2017 – Around the World and Close to Home
Former FBI director Robert Mueller begins investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election the #MeToo movement exposes sexual harassment scandals in Hollywood, politics and media Las Vegas is among the scenes of U.S. mass shootings with 565 lives taken nationwide. More than 100,000 march for women’s right in Seattle, the inaugural high-speed run of an Amtrak train derails in DuPont, spilling onto Interstate-5 and killing three and Gonzaga men’s basketball reaches the NCAA Final Four before being beaten by North Carolina in championship game.
Rising Tide on Dry Side
It is an autumn unlike any other in the 509. Each of the three Division I women’s programs on Washington’s dry side are making noise and serving notice they are to be reckoned with.
In Spokane, Gonzaga is above .500 for the first time in 10 years. Nearby in Cheney, Eastern Washington is developing into a big deal in the Big Sky Conference. And on the Palouse, Washington State is becoming the tenacious team no one wants to face in NCAA tournament play.
Under Todd Shulenberger’s guidance, the Cougars reach the third round of the playoffs for the first time. They finish seventh in the Pac-12 yet earn a third straight postseason bid by going 6-2-3 in non-conference play, including two wins and two draws against nationally-ranked foes. The biggest giant slayed is No. 8 Central Florida on its home ground in the first round. Ella Dederick posts her 11th shutout of the season and an own goal advances WSU to the next round. There it takes 20th-ranked Tennessee and, with Dederick making three saves in the shootout, Wazzu takes another step forward.
“Here's this little old team from Washington State – Pullman, Washington – that comes to Orlando and beats an unbelievable UCF team, knocks them out and then comes down (to Gainesville, Florida) and plays a fantastic Tennessee team.,” exclaims Shulenberger. “When we packed two weeks ago, I told the team we're coming here to win and we're coming here to stay. Pack your bags and we're going to go out on this journey.”
No. 16 Florida finally stops the resilient, hard-working WSU in the third round, 1-0 in overtime. It’s just a pause, however. With only four seniors and all-Pac-12 picks Dederick and Morgan Weaver due back, all the momentum is forward.
At Eastern, Chad Bodnar has taken a moribund program (six straight losing seasons prior to his 2014 arrival) to its first NCAA appearance in 2016, thanks to a pair of Big Sky tournament upsets and securing the automatic berth via penalties. In 2017, the Eagles are far more direct, their superiority evident. They go 10-1-1 in conference play, including the tournament, finishing with a plus-21 goal differential. Spokane’s Chloe Williams, three-time Big Sky offensive player of the year, gives EWU an early lead over No. 3 and defending champion USC in the NCAA opener.
Although Eastern falls in overtime, Williams’s 44 career goal a Big Sky standard, the 16 wins is a school record and the Eagles become the first D-I women’s program in the state in 17 years to outright win a regular season conference crown. “That’s the pinnacle of the conference part of the season, says Bodnar, “but we have goals here for that to be an expectation.”