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Opinion

Women’s hockey, softball have successful seasons while others struggle

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May 8, 2009

If it was not for the women’s hockey and softball team, this sports season would have been a tough one for many Falcon sports fans.

Almost every other athletic team finished in the middle of the conference standings, or did not do much in
the conference tournaments to spark any sort of excitement for fans.

The football team had its fifth consecutive 3-7 season and has not won more than three games in seven years.
The lone highlight came on UWRF’s homecoming game against UW-Stevens Point, a 36-30 win for the Falcons. It was also Head Coach John O’Grady’s 100th career coaching win, all with UWRF.

There were some let downs this season, such as the men’s hockey team, which was supposed to contend for the NCHA titles this season.

Well, that did not even come close to happening in what was a surprise season in the conference with St. Norbert College falling down a few spots while the College of St. Scholastica and UW-Stout took over
NCHA supremacy.

The soccer team had issues scoring goals early in the 2008 season and won only two of its first 10 games.
On Feb. 24, the men’s basketball team almost had one of the biggest upsets of the season in the first round of the WIAC tournament against powerhouse UW-Whitewater.

The Falcons were down by as many as 21, but cut the Whitewater lead to two late in the second half, only to lose by a final score of 86-81.

With all the other poor showings UWRF sports teams had this year, it was a breath of fresh air to watch the women’s hockey team play.

This team really had it all.

It started with great coaching by Joe Cranston, who finished second in the nation for Coach of the Year honors.

UWRF won the regular season and tournament titles and hosted the O’Brien Cup.

The Falcons won a thriller championship game against Stevens Point and followed that up with an even bigger win against then No. 1 ranked Gustavus Adolphus College in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

UWRF made it to the Frozen Four, but lost to Elmira College (N.Y.) and Middlebury College (Vt.).

There was also the softball team, which was a big help during the spring.

The weather was pretty cold all year, but the Falcon bats were pretty hot.

Mindy Rudiger proved to be one of the best WIAC players, tying the conference career home run mark with 38. She led the Falcons to a solid showing in the WIAC tournament, when they eliminated No. 1 seed Whitewater. UWRF eventually lost to UW-Superior, the host school for the tournament to end its season.

Falcon Head Coach Jody Gabriel really had her team playing well at the end of the season when it mattered the most.

The best part of her team will come in the future, because the softball team is young and talented, which will benefit in the next few seasons.

It was a tough year for Falcon sports this season, but the women’s hockey and softball teams came through in the end to be successful.

Justin Magill is a student at UW-River Falls.