2008 – Around the World and Close to Home
Barack Obama wins the U.S. presidential election, becoming the first African American to do so, Cuba’s Fidel Castro steps down after 49 years as president, the Great Recession deepens with 3.1 million home foreclosures, and the New York Giants upset previously undefeated New England to win the Super Bowl. After 41 seasons the Seattle Sonics are moved to Oklahoma City, SeaTac International Airport opens its third runway, and a record 84.6 percent of Washington registered voters cast ballots in the general election.
Inception to Champions in Eight Years
Others had organized, strived and toiled for decades. Yet when Seattle Pacific University finally commenced its women’s varsity soccer program, the returns were almost immediate and the wait for a national championship not so long.
In just its eighth season, SPU becomes only the state’s second women’s collegiate program to go all the way and the first NCAA member to do so. For the Falcons, it might well have been realized years earlier. They reached their first NCAA Division II final in 2005, falling in overtime, and returned to the semifinals in ’07.
It was never shocking to see Seattle Pacific playing in the postseason. After all, the storied men’s program, born in 1968, made the tournament a Division II record 30 times, from 1971-2006. Under Cliff McCrath, SPU won five national championships and was runner-up five more. It was a member of two of those title-winning sides who guides the women to new heights.
Chuck Sekyra, a native of Kent and member of back-to-back championship teams in 1985 and ’86, took over as head coach in 2003 after serving on Lesle Gallimore’s staff at Washington. Sekyra led the Falcons to their first postseason appearance in that first year and soon became a fixture in the national rankings and West Regionals. Three times prior to 2008, SPU entered the playoffs unbeaten, although that’s not the case this time around.
Western Washington, a rising program in its own right, deals the Falcons’ their first GNAC loss in nearly two years. SPU avenges that in the regional final, 1-0, on Meredith Teague’s overtime strike. Two days later, comes a 1-0 win over quarterfinal host Truman State. In the semifinal, Amanda Johnson scores her second just 38 seconds after Metro State equalizes, and No. 4 Seattle Pacific proceeds to the final, 3-1.
Pitted against the home-state favorite and 2nd-ranked West Florida in Tampa, SPU is unable to break down the defense through regulation. Finally, in the 108th minute, Janae Godoy turns on a loose ball in the box and delivers the golden goal.
Seattle Pacific might have had stronger teams and more decorate players in the past, but this squad finds a way. They prove balanced, finding heroes on different occasions, and mentally tough.
"We went through things that our program hasn't been through in a while," Sekyra said. "We figured, if we could learn from those things, we could have the best team we've had. That's how we handled it. That's the route we went. And they believed me.”
Teague, who later is named All-America and national player of the year, is the youngest of three sisters to play for SPU. Although she’s the team’s scoring (14 goals) and assists (10) leader, she deferential to acclaim, redirecting the spotlight to others, including a defense that allows only 10 goals and finishing with 16 shutouts. All she and her teammates cared about was getting their hands on the winner’s trophy.
“To finish on such a high note, nothing could be better," Teague said. "We all want to give each other that gift."