July 21, 2007

Year In Review: Ten Milestones

The previous athletic season was an eventful and momentous one in many ways for Texas Tech. And while the "name" sports experienced their fair share of highs and lows, some of the less visible programs also produced stories of note. Here is a brief yet wide-ranging recap of some of those happenings.

Football Attendance, High: Without question, one of the most noticeable phenomena associated with Mike Leach's tenure in Texas Tech is the ever-increasing attendance at home football games. The 2006 season only confirmed the trend. Season ticket sales crested in the 40,000 range, which is a vast improvement over as little as a decade ago. The game against the University of Texas drew an amazing 56,158 fans, a single-game Texas Tech record. And the home game average was 50,874. The Red Raider program is now to the point where crowds of 50,000 are nothing out of the ordinary, and the swelling attendance is a strong stimulus for the dramatic expansion of Jones AT&T stadium seating capacity, which is just over the horizon.

Bob Knight All-Time Wins Record: The Texas Tech basketball program now boasts a record no other program can claim-its head coach is the most winning in the history of 1-A men's hoops. That became the case last season as Bob Knight won his 880th game against the University of New Mexico by a 70-68 count. Knight went on to lead the Red Raiders back to the NCAA tournament and returns next season to add to his wins total. If The General sticks around through his current contract, which extends through the 2011 season, and if he continues to win at the current clip, he will likely push his total wins record beyond the reach of any current NCAA basketball coach.

Sally Kipyego's National Titles: The ladies side of the Texas Tech athletics program is becoming the home of national champions. Marsha Sharp's Lady Raider brought home a title in 1993, trackster Leigh Daniel won a pair of titles in 1999, and now Sally Kipyego has added to the treasure chest. At the 2007 NCAA indoor track championships, the native of Kenya won not only the 5000M crown, but took the 3000M title home to boot. Only a sophomore, Kipyego is poised not only to win future NCAA track glory, but may also factor heavily in the Olympic games.

Jay Jackson, Tech's #2 All-Time Scorer: In his relatively short time in Lubbock, Bob Knight has now groomed Texas Tech's #1 and #2 all-time scoring leaders. Remaining at the top of the heap is Andre Emmett, but he had to sweat buckshot last season as off guard Jarrius Jackson came within 36 points of tying him. Jackson finished with 2,221 points to 2,257 for Emmett. Jackson, a native of Monroe, Louisiana, also started an astounding 132 games during his Tech career. Like Emmett, he will be missed.

Lady Raiders in Second Ever Outdoor Game: Maybe there's a very good reason why organized basketball games are played indoors. On December 15, Kristy Curry's Lady Raiders traveled to Phoenix, Arizona for a battle with the Arizona State Sun Devils, in only the second women's basketball game to be played outdoors. Temperature at tip-off was a nippy 56 degrees, a brisk breeze brought with it a wind chill factor, rain eventually intervened-mercifully for the Lady Raiders-and the game was called for fear that players could slip and injure themselves. Oh yeah, Arizona State won, 61-45.

Men's Tennis Bumps off #7 Oklahoma State: Rebounding from a tough loss against #4 ranked Baylor, Tim Siegel's Red Raider tennis squad zapped #7 Oklahoma State by a score of 4-3. Christian Rojmar and Bojan Szumanski got the ball rolling as they took a doubles match. Michael Breler and Sinisa Markovic also nabbed a doubles victory. Rojmar later won a singles match, as did Markovich. Dimitrio Martinez then pulled off back-to-back victories over Cowboys, which clinched the victory for the Red Raiders.

Soccer Turnaround: The Texas Tech women's soccer team, which is also the university's only soccer team, notched the third best turnaround in the nation in 2006. The squad, which had a dismal overall mark of 1-17 and went 0-10 in Big 12 play in 2005, bounced back last year to record a mark of 7-11-2 and 2-7-1 in conference play. The 2006 ledger was also the program's best since 1998. Tech must now replace head coach Neil McGuire who departed to take over University of California's soccer program.

Injuries Hamstring Baseball Team: The 2007 season was one of the toughest on record for the Texas Tech baseball team, and injuries were a significant reason why. Before the season even started the Red Raiders lost starting right-handed hurler Miles Morgan to a rotator cuff injury. Then they lost starting second baseman Willie Rueda, who tore an ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm in a game against TCU in March. Matters did not improve much from that point on.

Leach Bowl Streak: The Red Raider football program is becoming a post-season juggernaut under head coach Mike Leach. With their berth in the 2006 Insight Bowl, Texas Tech enjoyed their seventh straight bowl appearance under Leach's helmsmanship. The Red Raiders have now appeared in 30 bowl games, good for 19th best nationally, and #4 in the Big 12 Conference, trailing only Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Do not be surprised if the Red Raiders make it eight in a row and 31 bowl games overall following the 2007 season.

Trlica Money on PATs: Texas Tech placekicker Alex Trlica has quietly carved his name in college football's record books, and in a very impressive way. The senior has yet to miss a single point after in the first three years of his career. He has hit 166 straight PATs, which puts him in first place in that category of NCAA football history.


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