This year’s top 10 moments in Cougar athletics


WSU Head Coach Mike Leach on the sidelines as his team trails during the first half of the 108th Apple Cup against Washington at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Washington won, 45-10.

With the spring semester ever-nearing its end, it is time to begin the year in review process for the 2015-2016 season in WSU athletics.

The WSU baseball team has left plenty to be desired nearly halfway through conference play, so it may not be premature to look at the games, matches and plays that best defined Cougar sports this year.

Valuing a particular moment based off its impact on a team or program relative to its immediate season coupled with its recent history and plausible impact on the future, these 10 moments best defined the ultimate highs WSU athletics enjoyed.

In the selection process, what essentially placed one moment in front of another was the level of influence it will have on hopefully carving out even greater athletic performances over the next five years (more on that next week).

No. 10 Men’s Golf wins the Itani Quality Homes Collegiate at Palouse Ridge

The Cougs were 33-under par (819) to break their own tournament record set in 2010 and win their only home tournament of the year by 20 strokes on Sept. 27. Sophomore Derek Bayley also took home the first individual title of his career, carding a three-round score of 201 (-12).

A young team simmering with promise, Head Coach Garrett Clegg’s bunch defended its home course in dominant fashion and offered a glimpse into the future in the level of play it can eventually perform at.

No. 9 No. 20 women’s soccer rallies to defeat UCLA 4-2

Playing in front of, at the time, the second-largest crowd in school history at Lower Soccer Field Oct. 4, WSU surrendered a 2-0 first half lead within the first five minutes of the second half off two quick goals from the Bruins only to rally with another pair of their own to put the game away.

In what proved to be a wildly successful first-year season for Head Coach Todd Shulenberger, his team’s rally in this game epitomized the tough edge he brought to this program upon arrival and jumpstarted the substantial increase in attendance the program now enjoys.

No. 8 Volleyball stuns No. 5 Arizona State in Bohler Gym

Still hungover from the WSU football team’s improbable comeback victory over Oregon Oct. 10, a sleepy crowd greeted Cougar volleyball for an 11 a.m. match with the fifth-ranked Sun Devils the following morning.

Dropping so many close five-set matches to ranked teams in conference play, the Cougs arguably played their best volleyball of the year in defeating ASU in straight sets and never being threatened in the match.

The reoccurring narrative in Cougar athletics, this was another case of a developing team rebuilding its program by taking a major step forward in progression with a signature win.

No. 7 Moos extends Leach, coaching staff following Sun Bowl win

On Dec. 29, three days removed from a 20-14 victory over Miami in the Sun Bowl, WSU athletic director Bill Moos announced that he was extending Head Coach Mike Leach’s contract through the 2020 season. Moos also signed Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch and defensive line coach Joe Salave’a to multiyear contracts.

A six-win improvement spiked the football team’s record from 3-9 in 2014 to 9-4 in 2015 and in ensuring that this coaching staff is kept together for at least five more years, Leach and company have the freedom and guarantee to mold Cougar football in their image. Judging from last season, that’s a good thing.

No. 6 Women’s basketball thrashes No. 25 USC 73-61

Only 770 people were at Beasley Coliseum Jan. 15 to see it, but those in attendance left with a strong impression of what the next few years may hold for Head Coach June Daugherty and the WSU women’s basketball program.

Outscoring the Trojans 42-23 in the second half, the Cougs nabbed their only win over a ranked team this year but offered a glimpse into the future of what another year or two of experience and the incoming influx of four and five-star talent may do for them.

It was a fast-paced effort on both ends, just the way Daugherty likes it, and showed that four quarters of consistency will enable the Cougs to close out close games against stiff competition on a regular basis.

No. 5 Kirk Schulz named 11th WSU President

When the WSU Board of Regents named current Kansas State University President as the successor to late WSU President Elson Floyd March 25, the athletic department was able to sleep a little easier.

Posting a $13 million deficit for the second-consecutive year, Schulz is a quintessential fit to generate funds to help offset this debt to the university and grow the annual revenue of the athletic department.

In a radio interview with Moos last week, Schulz affirmed that he already has begun to plan how he will tackle this problem, and he likely will be a great compliment to all WSU athletic programs.

No. 4 Luke Falk’s eight-yard strike to River Cracraft to defeat Rutgers

After surrendering its second special teams return touchdown of game with 1:37 remaining in the game, WSU appeared to be on its way to “Couging” yet another ballgame and starting off the year 0-2 with a loss to FCS Portland State fresh on its resume.

An inspired speech in the huddle by the redshirt sophomore quarterback Falk helped engineer a 10-play, 90-yard touchdown drive and find Cracraft win the end zone with 13 seconds left to lift the team past Rutgers, 37-34.

It was the first of countless thrillers for WSU football this year, but Falk’s leadership and touchdown pass galvanized the team and saved its season from spiraling out of control.

No. 3 Soccer finishes undefeated in conference play on the road

Beating UW for the 12th-straight match, the WSU women’s soccer team concluded the regular season with a perfect 6-0 record in conference-away matches and an overall 9-1 away mark for the year.

Despite having four head coaches in the last five seasons, the program has been the most consistently successful of any Cougar athletic teams, qualifying for the NCAA tournament each year and hosting three first round matches.

The win validated the Cougs stranglehold on soccer in the Pacific Northwest and propelled them to a No. 4 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, proving that the program is in good hands with Shulenberger.

No. 2 Dom Williams’ 75-yard touchdown reception to beat ASU, secure bowl eligibility

Zane Gonzalez kicked a 22-yard field goal with 4:13 left to cut Washington State’s lead to 31-24, but the Cougs promptly responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Falk to Williams on the first play of the ensuing possession to take a 38-24 lead and ice the victory and score.

After trailing 14-0 out of the gate on a sunny afternoon in front of a sold-out Dad’s Weekend crowd at Martin Stadium, WSU played physical in the final three quarters of the game to knock off a talented Sun Devils team and push its record to 6-3, notching bowl eligibility.

In a game where so many of its predecessors would have folded after such a poor start, this Cougar football team maximized the punchers chance ASU gave it to win and ran it out of Pullman, finally pushing WSU football over the hump in Pac-12 play and exorcising past demons.

No. 1 Mike Leach hoists the Sun Bowl trophy

It was in ugly game played in even blusterier weather, but the final result was what the Cougar football program so desperately needed.

Beating a traditional power in Miami 20-14 and winning a bowl game for the first time in more than a decade, Leach needed to bring home some hardware to add to the Cougar Football Complex if his vision was to gain any traction heading into this fall.

Culminating a season for the ages, the win further cemented WSU back on the map in the college football world and maintained the momentum it built in 2015.

A nice moment for all involved, Crimson had its day in El Paso.