As we all know by now, the Mayans were not correct and the world did not end. Since that day has come and past, we can look back on the highlights of the past 366 days (this year was a leap year people). In David Letterman fashion, here is this year’s top 10 list of the NC State athletics stories.
1. Men’s Basketball team advances to the Sweet 16
The Men’s basketball team was the last team displayed in the unveiling of the NCAA tournament field. They were returning to the dance for the first time in six years. When their name was shown, the excitement of the team was evident. After dispatching the 6th seeded San Diego State Aztecs, the 11th seeded Wolfpack played 3rd seeded Georgetown. Mark Gottfried 1st year as head coach had exceeded all expectations and his pregame speech has become legendary. After taking an early 10 point deficit, the team came back to take the lead at the half and never looked back and held on for a 66-63 victory. That sent Wolfpack nation into a frenzy as they headed to St. Louis to play eventual runner-up Kansas. The Pack played hard and fought tooth and nail with the Jayhawks, before falling 60-57. It is the beginning of the resurgence of the Wolfpack from a national relevance perspective.
2. Football season results in bowl, firing of Tom O’Brien and hiring of Dave Doeren
The football team had an up and down season that lead to a 7-5 record a berth to play Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Some of the highs were the comeback to beat #3 Florida State and finally beating Maryland in College Park. Some of the lows were losing at the end of the North Carolina game and giving up a 60 yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left to lose at Miami. This inconsistency was one reason that Debbie Yow relieved Tom O’Brien of his duties. The search for a new coach didn’t last long as only a week later, Yow introduced Dave Doeren as the new coach. Doeren had just lead Northern Illinois to a 12-1 record and a second consecutive MAC championship, as well as the conference’s first ever BCS Bowl appearance, where they will play ironically enough the ACC champion Florida State.
3. Baseball team advances to NCAA Super Regional
Elliott Avent’s baseball team had a very good season. Led by Freshman All-Americans Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon, the Wolfpack recorded a 43-20 record. The team wound up being the one of the 16 host schools in the NCAA tournament. The team routed Sacred Heart in the opening game and then lost to Vanderbilt in a wild game that is typical of NCAA tournament baseball. In the consolation round, the Pack demolished UNC-Wilmington 17-5 to advance to the finals of the regional. They had to beat Vanderbilt twice to advance to the Super Regional. After a heart pounding 6-5 win by the Pack, they had a rematch in a winner take all game. The Pack came from behind multiple times and wound up winning a thrilling 9-7 matchup to advance to the Super Regionals for the third time under Avent. They went to Gainesville to have a matchup with the #1 ranked Florida Gators in a best 2 of 3 series. The team fought hard, but lost the first two games to end their season. Rodon won the Golden Spikes award as the best college pitcher and was one of the three finalists for the best player in America.
4. Women’s volleyball team advances to the NCAA Tournament
The women’s volleyball team set several records this year as they returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 25 years. Coach Bryan Bunn and his team went 22-10 and was an at-large team selected to the NCAA tournament. In his 3rd year, he has taken the program, which was probably the worst ACC program in any sport over the past dozen years to the NCAA tournament is nothing short of remarkable. The play of Meghan Cyr, Alesha Wilson, and Rachel Buckley was key to the successful season. The team beat the other Big 4 teams in the same season for the first time ever.
5. Football team upsets #3 Florida State 17-16
In mid-October, #3 Florida State came to Carter-Finley Stadium sporting a 5-0 record and the talk around the nation was that the Noles are back and ready to force their way into the BCS title game. At halftime, no one would disagree with that assessment as the Seminoles were leading 16-0 and the score probably was closer than it should have been. But in the second half, everything changed. The defense locked down the Seminoles, shutting them out in the half. A more aggressive defense, combined with some questionable (by FSU fans) conservative playing calling by Jimbo Fisher, blitzed and confused EJ Manuel to the point where first downs were hard to come by. The Pack offense meanwhile found its groove. Mike Glennon took his time and threw lots of checkdowns, underneath crossing routes, and throws in the middle of the field. Down 16-10 with a little over two minutes left, the Pack blocked a punt and proceeded to take 12 plays to cover 43 yards to throw the game winning touchdown pass to Bryan Underwood. In the drive, Glennon converted 3 fourth down conversions to etch his name in Wolfpack lore with the comeback win.
6. Official Karl Hess ejects State legends Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta from the stands during game
ACC Basketball official Karl Hess, during the second half of the Wolfpack conference battle versus Florida State threw out two fans. The fans, who happened to be basketball legends Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta, still aren’t quite sure why they were ejected. Not everyone in the arena knew what was going on, however, after the game and during the next few days, the ejections became a nationwide story. It was not unexpected, but still disappointing that the ACC office never suspended and only publicly reprimanded, Hess. The only saving grace to this is that he did not do any more State games during the rest of the year, although other ACC referees showed their public support of Hess is a very obvious way at the ACC tournament. Don’t worry everyone, my one prediction for 2013 is that Karl Hess will be one of the officials when Duke comes to Raleigh on January 12.
7. Albin Choi wins the NCAA Men’s Golf Regional tournament
Albin Choi won the NCAA Men’s Regional Golf tournament this year. He is fifth and second consecutive Wolfpack golfer to win a regional tournament. Choi is a two-time All-ACC performer as well as an All-American. He has already won four tournaments in only two years on campus. He lead the Pack to a 6th place finish in the NCAA Regional in Ann Arbor, Michigan, one spot from qualifying for the NCAA finals.
8. Andrew Colley is named ACC Cross-Country Runner of the Year
Andrew Colley was named the ACC Cross-Country Runner of the Year by the ACC coaches this year. His accomplishments are definitely worthy. This year Colley, an All-American, finished 16th in the NCAA finals. He also became a three time All-ACC member with a third place finish at the ACC Championships. He also finished third at the NCAA Southeast Regional. He is the second consecutive Wolfpacker to win the award, following the steps of Ryan Hill.
9. Women’s Basketball team upsets Duke in ACC Tournament
Kellie Harper’s team had its share of ups and downs during the season. But one of, it not the highest high, was done in the ACC Tournament, where the 8th seeded Wolfpack women upset #6 ranked Duke Blue Devils by a 75-73 score. The team was lead by Marissa Kastanek and Bonae Holston with 16 points each. The team, who had lost by 24 points to Duke earlier in the year, played toe to toe with the Blue Devils and were mentally stronger down the stretch in securing the quarterfinal upset. The win did not portend itself into more inspired play as the women ran out of emotion and energy and lost to Georgia Tech in the semifinals.
10. Men’s Basketball Team beats Connecticut in Jimmy V Classic in New York
Mark Gottfried’s team was selected to play in the Jimmy V Classic this year, which is a doubleheader where all proceeds go to the V Foundation. The only other time the Wolfpack has taken part of the event was in 2002, which is of course named after former Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano. The basketball team wore special uniforms that on the back said “Don’t Ever Give Up”. The team responded by beating Connecticut 69-65 and looks like it was the game where the team started to play the way most fans and experts are expecting.
One additional moment that deserves its own mention. The NC State Sports Hall of Fame inducted 10 members in its inaugural class. The inductees are a who’s who of Wolfpack legends, both coaches and players. The class is as follows:
This is just one man’s opinion of the top moments of the past year. Are there any that I missed? If so, add them in the comments section. A year from now when we are doing the 2013 review, we hope that the top 10 list includes more ACC and even possibly NCAA titles, conference and national players of the year, etc. to add to this list.