as the most exciting female athlete at the school’s annual “Y Awards” in April.
The BYU men led the nation in attendance (3,460) and had a spike of more than 400 fans per appearance at Smith Fieldhouse compared to last year. And for good reason. These guys were good — and exciting.
Vicious-hitting Taylor Sander led a group that clinched its second straight league regular-season and tournament titles on its way to a 21-9 overall record and 18-6 conference record. The Cougars marched the Final Four again, though being the last one standing remains a standing goal.
In his third season leading the Cougars, Chris McGown coached the team to his third 20-win season and second NCAA tournament appearance. McGown and the Cougars clinched the No. 1 seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament and a share of the regular-season MPSF crown March 29 in a victory against UCLA, setting a new league record for the earliest a team has secured the first seed. (The previous record was set by BYU in 2013.)
It didn’t matter how early or quickly BYU achieved some of its goals. Fans kept showing up in droves as one of the greater spectator scenes on campus.
Basketball: The men made it back to the NCAA Tournament, which was the major season-long goal. But it was the women that stole the show, advancing all the way to the Sweet 16 and giving national powerhouse UConn a game through the entire first half in Nebraska.
Tyler Haws is one of the school’s most popular athletes, a terrific blend of humility and skill. But he sure got a run for his money from Jennifer Hamson, BYU’s 6-foot-7 forward who owns her height (she loves wearing high heels!) and also owned a lot of Cougar opponents down the stretch. She’ll be a volleyball player next fall to cap her college career, then could have two sports vying for her professional services in the future. Considering her success in two high-profile sports, she’ll go down as one of the greatest athletes in school history.
Baseball: It wasn’t quite the second season straight-talk coach Mike Littlewood envisioned. But the Cougars lost a fair amount of talent after his 2013 debut, and struggled from the get-go with a four-game sweep at the hands of Kansas in Arizona. The Cougars finished the season with a 22-31 overall record and 12-15 in the West Coast Conference, Littlewood declaring that help was on the way.
Pitcher Kolton Mahoney and shortstop Tanner Chauncey were selected in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft by the Milwaukee Brewers and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively.
∫ Golf: The BYU men’s golf team made its second-straight appearance in the NCAA Regionals to cap off another successful season.
“Our golf team had a great year and nobody really thought for a second we would have a top-30 team in the country,” BYU men’s golf coach Bruce Brockbank added in a postseason release issued by the school. “The team showed great consistency throughout the year.”
The Cougars fell two strokes short of advancing to the NCAA Championships at the NCAA Auburn Regional on May 17, but finished in seventh place compared to last season’s eighth-place finish. Brockbank was named the WCC’s top coach, and it’s a program that appears to be finding a groove in-house while it has some successful alumni. Daniel Summerhays is thriving on the PGA Tour and recent graduate Zac Blair even qualified for the U.S. Open and made the cut. As for the women, the Cougars finished in the top three in four of the 11 tournaments they competed in and finished in the top five in six of those.
Softball: It doesn’t matter what conference Gordon Eakin’s team joins. The Cougars will win a league championship. It happened this year, too, in the WCC, after recently winning the Mountain West and also a mishmash of leagues that have become a necessity since the football team went independent.
BYU advanced again to the NCAA Tournament, though it fell in the first weekend.
“Our future is bright,” Eakin said. “We talked with those returning about not liking this feeling, and using it as motivation in the offseason.
∫ Track and field: Many BYU fans, who think the world revolves around football, may think of this track season as the time when star running back Jamaal Williams joined the team. Truth is, it was much more than that. Seniors Chase Dalton and Joshua Weirich competed in the decathlon at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore.
Freshman Shea Martinez was an 800-meter women's qualifier, while senior Andrea Harrison had an impressive come from behind race to qualify in the steeplechase. She ran the 19th fastest time in the nation. Also, senior Jason Witt ran the third fastest 10,000-meter during the season and had a chance to compete in Oregon on the 30th anniversary of BYU head coach Ed Eyestone winning that race.
Also, don’t forget that senior Kyle Baker posted a season best 65.45-meter throw in the javelin to qualify for the championships.