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Article updated: 12/27/2013 6:13 PM

For women's sports, 2013 loaded with great stories

By Patricia Babcock

With the New Year nearly upon us, let's take some time to look back at the best women's sports stories of 2013. Happy Holidays and best wishes for a healthy 2014!

10. Swooping in: In an effort to invigorate its basketball program and give it instant recognition on the recruiting trail, Loyola University went bold in April in naming legend Sheryl Swoopes its head coach. Swoopes had no head coaching experience, but is committed to putting the Ramblers on the map. Loyola is 3-8 so far as it opens its first season in the rugged Missouri Valley Conference.

9. Goal-getter: In June, soccer great Abby Wambach made history with a header goal against South Korea in front of 18,961 fans in New Jersey. It was her 159th international goal, which broke Mia Hamm's record of 158.

8. Taillights for Thompson: The most enduring player in WNBA history, Tina Thompson, 38, retired at the conclusion of the 2013 season, her 17th. Thompson, who helped Houston win the first four titles, is the only athlete to play in all 17 seasons of the WNBA, which made its debut in 1997. She was the league's first draft pick, and she also played for Los Angeles and Seattle.

7. Sweet swan song: What a way to end with a bang for the Big East Conference. Realignment wrecked the best conference in women's college basketball (the old Big East), but not before a dominant showing during the NCAA tournament. In the end, only Connecticut and Louisville, two of the heaviest heavyweights in the old Big East, were left standing. Connecticut defeated Louisville in the title game, 93-60. It was the eighth national title for coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies.

6. Moore and more: Maya Moore continues to prove she is one of the best players in women's basketball history. The third-year forward guided Minnesota to the 2013 WNBA title, her second as a pro. As a college player at Connecticut, Moore won two NCAA championships while being named player of the year three times.

5. Lions roar: The Penn State volleyball team did it again. Last week, the Lady Lions won their sixth NCAA title in school history, and their fifth in the last seven years, cementing their place as the most dominant college volleyball program of the last decade (Penn State won four straight titles from 2007-10). In an all-Big Ten finale, Penn State defeated Wisconsin in four games. The Big Ten was the most dominant conference in the nation all season, placing seven teams in the final Top 20 poll.

4. Super Serena: Tennis great Serena Williams seems to get better with age. The 32-year-old California native was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year after producing the finest women's tennis season in years. She went 78-4 for a .951 winning percentage, the best since Steffi Graff won 97.7 percent in 1989. Williams also won 11 titles, the most since Martina Hingis rolled up 12 titles in 1997. And Serena's 34-match win streak in 2013 was the longest since her sister Venus had a 35-match run in 2000. Williams also won more than $12 million in prize money, a record for women's tennis. In February, she became the oldest No. 1 in WTA rankings history, and she kept that spot all season.

3. Walk in the Park: What a year for Inbee Park. The 25-year-old golfer from South Korea won three straight majors in 2013, the Kraft Nabisco, the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open. The only other female golfer to win three majors in one year is Babe Zaharias (1950).

2. Rookie sensation: In my opinion, No. 1 on this list doesn't happen without No. 2, and that is Sky rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne, who also was the second pick in April's WNBA Draft. Delle Donne was named rookie of the year after averaging 18.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while hitting 43 percent of her shots and playing 31 minutes per game. She was the first rookie in WNBA history to finish with the most all-star votes and she helped the Sky to its first winning record.

1. Sky makes history: For the first time in its eight-year history, the Chicago Sky made the WNBA playoffs last summer. And that was just the half of it. Led by star rookie Elena Delle Donne and WNBA defensive player of the year Sylvia Fowles, the Sky earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference, finishing with the best regular-season record (24-10). The excitement was short-lived, though. The Sky was swept by Indiana in the first round of the playoffs, 2-0.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw.

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