Women's Watch: A look back at the top moments in 2018
Happy New Year, women's sports fans! Before we move too much further into 2019, let's take a look back at some of the most interesting stories of 2018 in women's sports.
10. Mania move: The first female fighter inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, Ronda Rousey made the big move to the WWE in 2018. And she looked tough at WrestleMania 34, while also winning the Raw Women's Championship at SummerSlam 2018.
9. Wedding in the W: It might be a first in all of sports -- two professional athletes from the same team ... getting married. That's what happened in late December when Chicago Sky guards Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley married in front of friends, family and teammates near Seattle. It was a big year for both Vandersloot and Quigley otherwise as well. Vandersloot set or tied multiple WNBA records in 2018, including setting the single-season assist record and becoming the first player in WNBA history to record 20 points and 15 assists in a single game. Meanwhile, Quigley was named an all-star for the second straight season, and she won the 3-point shooting contest for the second straight season as well. She did so by setting a record for points with 29 out of a possible 39. That point total is better than any WNBA player or NBA player in the history of the contest.
8. New guy: Speaking of the Chicago Sky, in November, James Wade was named the new head coach of the Chicago Sky, replacing Amber Stocks after her two-year stint. He comes from the perennial power Minnesota Lynx, where he was an assistant coach and worked closely with former Sky star center Sylvia Fowles, who won the WNBA Most Valuable Player Award under Wade's watch.
7. Fighting Illini at Final Four: The Big Ten again showed well in the NCAA women's volleyball tournament, sending two teams to the Final Four in Illinois and Nebraska. No. 3 in the country heading into the Final Four, Illinois was making its fourth Final Four appearance, and its second in eight years. The Illini have been to the national tournament 26 times, including seven Elite Eight appearances, and were the national runners-up in 2011.
6. TV women: More and more women are being hired for high-profile sports broadcasting jobs. In September, NBA analyst Doris Burke became the first female broadcaster to receive the Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Media Award, given annually to media members who have made outstanding contributions to basketball. Burke is regarded as a trailblazer for women in sports broadcasting, which has opened its doors at the highest levels in recent years to other women, such as Sarah Kustok and Candace Parker in the NBA and Jessica Mendoza with Major League Baseball.
5. Women coaching men: As the number of women broadcasting men's sports increases, so does the number of women coaching the guys. In October, former Chicago Sky guard Kristi Toliver, daughter of a longtime NBA referee and now a star with the WNBA's Washington Mystics, was offered a position as an assistant coach with the NBA's Washington Wizards. Toliver is the third female assistant coach in the WNBA, joining Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs and Jenny Boucek of the Dallas Mavericks. Hammon, the veteran of the bunch, has been considered for major Division I men's coaching jobs as well. Other women with strong basketball backgrounds, such as Sue Bird, are also getting positions in the front offices of various NBA teams.
4. Super Serena: At age 36, tennis star Serena Williams continues to amaze. Just 10 months after giving birth with severe complications, the 23-time Grand Slam champion and perennial No. 1 female tennis player in the world fought her way into the Wimbledon championship. Williams was struck with life-threatening pulmonary embolisms after the delivery of her daughter Olympia. She had multiple surgeries at the time and she remained on bed rest for several weeks. And although Williams fell in the Wimbledon final to Angelique Kerber, her climb back was an inspiration.
3. Rivalry alive and well: The Connecticut-Notre Dame rivalry in women's basketball is rich with talent, intrigue and a little bit of drama. When Connecticut bounced Notre Dame in December, the game got a little chippy and those emotions spilled into social media in the following days, capped with Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw inexplicably blocking WNBA star and UConn legend Breanna Stewart from her Twitter account. Can't wait for March!
2. Final Four fireworks: The 2018 Women's Final Four was one of the best on record in terms of excitement for the fans. Guard Arike Ogunbowale, a 5-foot-8 junior guard for Notre Dame, was the star. Twice. She hit a buzzer-beater game-winner against Connecticut in the national semifinals and then hit a buzzer-beater game-winner against Mississippi State in the championship game to lead the Irish to the national title, their first since 2001. Both games went to overtime. And both shots produced goose bumps.
1. Sick, sad: Sorry to end 2018 on a sour note. But perhaps the biggest story of 2018 was also the most disturbing. The implosion of USA Gymnastics came to a head in the spring as there was some closure in the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case. Nassar the former team doctor was sentenced to 60 years in prison as more than 300 victims came forward with stories of how he took advantage of them under the guise of medical care. Michigan State, Nassar's other employer, has settled with some of the victims to the tune of $500 million. USA Gymnastics has filed for bankruptcy.
Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw