2006-07 season in review: Women's Athletics
Chris Petrucelli's soccer team set a record for victories in a season (18), captured the Big 12 Tournament title, made its seventh straight NCAA tournament appearance and wound up No. 8 in the country.
But that was just one of the outstanding results for UT's women's athletics in 2006-07.
Coach Jerritt Elliott's volleyball outfit rode a streak of 16 victories in their last 19 games of the season to the NCAA Regional finals to also highlight another grand year for Texas.
Kim Brackin enjoyed her first year as women's swimming coach by guiding the Horns to a sixth-place finish in the NCAAs and the tennis team gave second-year coach Patty Fendick-McCain her first Big 12 Conference regular-season title and the Longhorns' 25th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Additionally, All-American diver Jessica Livingston and track and field standout Destinee Hooker captured individual NCAA titles (on the platform board and in the high jump, respectively). At the end of the academic year, Texas was again ranked among the top 10 athletics programs nationally, as UT claimed the No. 8 spot in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Director's Cup.
Ranked No. 2 among Division I coaches -- women and men -- Conradt leaves following an 18-14 season where injuries decimated her team, causing them to miss the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year.
"It's a winning business," she said. "Losing is not acceptable."
It was a move that demonstrated Conradt's respect and love for The University she put on the women's college basketball map, leading the Horns to the National Championship in 1984 when Texas went unbeaten en route to their first title.
This season, Conradt won the 900th game in her storied career in the first round of the Big 12 Conference tournament.
In 38 seasons -- four at Sam Houston State, three at UT-Arlington and 31 at Texas -- Conradt was 900-306.
"I have had a wonderful opportunity to represent this university and it was not an easy decision," Conradt said. "But a new voice and a new leader is what was right for this program."
UConn coach Gene Auriemma said of Conradt, "She established something (at Texas) that every other coach in America wanted to build."
Following the season, Longhorns standout Tiffany Jackson was the No. 5 pick in the WNBA Draft by the New York Liberty. Jackson becomes the 14th player in Texas Women's Basketball history to play in the 11-year-old WNBA.
"It's been a great ride," Watkins said. "We accomplished a lot of wonderful things and experienced some exciting times. We set some high standards and expectations and our ultimate goal was to win a National Championship."
Watkins wasn't able to bring the national crown to her alma mater, but her Longhorns did compile four top-three NCAA Championship finishes and four other top-10 results.
"We were a very young team (only two seniors) and we suffered injuries," Watkins said.
Senior Julia Best and sophomore Meredith McMahan both had health issues that plagued them this season.
Then in the Big 12 Championships, junior Kelley Louth was lost during the second round of the event. Watkins' crew had to compete in the final round one player shy in the 54-hole tourney. Still, they enjoyed their best round of the championships.
"There is no question that I feel as though they deserved better this year," Watkins said of her team's 2007 season. "They had great heart and desire. Their heart and desire were there every day."
And UT claimed its sixth consecutive Big 12 Invitational at the end of May, as UT won five of the six races in the Big 12 regatta.
"We've had some good teams and have had success in the last few years," Graves said.
That success, in addition to the run of Big 12 Invitational triumphs, included back-to-back appearances in the NCAAs in 2003 and 2004.
Coming into this season, Texas had finished nationally ranked in the US Rowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) poll in four of the past six seasons.
Graves praised junior Alex Janss, senior Carly Gloge and freshman Nancy Arrington for their contributions to the team.
The loss to Portland, 2-0, did not diminish the grand season for the Horns, who wound up 18-4-3, setting the school record for single season victories in the process. Petrucelli's Horns have made the NCAAs each year since 2001.
Petrucelli, the Central Region Coach of the Year, led Texas to the Big 12 Tournament Championship and to the national No. 8 ranking at season's end -- the best-ever for UT.
"We played really well in some games," said Petrucelli, who guided UT to its seventh consecutive double-digit win season.
The Longhorns gave a hint of what was to come when they began their home schedule by upsetting third-ranked Penn State and 13th-ranked Illinois. It marked the first time Texas had beaten two top 25 opponents in back-to-back games since 2003.
The victory against the Illini began a streak of six wins in seven games for the Longhorns.
Junior forward Kelsey Carpenter led the way in the back-to-back upsets of Penn State and Illinois, scoring the game-winning goals in each contest. She also wound up spending time with the U.S. Under-21 National Team in the spring.
For that work against Penn State and Illinois, Carpenter was recognized as a Soccer America National Player of the Week for the first time in her career.
"It was a huge honor," she said. "And it gives our team recognition. It takes a whole team to win games because you don't score goals by yourself. If Amy (Burlingham) doesn't score the first goal (against Penn State), there can be no game-winning goal."
Sophomore Stephanie Logterman spent time in Russia competing for the U.S. Under-20 National Team before the start of the 2006 season.
At season's end, sophomore defender Kasey Moore was named first-team All-America and Carpenter was selected to the All-America Second Team by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Logterman and Carpenter were also selected to the U.S. Soccer Under-21 National Team for summer international play.
The Longhorns finished the season 35-20.
"This season we were bringing along a lot of young players since we had only two seniors (Megan Willis and Jacqueline Williams) coming back," Clark said. "We did an awful lot of good things this season. The team was unselfish, but like any team with young players we were up and down throughout the year. We had to learn how to handle the grind of a season. I did enjoy watching them grow up.
"We were the underdogs all year, but that's where Megan and Jackie showed great leadership. They kept their focus on the target and set an example for the young players."
The loss of junior Desiree Williams, who played only eight games because of a knee injury, was devastating to Clark's young team.
Williams, an All-America shortstop in 2006, was on the "watch list" for National Player of the Year honors going into 2007. Her injury had a major impact not only on the field, but also in the locker room.
Thus, it was the freshmen carrying the load for the Longhorns, who had been to the Women's College World Series the previous two years and three of the past four years.
Freshman pitcher Erin Tresselt was a great change-of-pace next to Meagan Denny in the circle as the first-year hurler won the game that propelled the Longhorns into the regional finals. Tresselt won 11 of 13 decisions in 2007.
Tallie Thrasher and Loryn Johnson were other freshmen who made strong contributions to the team this year. Thrasher shared the UT single-season home run record with 12 and Johnson was second on the team in hits and doubles.
"You have to be pleased with the character the team showed," Clark said. "As far as next year, we'll have the experience. And we have the great tradition of Texas."
SWIMMING AND DIVING
"I worked with my 2-1/2 year old making the Hook 'em, Horns sign," Brackin said with a laugh. "It's the peace sign or three fingers, but we'll get it."
Brackin's team got it, too, earning a sixth-place finish in the NCAA Championships.
"Our team's attitude was awesome," Brackin said.
Junior Jessica Livingston won the NCAA title in platform diving and senior Elizabeth Tinnon was third in the 100-yard breaststroke -- the highest UT individual finish.
Tinnon, senior Katie Robinson, senior Connie Brown and sophomore Hee-Jin Chang comprised the top relay team for UT with a fifth-place finish in the 400 medley relay.
Brackin came to Texas after a sterling career at Auburn University where she worked with the men's and women's swim teams from 1997-2005 and was a part of seven NCAA Championship teams -- three by the women.
"We began to work on teamwork last summer," Brackin said. "We talked about group goals and not individual goals. We talked about how we approach things as a team and not individually. Team building is so important.
"The tradition of success the swimming teams at Texas have gives me a tremendous sense of responsibility to be successful and to help all of the women on my team achieve success."
Coach Patty Fendick-McCain had two seniors on the 30th-ranked team that lost to 18th-ranked USC by a 4-0 count.
UT was making its 25th appearance in the NCAAs, having won national titles in 1993 and 1995 and recording a runner-up finish in 2005. The Longhorns ended this season at 16-10 and the Big 12 Conference regular-season title was their first under Fendick-McCain.
The women featured their very own "Fab Four" with freshmen Vanja Corovic, Stephanie Davison, Sarah Lancaster and Jane Pringle, who joined the team in January.
The "Fab Four" recorded a 32-3 singles mark in Big 12 Conference play.
Corovic, who played No. 1 singles, was the Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year. She was the first UT Freshman of the Year since Petra Dizdar who, along with Ristine Olson, were the senior anchors of the 2007 Longhorns.
The UT women traveled to the home courts of six of the top 10 teams in the country, challenging Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, Stanford, Cal and USC during this season.
TRACK AND FIELD
Senior Michelle Carter was sixth in the discus and sprinters Alexandria Anderson and Chauntae Bayne were sixth and eighth, respectively, in the 100-meter dash.
"I had a lot of talented athletes," Kearney said of her 2007 team, which finished third in the Big 12 Conference outdoor meet where Hooker's high jump victory broke a record.
Kearney's women earned second place in the Big 12 Indoors and No. 8 in the NCAA Indoors. That was UT's fifth-straight top-10 finish in the NCAA Indoors.
The coach also picked up a pair of honors in 2007.
She was the honoree and keynote speaker at the 7th Annual H-E-B Women of Distinction luncheon. Kearney was recognized for her impact on women's athletics at UT, as well as her contributions to the Austin, collegiate and track and field communities.
Kearney also was feted in Tempe, Ariz., receiving the 14th Annual Gene Autry Courage Award from the City of Tempe and the Tempe Sports Authority. The honor is given annually to men and women who have demonstrated heroism in the face of danger.
While the Texas coach was touched by the kudos, her eyes were on the women's track and field season.
"You don't replace a Marshevet Hooker," Kearney said of the superstar who finished her collegiate career last year before turning pro. Hooker owned three NCAA individual records. Only two other UT track and field women won more NCAA honors under Kearney.
"Our team this year was an inexperienced team," she said.
It was UT's 23rd appearance in the NCAAs -- fourth most in the country.
The loss did not dull the luster of the Texas season as the Horns finished 24-7, 16-4 in the Big 12, winning 16 of its final 19 contests of the year. UT's only losses in that stretch were to top-ranked Nebraska (twice) and second-ranked Stanford.
The Horns were ranked in the top 10 of the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Poll for 13 of 14 weeks. Texas also ranked ninth nationally in attendance with an average of 2,169 fans, with 3,822 on hand to see the Horns duel top-ranked Nebraska on October 18. That was the 11th-highest attendance ever and the third-highest total in Gregory Gym.
Elliott molded a talented team, meshing top-flight returnees and a recruiting class that was ranked No. 2 in the country.
Elliott's team survived the loss of senior Brandy Magee, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in UT's first match of the year. The All-American Magee was Texas' all-time career leader in attack percentage (.363) who had started all but one of the matches she played during her Longhorns career.
Junior setter Michelle Moriarty established the UT record for assists this season with 13.68 per game and Destinee Hooker, one of the prime members of the recruiting class, was twice Big 12 Player of the Week and was an AVCA All-America Honorable Mention.
"She got better every game," Elliott said. "Destinee has a ton of athletic ability and a great upside in volleyball."
Ashley Engle, another member of the grand recruiting class, was Big 12 Freshman of the Year, first-team All-Big 12 and second-team AVCA All-America. She was National Player of the Week November 14. She recorded a team-high 463 kills.
Moriarty, who was a Fab 50 recruit, said the blending of the new players and the returning players went well.
"The freshman have helped us," she said. "They have played well and they have pushed the rest of us to play better."