The 2011-12 Athletic year is over for North Dakota State. Safe to say this one will be remembered forever, that’s what happens when you win a national championship. Obviously the football team’s title will be the shining star of this year, but I wanted to rank the top 10 high moments and the 5 low moments of the year. These are all on-the-field/court/track/mat decisions and mine alone, feel free to disagree in our comments section.
10. Amy Anderson – Anderson had another banner year, winning the Summit League Championship for a second consecutive season and caps it off this week by representing NDSU and the US by playing in the Curtis Cup, the women equivalent of the Walker Cup.
9. Track and Field – Don Larson and Ryun Godfrey did it again this year, but maybe more importantly they showed how good their teams are in front of the home crowd. With the Summit League Outdoor Championships in Fargo for the 1st time, both the men and women dominated, despite the loss of Antoinette Goodman, one of the Bison best sprinters, the women won a 5th straight outdoor championship, while the men made it 4 of 5, a true dynasty in the Summit League.
8. Volleyball – Kari Thompson’s first full year as head coach was a successful one, NDSU captured a third Summit League title in four years and returned to the NCAA Tournament.
7. Softball – One of the 3 dynasties NDSU currently has going in the Summit League(Track and Volleyball the others), Darren Mueller’s team found a star in the making in freshman pitcher Krista Menke, had to survive a winner take all championship game with IPFW, then snap a 7 game NCAA Tourney losing streak by winning a thriller with Hawaii, a nationally ranked team. NDSU nearly beat the national champs, losing 3-2 to Alabama early in the season, a team that will be a huge factor next year.
6. Baseball – The team that in my mind had the biggest breakthru this year, it started back in February when the Bison shut down 5th ranked Arizona, the first win over a ranked team. They followed that up with a 16 game winning streak, then knocked off mighty Oral Roberts in the Summit League Tourney, snapping a 37 game win streak for the Golden Eagles. The Bison also have bragging rights on their nearest rivals for the next year, sweeping UND and SDSU this year, going a combined 9-0.
5. Stephen Monk – He came out of nowhere to have a dominant year on the mat for NDSU. Everytime Monk wrestled it seemed liked he pinned a guy, he finished with 13 on the year, and a 36-9 record and a NCAA berth. A guy to watch in 2013.
4. Football Win over Northern Iowa – It was hyped as the biggest game in the history of the Fargodome (by me) at the time, and it lived up to the billing. Number 2 vs Number 3 in the country playing one another, NDSU had never beaten UNI, a huge crowd of over 18,500 at the Dome, and the Bison defense played one of its best games of the season, forcing three turnovers in a 27-19 win. NDSU moved to number one in the country after that game, and we witnessed a new era of fan at the Dome that day, one of the loudest crowds I’ve ever heard.
3. Men’s Basketball Team Starts 6-0 – Saul Phillips had one of the youngest starting lineups in the nation, with a freshman point guard and I think we were all surprised when they came back from San Francisco with a 3-0 record, especially when they lost to MSU Moorhead in an exhibition game (a loss that in my mind is a little more palatable, seeing how good the Dragons were this year) But then NDSU dismantled two teams from similar leagues, Green Bay (Horizon) and Fresno State(WAC) to open everyone’s eyes that this was the best NDSU team since the one that made the dance in 2009.
2. Football win over Georgia Southern - I don’t think it had the hype of the Northern Iowa game, but the storylines going in couldnt have been better, GSU cancelling a game with NDSU for this year, then the Eagles coming to Fargo for the national semis. Again, another game where I’ll remember how loud the crowd was and I’ll remember how dominating the defense was against a offense that’s so unorthodox and the Bison had just a week to prepare for. More importantly, the game was on national TV, and NDSU gave a performance to open everyone’s eyes.
1. National Championship Win over Sam Houston – For everything I said about the GSU game, the Sam Houston game took it to another level. The amount of fans that traveled to Frisco was overwhelming and then to see the performance that the Bison defense put on was again breathtaking. It re-affirmed NDSU’s dominance in football and put a capper on the Division 1 transition with a title. Perhaps the most startling fact of the 2011 Bison was the amount of sophomores and juniors that contributed and will be back for a potential repeat run in 2012.
These are subjective and totally my opinion and mine alone -
5. Baseball loses two to Oral Roberts in Summit Title Game - I know most will say I’m being picky and for NDSU to be in that position is success itself, but to have two chances to close out the 14 time defending champs (I know they were on their home field) and not come thru, that will sting this team the entire offseason.
4. Volleyball loses 5-setters to Northern Iowa and Iowa State. The success in the Summit League has been well noted, but the volleyball team is still waiting for that breakthru win against a non-conference foe, they had 2 chances at it this past year, losing in 5 sets on the road at nationally ranked UNI and at home to top ten ranked Iowa State, NDSU is getting there, but needs a signature win.
3. As dominant as baseball was against UND, two losses that fans will remember maybe more than the wins, volleyball losing to UND and the men’s basketball team falling at the Ralph to UND.
2. As strong a start that the men’s basketball team had, the finish was that harder to take. NDSU limped to the finish line, losing 11 of its last 16 games, which included losses at UND, double-digit loss at UMKC and a 23 point blowout at SDSU, the Bison did make the postseason with a CBI berth but the finish of the year was tough to watch.
1. The women’s basketball team struggles this year were epic. I know NDSU lost its best player in Katie Birkel before the year began, but the team had moments that were tough to watch, most notably to South Dakota State, 36 and 42 point defeats. The coaching staff has been revamped and after an 11-20 season, safe to say a rebound season is needed before more changes come.
So there it is the highs and lows, debate for yourselves, add your own suggestions!