The highs and the lows of BYU sports in 2014: A year to remember

Donna Peloquin
Cougars start and end the season strong. (Donna Peloquin)

Cross Country teams excelled in 2014
by Kensey Berry

Over the past four months, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams excelled and exceeded expectations for the Cougars. The two teams represented pride and tenacity for BYU throughout the 2014 cross country season.

The men’s team ended the season with a 16th place finish at the national meet in a year coach Ed Eyestone believed was a rebuilding season for the team.

“Any program is going to go through kind of a rebuild, and I think it’ll hopefully lead towards good things for 2015,” Eyestone said, reflecting on the men’s cross country season.

BYU runner and teammate Spencer Gardner expressed his gratitude towards the men’s cross country program.

“Looking back on the entire experience it has been full of ups and downs and full of a lot of injury and a lot of setbacks, but getting through those things and being able to perform at a high level has been an extremely awesome experience,” Gardner said.

The women’s team finished the season at regionals, but two teammates, Andrea Harrison and Carrie Jube, moved on to the national championship. Harrison finished in at 46th with a time of 20:50.7, and Jube placed 126th with a time of 21:24.1 at the national meet.

“I was so proud of both Andrea and Carrie. They both ran their hearts out,” women’s head cross country coach Patrick Shane said.

“My experience at BYU was unbelievable,” Gardner said. “It started out like all student athletes your freshman year — you have high hopes and you have dreams, but you also don’t understand the depth of experience that you are going to have with teammates with coaches, with trainers, with administrators, with secretaries even. The overall BYU cross country experience was absolutely amazing.”

Taylor Sander digs to keep the ball from hitting the hardwood in a game last season. Photo by Elliott Miller.
Taylor Sander digs to keep the ball from hitting the hardwood in a game last season. (Elliott Miller)

Men’s volleyball comes up just short in 2014
by Josh Keeton

The BYU men’s volleyball team had quite a year in the 2014 season. The team was the MPSF Tournament Champion, which BYU held at the Smith Fieldhouse because it had the best record in the conference. BYU won the MPSF Tournament for the second year in a row. The Cougars went undefeated in that tournament, not losing a single set, capped off by sweeping Stanford in the finals.

Unfortunately, the second-seeded Cougars fell to the third-seeded Stanford just a week later in five sets in the NCAA Semifinals. The BYU Cougars ended their season 21-9 and ranked third in the nation.

With a winning percentage of .700 percent, BYU finished 18-6 in its conference and 14-0 at home. The Cougars are still on a 26-game win streak at home.

The Cougars said goodbye to four-time All-American and 2014 AVCA Player of the Year, Taylor Sander, who graduated, along with senior middle blockers Devin Young and Nick Valencia.

The men’s volleyball team will return in January 2015 to begin its new regular season.

Jennifer Hamson and Tia Welling celebrate after a point in a match earlier this year. (The Universe)
Jennifer Hamson and Tia Welling celebrate after a point in a match earlier this year. (The Universe)

BYU women’s volleyball finishes regular season ranked No. 12
by David Frost

BYU women’s volleyball had a very successful 2014. The Cougars finished the year ranked No. 12 in the nation. BYU had an overall record of 24-4 and went 16-2 in conference play. The Cougars won the WCC Championship and ended the season on a seven-game winning streak.

BYU saw a couple of records broken and tied this year. Ciara Parker became the all-time dig leader in BYU history in just her junior year. Whitney Young also tied the BYU record for most blocks in a single game with 17 against the University of San Fransisco. Young’s teammate, Amy Boswell, also tied the record against San Diego. Young led the nation in blocks per set, and Boswell was a close second.

BYU also took home a few WCC awards. Alexa Gray earned the WCC Player of the Year award. Young won the WCC Defensive Player of the Year award as a sophomore. BYU’s head coach Shawn Olmstead won the Co-Coach of the Year award for the WCC.

Jennifer Hamson drives to the basket against Portland during Thursday night's game in the Marriott Center. Photo by Sarah Hill.
Jennifer Hamson drives to the basket in a game last season the Marriott Center. (Sarah Hill)

BYU women’s basketball ends season on historic NCAA Tournament run
by Alex Johnson

The BYU women’s basketball team qualified for the NCAA Tournament earlier this year. The Cougars won their first two games and qualified for the Sweet 16, where they faced perennial powerhouse UConn. BYU ultimately lost to the eventual national champions but played them tough. It was the only team to lead UConn in the second half of a game during the tournament.

The Cougars finished the season with a 26-4 record, placing second in both the WCC regular season and conference tournament.

“We’re hoping to not just have it be a one-year fluke,” coach Jeff Judkins said. “We like to be consistent and have the chance of winning the conference championship, go back to the NCAA Tournament and cause some damage.”

The Cougars are at an even 4-4 so far this season, but Judkins remains hopeful, knowing the team has high goals. He is confident in the team, which, according to Judkins, is a lot quicker, more sound and plays well defensively.

The Cougars will play seven games this December, hopefully ending the year on a high note.

A Cougar rugby player sprints down the field looking for an open team mate during the BYU vs. St. Mary's game on March 8, 2014. (Natalie Stoker)
A Cougar rugby player sprints down the field looking for an open teammate during the BYU vs. St. Mary’s game on March 8, 2014.
(Natalie Stoker)

BYU men’s rugby wins third national championship in three seasons
by Trevor Mower

The BYU rugby team won its third consecutive national championship in the 2014 season.

The Cougars completed the season with an impressive record of 18-1. The championship game was against the University of California—Berkeley, which BYU also won the year before for the title. These two teams have met up in the championship game in eight of the last nine years. BYU won the game this past May at Rio Tinto Stadium 43-33.

Some big wins for the season included beating the 2013 Elite Cup Champions the San Francisco Golden Bears in the Champions Challenge and taking down rivals University of Utah in the Wasatch Cup and Arizona State University in the inaugural Rugby Bowl.

Ten players from the 2013–2014 season were named to the All-American team, including team captain Kyle Sumsion. With these new All-Americans, BYU rugby has a total of 41 players in its history with this honor.

BYU’s record against collegiate teams is 44-1. With a winning record like that, BYU has made it apparent it is a force to be reckoned with.

The 2015 season kicks off on Jan. 10 in St. George against Arizona State University. This will be BYU rugby’s 50th season.

Kate Hansen of the United States smiles in the finish area after her third run during the women's singles luge competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Kate Hansen, of the United States, smiles in the finish area after her third run during the women’s singles luge competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Local athletes compete and excel in Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games
by Jennifer Johnson

BYU’s Kate Hansen and Utah native Noelle Pikus-Pace both gained worldwide attention at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, held Feb. 7–23.

Hansen, the 22-year-old BYU student, took 10th place in the luge, but she was a media favorite for antics off the track. She helped Jimmy Kimmel with a prank that made it appear that there was wolf roaming her living quarters, and she even got a shout-out on Beyonce’s Facebook page for saying she only does her signature warmup dancing to Beyonce’s music.

Pikus-Pace took her family to Sochi with her, and she took home a silver medal in the skeleton. She was known for celebrating with her kids after her race and wearing her LDS young women medallion on the podium. Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevenson talked about Pace in his October 2014 General Conference address.

Overall, the United States took second place in overall medals earned with 28, behind only Russia’s 33. American athletes won nine gold medals, almost exclusively in skiing and snowboarding events.

Christian Stewart walks off of the field after he fumbled the ball in a game earlier this season. (Universe photo)
Christian Stewart walks off of the field after he fumbled the ball in a game earlier this season. (Universe photo)

BYU football starts strong, falters, then finishes season strong
by Alex Clark

The 2014 season was one of thirds for the BYU football team. The Cougars quickly found themselves in the national spotlight after four consecutive wins over UConn, Texas, Houston and Virginia. Junior quarterback Taysom Hill was hurdling his way over Longhorn safeties and into Heisman contention just as the No. 18 ranked Cougars entered the month of Oct. for a game against Utah State, at home, where they hadn’t lost to the Aggies since 1978.

Hill launched a 53-yard bomb to receiver Jordan Leslie on the game’s first play and found the end zone himself four plays later. The “Perfect Season and a Heisman Quarterback” train appeared to be running right on schedule. And then, all of the sudden, it burst into flames.

Trailing Utah State 21-14, Hill scrambled right, gained two yards and broke his leg as he was being tackled by safety Brian Suite. Backup Christian Stewart was unable to rally a Cougar comeback in a devastating 35-20 loss.

Stewart proved to be an admirable second option for the Cougars a week later at UCF, but his overtime pass to Jordan Leslie fell incomplete on a controversial pass interference non-call. They were unable to bounce back in a come-from-behind loss at home to Nevada before the defense imploded against Boise State, giving up 637 total yards on the road.

The Cougars ended their four-game skid at Middle Tennessee State and began a new streak by picking up wins over UNLV and Savannah State. A dramatic game in California Memorial Stadium saw Stewart toss five touchdown passes, including 83- and 38-yard strikes to Leslie in the 42-35 win over Cal.

The Cougars will next enter the Dec. 22 Miami Beach Bowl with an 8-4 record to face off against an AAC opponent. Possible opponents include Memphis, Cincinnati, East Carolina, UCF, Houston and Temple.

Annie Amos looks for someone to clear the ball to in the game against Colorado College (Universe Photo)
Annie Amos looks for someone to clear the ball to in the game against Colorado College. (Universe Photo)

BYU women’s soccer falls short in NCAA Tournament after a great regular season
by Daniel Allen

As the year draws to a close, the BYU women’s soccer team has much to be proud of. The Cougars finished with a winning season, a West Coast Conference championship title and an earned entry to the NCAA Tournament.

The season didn’t start out so strong, though, with a rocky first six games giving them a 1-3-2 record. The tides turned in a big way as BYU beat the then-ranked No. 23 Long Beach State in September.

The 2-0 win at home set the pace for a 13-game streak without a loss, beating teams on the road and at home to finish the season with a 13-5-3 record. The Cougars secured their third-straight West Coast Conference championship title with a 4-0 win against Pacific, which also earned them a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

This was expected, as BYU led the conference in total shots, assists and goals. A key player was sophomore Ashley Hatch, who ranked ninth overall scorer in the NCAA with 18 goals on the season.

In an unfortunate spell of déjà vu from the 2013 NCAA Tournament, BYU was eliminated in the first round against Colorado in a tough 2-0 loss. The team remains optimistic, however, as it has much to be proud of and much to look forward to in the 2015 season.

Max Hall mugshot (Photo from the Gilbert Police Department)
Max Hall mugshot (Photo from the Gilbert Police Department)

BYU sports not so squeaky-clean in 2014
by Preston Brown

As the 2014 BYU football season winds down, we look back on an eventful year of scandals.

On Aug. 20, former BYU star quarterback Max Hall was arrested for shoplifting and possession of cocaine at a Best Buy in Arizona. Hall was later released by police. The deeper problem here is not shoplifting, or even the arrest. Rather, it’s what seems to be an addiction that led Hall down dark paths. Hall recently graduated from rehab and seems to have overcome his addiction.

After his arrest in February for underage drinking, Jamaal Williams plead not guilty but was still suspended for the team’s first game against UConn. Jordan Johnson, Robertson Daniel and Devon Blackmon were also suspended for the game. While the causes of suspension for Johnson and Daniel remain speculation, in a tweet that was later deleted, Blackmon alluded to the fact that in his case, the cause for his suspension was wearing earrings.

Duane Busby,the long-time head of football operations for the football team, stepped down in March. It was reported that Busby had given improper benefits to mostly members of the offensive unit. BYU executed a thorough investigation over a period of a few months and self-reported itself to the NCAA.

Tyler Haws shoot over a St. Mary's defender in a game last season. (Universe Photo)
Tyler Haws shoots over a St. Mary’s defender in a game last season. (Universe Photo)

BYU men’s basketball hopes to make NCAA Tournament again
by Madeline Schmidt

The BYU men’s basketball team (6-2) is off to a strong start this season. The Cougars’ only two losses have been in overtime in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, against No. 15 ranked San Diego State and Purdue.

Tyler Haws leads the Cougars in scoring, averaging 23.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, and was recently named to the Naismith Trophy Men’s 50 Watch List, as announced Wednesday by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

Chase Fischer and Anson Winder are close behind, both averaging 14.6 points per game. Winder has definitely been the most efficient shooter this season, shooting 58 percent from the field and an impressive 52 percent from behind the arc. Kyle Collinsworth is averaging 12.3 points per game and close to leading the Cougars on rebounds, pulling down 6.1 rebounds per game.

BYU is averaging 95.1 points per game, the best mark in the nation, and own a 17.5-scoring margin over opponents. BYU has made 80 of 198 3-pointers, giving it a .404 percentage. The Cougars’ free-throw percentage is .750; Haws is leading the Cougars with 53 of 58 free throws made, showing his aggressiveness on the court as well and converting on nearly 92 percent of his free throws.

Last basketball season, BYU finished second in the WCC behind Gonzaga and lost to Gonzaga in the Conference Championship as well. Kyle Collinsworth tore his ACL in the championship game, but BYU still made the NCAA Tournament. It lost to Oregon in the first round, and junior point guard Matt Carlino announced his transfer just a few days later.

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