As the clock clicked closer to zero during the football team’s homecoming game last October, a few players – with Gatorade cooler in hand – sought out first-year coach Al Golden.
A few seconds later, Golden was doused with the water in celebration of his first career victory.
The moment was one of many ‘firsts’ that highlighted the 2006-07 athletic seasons.
Among the others: Fran Dunphy took the helm as the first coach to direct two Big 5 men’s basketball teams.
Four coaches – Dunphy, Golden, Aaron Murphy and Bonnie Rosen – completed their first seasons here.
Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale became the first teammates to finish one-two in the Atlantic Ten Conference men’s basketball scoring leaders.
Kamesha Hairston was selected in the WNBA Draft’s first round. And, the men’s gymnastics squad finished first in the
Eastern College Athletic Conference, winning its 23rd championship.
Here’s a look back at the year’s highlights:
CHRITBLE OWLS – OCT. 12
The football team relinquished its per diem money in favor of donating $1,500 to the Fahmarr McElrathby trust fund prior to its game against Clemson.
The money benefited Clemson’s Ray Ray McElrathbey, who had gained custody of his 11-year-old brother, Fahmarr, from his mother, a drug addict.
The Owls, who also donated $1,530 to a safety at New Jersey’s Woodrow Wilson High who suffered a spinal cord injury, tried to change the culture of the team.
First-year coach Al Golden encouraged the team to take part in community service events and made it a priority of his players to become socially-active students.
HOMECOMING, PART ONE – OCT. 28
Bowling Green had not been kind to the football team in recent years. The Falcons ran up scores of 70-16 and 70-7 in the teams’ 2004 and 2005 meetings.
Homecoming 2006 would be a day of revenge.
Travis Shelton accumulated 222 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns, including a 96-yard kickoff return, to lead the Owls to a 28-14 victory Oct. 28.
Golden immediately rushed from the game to be with his pregnant wife, but issued a warning via teleconference the next day.
“It’s a big win, no doubt,” he said. “But I don’t think we should be shutting down Broad Street just yet.”
DEJA VU – Nov. 3
The field hockey team finished with a 13-7 record, the program’s finest mark since 1991, but an old nemesis made the mark bittersweet. Richmond knocked the Owls from the A-10 tournament in a heartbreaker. The Spiders tied the game in the final minute, and went on to defeat Temple, 2-1, in overtime. The game was reminiscent of the teams’ regular season meeting, in which the Spiders scored the game-tying goal with 8.3 seconds remaining.
The Owls lost that contest in overtime by the same score as their later meeting.
HOMECOMING, PART TWO – Jan. 23
Fran Dunphy had downplayed his return to Penn’s Palestra in the days leading up to Temple’s game against Penn, where Dunphy had coached for 17 seasons.
But when gametime came, Dunphy’s shell broke.
He waved to the crowd as the game began. Afterward, he admitted he had fun despite the Owls’ blowing a 19-point lead and losing the game.
“I just made a decision – at that point, I was kind of fighting [the hype] – to just embrace it and let it happen,” Dunphy said. “I thought it was a great night.”
SCORING DUO – March 3
Dionte Christmas topped the A-10 in scoring for nearly the entire season. But he had a few close competitors, including teammate Mark Tyndale, who’s production exploded following his insertion into the starting lineup.Christmas and Tyndale averaged 20 and 19.4 points per game, respectively, as the two guards became the first teammates to ever finish first and second among A-10 scorers.
Christmas experienced a scoring surge, including a three-game stretch in which he scored 31, 34 and 30. No Owl had scored 30 points in three straight games since Terence Stansbury did so in the 1982-83 season.
Tyndale shot a staggering 53.9 percent from the field, well above his career mark of 35.9 percent.
BITTERSWEET SEASON – MARCH 20
The women’s basketball team earned its first NCAA Tournament at-large bid under coach Dawn Staley, a sign of the program’s growing success. But the bid came with mixed emotions, as the Owls had failed to win the A-10 tournament to secure an automatic bid to the Big Dance, halting the team’s A-10 title streak at three.
“To get an at-large bid for our program, it means that we’re moving in the right direction,” Staley said after receiving the Owls’ NCAA Tournament seed. “Although, we like to take it out of the committee’s hands and win our own tournament so we won’t be on pins and needles like we were today.”
The Owls topped Nebraska in the NCAA Tournament’s first round and gave No. 1 Duke a run for its money in Round 2. The Owls’ success earned Staley a six-year contract extension shortly after the season’s conclusion.
CHAMPIONS – MARCH 31
Fred Turoff had guided the men’s gymnastics teams to 14 ECAC titles, but the Owls had gone three years without capturing the championship.That changed in March when Luke Vexler, Sterling Kramer and Jon Vogtman took the top three all-around spots in the championship meet to hand Turoff his 15th title in 31 years.
The Owls, competing at McGonigle Hall, scored a season-best 208.400 and advanced to Nationals, where they placed sixth.
FIRST ROUND . . . AGAIN – April 4
Entering the women’s basketball season, there were questions as to whether
Kamesha Hairston could carry the Owls in the absence of Candice Dupree. By season’s end, those questions were non-existent.
Hairston carried the Owls by leading the A-10 in scoring and rebounding.
Her 18.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game caught the attention of WNBA scouts and the Connecticut Sun selected her in the first round of the WNBA Draft last month.
THE NATIONAL STAGE – APRIL 9
The baseball team has struggled, but Tom Dolan has emerged as a legitimate
The junior left-hander struck out 16 batters in eight innings against Dayton,
marking the fourth-straight game he had completed eight innings. The performance
earned Dolan “Collegiate Baseball’s” National Player of the Week.
Dolan leads the Owls with five wins, 75 innings, 61 strikeouts and owns a 2.76 earned run average – the lowest ERA of any pitcher who has thrown more than four innings. In fact, he’s the only pitcher to have thrown more than four innings and have an earned run average under 5.00.
RECORDS SMASHED – APRIL 9
Adrienne Repsher slugged nine home runs during her first three seasons on the softball team.
Through this season’s first 32 games, the senior first baseman has slugged 13.
Repsher has smashed the Owls’ single-season home run record, which previously
stood at nine. She’s also broken the Owls’ career home run record, which was 13. Repsher has knocked out 22 career homers.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.