Babcock McGraw: Celebrating 2015's best women's sports stories

  • In 2014, the Chicago Sky went to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. In 2015, Elena Delle Donne became the first Sky player to be named the WNBA's most valuable player.

    In 2014, the Chicago Sky went to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. In 2015, Elena Delle Donne became the first Sky player to be named the WNBA's most valuable player. Associated Press

 
 
Posted1/2/2016 7:30 AM

Happy 2016! Before we get too far into the New Year, let's look back at some of the best women's sports stories of 2015.

10. Biggest star: Some argue that the biggest name in women's sports right now is Ronda Rousey, the MMA headliner who is doing her best to make the sport mainstream.

 

Rousey had a roller coaster of a year, dominating most of her matches (she has 11 wins in the first round), but then suffering a stunning upset loss to Holly Holm in November. It was the first loss of Rousey's career.

Rousey is still ranked the No. 1 female bantamweight fighter in the world.

9. DePaul's top dog: One of the most exciting players in college basketball was aptly rewarded in March.

DePaul senior point guard Brittany Hrynko, known for her no-look passes and quick-as-a-cat moves, was named the Big East player of the year. She's the first DePaul player to earn the honor.

Hrynko led the Big East Conference in scoring (20.3) and scored a career-high 38 points at Georgetown. She eclipsed the 30-point mark four times last season. Hrynko also led the Big East in steals with 2.6 per game. She tied a career-high with eight steals against Providence.

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Now searching for a spot in the WNBA, Hrynko also ranked second in the Big East in assists (5.2 apg).

8. America's golf girls: In September, the U.S. women's golf team rallied from a big deficit (10-6) on the last day of the Solheim Cup to get a dramatic come-from behind victory over Europe.

Gerina Piller sank a clutch 10-footer for par at the St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany to help the Americans, who had lost the last two Solheim Cups, win 14 ½ to 13 ½.

7. Big deal for Big Ten: In December, Nebraska helped the Big Ten maintain its dominance in college volleyball.

With a 3-0 win over Texas, Nebraska claimed the 2015 NCAA national championship. The title marks Nebraska's fourth national championship and the third straight by a Big Ten team.

Penn State won the 2013 and 2014 national titles. Between Penn State and Nebraska, the Big Ten has won eight of the last 10 NCAA national championships.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This season, 10 of the top 30 teams in the country were from the Big Ten.

6. It worked out: When former Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles demanded last spring to be traded to the Minnesota Lynx, and only the Lynx, the odds seemed long.

The Lynx have three of the best players in the league and weren't in any hurry to deal any of them, which is what the Sky would have required to give Fowles away. So, it appeared that a determined Fowles might just sit the season if a trade couldn't be finessed.

Somehow, though, a trade eventually happened, in a three-way deal that involved Atlanta and sent Dream center Erika De Souza to the Sky and Fowles to Minnesota.

In October, Minnesota won its third WNBA title in the last five years, defeating the Indiana Fever in the Finals. Fowles was named the WNBA Finals most valuable player. She had 20 points and 11 rebounds in the winner-take-all Game 5 in Minneapolis.

Over the course of the Finals, Fowles averaged 15.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while shooting a scorching 70 percent from the field.

5. Bandits steal another: The Chicago Bandits continue to be the most successful team in professional softball.

The Bandits, based in Rosemont, won the NPF championship in August. They have won three titles since 2008.

4. EDD is MVP: In 2014, the Chicago Sky went to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. In 2015, Elena Delle Donne became the first Sky player to be named the WNBA's most valuable player.

Delle Donne often played like a pro among college players. She topped the WNBA in scoring with a 23.4-point average while finishing third in rebounding (8.4 rpg) and blocks (2.1 bpg). She also shot a WNBA-best 95 percent from the free throw line. Delle Donne scored 40 points in a game twice, 30 points five times and at least 20 points 21 times. She had a career-high 45 points against Atlanta.

3. Wave goodbye to Wambach: One of the best soccer players in the history of the game went out on top.

Abby Wambach announced this fall that she was retiring from international soccer, in the wake of leading the U.S. women's soccer team to its first World Cup championship since 1999.

The Americans defeated Japan in the title game over the summer and Wambach was able to end her 15-year career as the leading all-time scorer, male or female, in international soccer.

Wambach appeared in four World Cups with the national team. She also has a pair of Olympic gold medals from the 2004 Games in Athens and the 2012 Games in London.

2. Still Serena: By tennis standards, 34-year-old Serena Williams is in her twilight years. She's also spent a lot of time lately nursing one injury after another.

Yet, the relentless Williams managed to have one of the best years of her career in 2015, which led to her being named Sports Illustrated's first female sportsperson of the year in more than 30 years. Williams was also named the Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press.

Williams came oh-so-close to claiming the elusive season Grand Slam. She won the Australian Open in January, the French Open in June and Wimbledon in July before losing in the US Open semifinals in September in one of the biggest upsets in the sport's history.

Williams, who battled elbow injuries and illnesses, went 53-3 on the season with a WTA tour-leading five titles and was ranked No. 1 every week. She raised her Grand Slam singles trophy count to 21. Only two women, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf, have won more.

The last female to be named Sports Illustrated's sportsperson of the year was track star Mary Decker in 1983.

1. Top dogs again: Love 'em, or hate 'em, you've got to at least respect the UConn Huskies.

In women's college basketball, they are the gold standard.

Connecticut is currently the No. 1 team in the country, which is beyond familiar. The Huskies have won 10 NCAA women's basketball national championships since 1995, including the last three. Connecticut defeated Notre Dame in April's national championship game for the three-peat.

The Huskies have spent nearly 200 weeks as the Associated Press's No. 1 team in the nation. Tennessee is next on that list with 112 weeks at No. 1.

"Half the people in women's basketball want us to lose, maybe more than half. And some maybe are just tired of it," said always frank Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma. "Nothing we can do about that, not one thing. My players work just as hard if not harder than anybody else."

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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