It was an especially good year to be a Stanford sports fan. As we prepare to close the door on 2011, I'd like to thank everyone who has e-mailed, tweeted and retweeted, commented, voted, and simply visited this site over the past year. As much as I enjoy doing what I do, there wouldn't be a site without you. If you have any suggestions for improving the Rule of Tree community or are interested in contributing regularly or semi-regularly, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. With your help, I have no doubt that 2012 will be even better.
And with that, here are 11 of the best Stanford sports moments from the past year, in chronological order. Please let me know what I forgot in the comments. (I know you will, Grandpa. I couldn't decide which Track and Field feat was most worthy of inclusion, if any.)
1. Stanford Blasts Virginia Tech in Orange Bowl
It wasn't supposed to be this easy. Installed as slight favorites entering the game after an 11-1 regular season, Stanford outscored the Hokies 27-0 in the second half to cruise to a 40-12 win. Coby Fleener had 6 catches for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns.
2. Andrew Luck Decides to Come Back
Do you remember where you were when Stanford
held a huge press conference issued a brief press release to announce that Andrew Luck was returning to school?
3. Exit Jim Harbaugh, Enter David Shaw
Shortly after Luck announced that that he was coming back, Jim Harbaugh announced that he was leaving and David Shaw was hired as the Cardinal's new head coach. I had forgotten how fast this all happened. The weeks immediately following the Fiesta Bowl figure to be far less exciting, unless Luck has a sudden change of heart. Ha.
4. Stanford Returns to the Final Four
Playing in front of a pro-Gonzaga crowd in Spokane, Stanford crushed Courtney Vandersloot and the Zags, 83-60, in the Regional Final to advance to its fourth straight Final Four. Unfortunately, the Cardinal's season ended there, with a disappointing loss to eventual national champion Texas A&M.
5. Men's Gymnastics Wins Stanford's 100th Title
The Stanford men's gymnastics team's second national title in three years was especially sweet, as it was the 100th title in Stanford athletics history.
6. Women's Water Polo Defeats Cal in Championship
It didn't take Stanford long to win title No. 101.
7. Baseball Reaches Super Regionals
Mark Marquess' squad reached the Super Regionals for the first time since 2008 with a young squad that played a brutal early-season schedule. Even bigger things are expected for the Cardinal in 2012.
8. Stanford Women Win Capital One Cup
Stanford won its 17th straight Directors' Cup in 2011 and is well on its way to winning again in 2012. That wasn't enough for the Stanford women's athletic programs, which took home the first Capital One Cup.
The Cardinal's wild win in the Coliseum, which was sealed when A.J. Tarpley fell on Curtis McNeal's fumble in the end zone in the third overtime, will go down as one of the greatest games in Stanford football history. The game featured Andrew Luck's two-and-a-half-minute-long Heisman moment, a 10-play, 76-yard drive that tied the score late in the fourth quarter after Nickell Robey's interception return for a touchdown threatened to end Stanford's perfect season.
10. Women's Soccer Wins National Title
The third time was the charm for Paul Ratcliffe's squad, which defeated Duke, 1-0, in the College Cup final in Kennesaw, Georgia. Teresa Noyola, a Hermann Award finalist, scored the game's only goal on an assist from Camille Levin. The Cardinal finished the season 25-0-1.
11. Nneka Ogwumike Goes Off Against Tennessee
It was an emotional night at Maples Pavilion, with Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt making her first trip to the Farm since announcing that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. Summitt received a standing ovation when she walked onto the court before Nneka Ogwumike earned a standing ovation of her own. The senior scored a career-high 42 points in No. 4 Stanford's 97-80 win over the No. 6 Lady Vols.
My top moment: I'll never forget watching the second half and all three overtimes of the USC win on an iPhone while traveling from one Halloween party to another on the DC Metro, but the Orange Bowl win is my moment of the year. The tailgate, the weather, the "Can you believe we're in a BCS bowl?!" feeling were all great. That we won the game -- and in dominating fashion -- was practically icing on the cake. I'm excited we get to do it all again in a couple of days. Hope to see some of you in Glendale. Go Stanford!