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The moments of the year in athletics

By Jeffrey Dahdah
On April 21, 2014

Over the course of the 2013-14 academic year, Aggies across 12 sports experienced a multitude of highs and lows. Some of the greatest moments came about through late victories, heart-breaking defeats and personal achievements.

Shootout in the desert

The Utah State women’s soccer team was the first team to experience Mountain West tournament play. The Aggies went to New Mexico in November for the tournament and faced a daunting task: There wasn’t a team in their half of the bracket they had defeated in the regular season.

They would face Nevada, tournament host New Mexico and No. 1-seeded San Diego State. The Aggies almost came out of it.

After a win against Nevada, USU took New Mexico to penalty shootouts. Freshman goalkeeper Natalie Stoven rose to the occasion. Stoven not only didn’t allow a goal throughout the two-overtime game, but she blocked two of the four penalty kicks that she saw.

Converted attempts from senior Jennifer Flynn, sophomore Jamie Duke and sophomore Sarah Lorscheider set up junior Ambryn McCallson for the game-winner. She would send the Aggies to the semifinal game in their first ever Mountain West tournament.

“The girls did a fantastic job handling the pressure of penalty kicks,” said head coach Heather Cairns. “We practice them every week, our shooters were confident and we’ve got a special goalkeeper for saving them.”

The Aggies would take on San Diego State in the semifinal and held the lead on two different occasions during before they ultimately lost by a final score of 3-2.

Near-monumental upset

The Utah State volleyball team took on then-No. 9 Colorado State on Nov. 3 in the Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum. The Aggies pushed the seemingly unbeatable Rams to the brink but were unable to convert on two match point opportunities in the third set after taking the first two sets in a best-of-five match. Colorado State was 20-0 at the time and ultimately finished the season 28-2.

“They’re ranked No. 9 in the country, so obviously it’s going to an emotional match because we’re right there with them,” said junior Kaitlyn VanHoff after the game. “We lost some of our emotion after the second game, and we just couldn’t get it back.”

The Rams took the last three sets to win the match, but the emotionally charged Aggies nearly handed CSU its first loss.

"It was a grind. I thought it would be,” said head coach Grayson DuBose. “That's a good team. We had our chances for sure. Under pressure, they responded just a little bit better than we did, and it made all the difference”

Schlott’s special night

Since 1974, the Utah State women’s basketball team had beat the University of Utah one time going in to the two teams’ meeting Nov. 19. The Aggies ended up running away with the game behind a dominant performance from Jennifer Schlott for the program’s third ever win over Utah.

The game was tied at 46 with just under 12 minutes, but the Aggies ended up winning 77-61. Schlott scored 37 in the game, which at the time was her career high. She would score 44 later in the season.

“I’m just trying to do whatever I need to do to get the win,” said Schlott after the game. “It feels so good. They spanked us last year. It’s really nice to get the win, and the way we got it, we played really well.”

Senior guard Schlott broke the Mountain West single-season scoring record in 2013-14. She also broke USU’s single season scoring record and was No. 4 in the nation in points.

Cold-blooded Butterfield

Senior guard Spencer Butterfield hit a memorable 3-pointer in a crucial point of the game twice this season for the men’s basketball team. The first time took place in the Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum on Jan. 25 against then-No. 7 San Diego State. Butterfield sunk a deep three over an Aztec player to tie the game and send the game into overtime. The Spectrum exploded into a deafening roar.

“You have two choices in these instances. You can lay down and give up, or you can keep fighting,” said Butterfield after the overtime loss to the Aztecs.

The other time was at the Thomas & Mack Center during the first round of the Mountain West Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Aggies used an eight-point swing in an 18-second span with less than a minute to play to tie the game against Colorado State. Butterfield hit another three in that span to bring it to a one-point deficit and added two free throws to take the lead after a CSU technical foul.

“I've been coaching a long time. I've never been a part of something like that,” said head coach Stew Morrill.

The Aggies ended up winning the game, finishing it on a 16-3 run. Butterfield had nine of those 16 points.

Johnson’s gem

Utah State softball’s sophomore pitcher stole the show Saturday against defending Mountain West champion San Diego State. Johnson pitched a two-hit shutout against the Aztecs, who are currently 31-12 overall.

The 1-0 win snapped San Diego State’s nine-game winning streak. The Aztecs are 17-5 at home this season.

"Noelle hit her spots really well tonight, and she did a good job of keeping them off balance and not letting them get the big hit," head coach Steve Johnson said. "We played outstanding defense behind her and didn't allow them to extend the inning at all.”

The performance was arguably the most dominant by any USU athlete all year.

San Diego State does USU a solid

After an 11-point loss Boise State in October, the Utah State football team’s hopes at a Mountain West championship game berth looked slim. The Aggies were 3-3, riddled with injuries and needed not only to win out, but for the Broncos to lose another conference game.

On Nov. 23, following a 13-0 win against Colorado State, Aggie players, coaches and fans huddled around their television sets hoping for San Diego State do them a huge favor.

With just more than four minutes left in the game, San Diego State’s Tim Vizzi returned a punt for a touchdown to tie the game. The Aztecs would win the game in overtime and open the door for USU to play in the inaugural Mountain West championship game.

“I got text messages from Aztec coaches congratulating us on the win and telling me they’d do their part,” head coach Matt Wells said.

One week later, USU was unfurling the Mountain Division Champions banner at Romney Stadium following a 35-7 win over Wyoming.

“It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt. It’s what you get into this for, to play for championships,” Wells said.

- dahdahjm@gmail.com
Twitter: @dahdahUSU

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