2015 Alabama Athletics in Review
Another year is in the books, and as we all review what we did in 2015 and begin making our new year's resolutions in 2016, let's go back and check out some of the highlights from the past year in Alabama sports.
In the inaugural College Football Playoff, the Crimson Tide entered the semifinals as the #1 seed, matched up against the #4 seeded Ohio State Buckeyes. Alabama was a heavy favorite to win the game, but the performance of Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliot pushed them past the Tide, and eventually claimed the first ever College Football Playoff Championship.
As is becoming commonplace in college football, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are consistently at the top when it comes to recruiting, and 2015 was no different. Players such as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, and Ronnie Harrison headlined one of the best recruiting classes of all time (on paper), and this train doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama was able to perform exquisitely in the NCAA Championships. Leading off for the women, sophomore Bailey Scott broke her own record in the 50 meter freestyle, jump-starting the great performance from the Tide. The next day, senior Kaylin Burchell also broke another school record in the 200 meter breaststroke. Men's swimmer Kristian Gkolomeev won the 100 meter freestyle meet, and finished with silver and bronze medals in medley relay finishes.
After parting ways with Anthony Grant on March 15, the University of Alabama decided to hire former New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson to the same position. Immediately after he arrived in Tuscaloosa, Johnson hit the recruiting trail hard and now has the Tide on a roll in his first season.
Hart won the national championship in 2014 as an assistant coach for the Florida State Seminoles, then he took the job here at The Capstone. He is a well-respected name in the world of soccer, playing six years in Major League Soccer. The Tide had a disappointing 5-12-2 season in 2015, but their level of play seemed to increase as the season progressed. He'll be looking to improve upon that as he enters his second offseason in Tuscaloosa.
New head coach Dana Duckworth started her head coaching stint with a fourth place finish in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Florida Gators, Utah Utes, and Oklahoma Sooners finished just above the Tide, but Alabama was able to place two players in the top two of the Vault exercise (Lauren Beers) and the Balance Beam (Aja Sims).
Oftentimes football and basketball are the two sports that are most kept up with by the average fan, but the other sports are doing great things in Tuscaloosa. Case in point, the women's doubles tennis team won the national championship this past year for the second consecutive season. Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe were nearly unbeatable all season, and not only did they win the national championship, they also competed in the 2015 U.S. Open doubles tournament.
A really good season (48-15) was cut short for the Crimson Tide as they lost in the College World Series to both the Michigan Wolverines and the LSU Tigers, but were able to defeat the Oregon Ducks 2-1 after their loss to the Wolverines. Expect the Tide to attempt to avenge their early exit this season, as head coach Patrick Murphy enters his 18th season as the leader of the program.
Sophomore Lakareber Abe won the individual prize in the Mason Rudolph Championship, shooting 12-under and taking home her first ever individual win of her collegiate career. They were able to defeat solid programs like Northwestern, Georgia, Virginia, and LSU.
After finishing the regular season 11-1, the Tide took on the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game and came out on top of the boys from Gainesville, 29-15. The win all but clinched Alabama an appearance in the second College Football Playoff, the only returning team from the 2014 season.
The Crimson Tide started off their campaign for a national championship in the College Football Playoff with a bang when they shutout the Spartans 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry didn't have earth-shattering stats, but the Tide defense was impenetrable (that might be an understatement). They're set to do battle with the Clemson Tigers for all the marbles on January 11, 2016.