Watching the WNBA Draft, surrounded by her family, senior forward Nneka Enemkpali was finally able to let out a sigh of relief Thursday night.
After months of uncertainty about Enemkpali’s future in basketball, the Seattle Storm drafted the former Texas basketball star as the second pick in the third round of the 2015 WNBA draft, placing her No. 26 overall on the selection board.
“Ever since high school, it has been a dream of mine to play professionally … I’m so excited that it is now a reality,” Enemkpali said. “I can’t wait to bring my competitive fire to Seattle’s organization.”
The Storm drafted Enemkpali though she played in only 17 games this season as a senior. She will sit out the 2015 WNBA season while she recovers from a torn ACL in her left knee she suffered in January.
Despite the injuries, Enemkpali posted high numbers while at Texas. Before her injury this season, she led the Big 12 in rebounds, averaging 10.6 a game and double-doubles with nine. She recorded a Texas basketball record of seven double-doubles — a mark neither LaMarcus Aldridge nor Kevin Durant ever eclipsed. Furthermore, her accomplishments landed her a spot as a Senior CLASS Award Second-Team All-American, in recognition of excellence in the community, classroom, character and competition.
She ranks ninth in Texas’ record books with 899 total rebounds while she finished with 30 total double-doubles. She also ranks 30th all-time in total points with a little more than 1,100. Before her injury, she was on pace to become the fifth Longhorn to reach the 1,000 mark in both points and rebounds in a career.
“I’m incredibly excited and proud of Nneka,” head coach Karen Aston said. “She is a testament to what can happen if you have a consistent work ethic and a commitment to being successful. The Seattle Storm saw the potential in Nneka and trusted that her work ethic will pay off in the long run.”
Enemkpali is the eighth Longhorn drafted in the WNBA and the first since 2010, when Brittainey Raven went to the Atlanta Dream in the third round.
Seattle, led by thirteen-year veteran Sue Bird, tied for the worst record in the WNBA last season, giving them the first overall and third overall picks in this year’s draft. Enemkpali joins Jewell Loyd, former Notre Dame guard, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, from UConn, and center Vicky McIntyre, from Oral Roberts, as draft picks.
“There is unity and excitement around the future,” said Alisha Valavanis, Seattle Storm president and general manager.
The Storm will look to content for a title run this season but will have to overthrow defending champion Phoenix Mercury. Seattle opens its season June 6 at home against the Los Angeles Sparks.
Friday marks the start of the 20th season for Major League Soccer.
Or at least it should.
Currently, there is still no CBA, Collective Bargaining Agreement, between MLS and the players, which, if unresolved by Friday, could result in a player’s strike and games not being played.
But we’re going to go on the assumption that the games will be played as scheduled this weekend.
This season should be an exciting and intriguing year for MLS as soccer is at an all-time high in the U.S. after a tremendous showing in television ratings for the World Cup last year and heightened popularity of the English Premiere League.
Attendance last year for MLS was up across the league, if you take away the stats from now-defunct Chivas U.S.A. The average attendance for the league was just over 19,000, which is roughly near capacity for most of the teams’ stadiums (CenturyLink Field obviously notwithstanding).
There are a number of key storylines going into this year that should keep things intriguing from March to Decemeber. (We’re going to hold off on the CBA issue here.)
First, there are the two new teams coming into this season: New York City F.C., a joint venture between Manchester City and the New York Yankees, and Orlando City F.C. The intrigue here is both on and off the pitch. Both teams ought to do well with their solid rosters and the fact that they’re both in the weaker Eastern Conference. And then there’s the attendance watch for both teams in their first years. Orlando has already announced that their first match on Sunday, coincidently enough against New York City, at the Citrus Bowl is sold out. Whether that keeps up and whether New York City can put up good numbers at Yankee Stadium will be something to keep an eye on.
Then there’s the Western Conference that, much like it’s NBA counterpart, is absolutely stacked with competitors. Last year the conference produced about six or seven teams that would have made the postseason had they been in the Eastern Conference. That goes off both points and the fact they would have had an easier schedule. This year it only gets stronger with the addition of Houston and Sporting Kansas City, though MLS has added an extra playoff slot for each conference which helps. It’s still a long season, but I’d venture a guess that there are four to five teams in the conference with a legitimate shot to win the MLS Cup and another two that could be contenders.
Within that conference are two teams are the biggest contenders to win it all, each with its own big storyline.
First, the Los Angeles Galaxy are going to have to figure out a way to play without Landon Donovan, who retired after last year. The Galaxy are in a good spot, however, with Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes up front on the attack. Still, it’s worth watching to see how the defending champs without the league’s best player.
And then there’s the Seattle Sounders who, despite their regular season success, find their trophy cabinet MLS Cup-less. Last year the Sounders were one round away from making it to the MLS Cup final, but fell short to the Galaxy. Seattle returns the same basic squad, minus defender Deandre Yedlin, so expect them to be contenders this season.
These storylines, along with a host of others, will (hopefully) be answered this year in what will likely be the best season in the history of the league.
That season has to start without a strike, but hopefully those differences are settled before the season begins or without a work stoppage. But that’s another story for another day.
· Supporters’ Shield – Seattle
· Western Conference playoff teams – Seattle, Los Angeles, Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Houston
· Eastern Conference playoff teams – D.C. United, Orlando City, New York City F.C., New England, Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls
· MLS Cup matchup – Seattle vs. Orlando City
· MLS Cup Winner – Seattle
1. Seattle – The Seattle Sounders were the best team in the regular season last year, taking home the Supporter’s Shield and winning the U.S. Open Cup. But the Sounders couldn’t quite catch that elusive MLS Cup title that has dogged them the past few years. This year they’re set up once again to be favorites to take the title with forwards midfielder, and Texan, Clint Dempsey and forward Obafemi Martins, as well as a talented supporting cast. With the experience and passionate fan base, Seattle has to be considered a top team in MLS, if only for the start of the season.
2. Los Angeles – The Galaxy will take a hit in their chance to repeat with U.S. legend Landon Donovan retiring, but there’s more to this team than Donovan. Forwards Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes made a significant impact up front for Los Angeles last year and will again team up to be a potent attacking duo. Add in Steven Gerrard at the summer transfer window and the Galaxy are in a great spot to repeat as champs once again.
3. Orlando City – Of the two expansion teams joining the league this season, Orlando City is the most likely to make some noise and potentially find itself in a position to make it to the MLS Cup. Of course, everyone knows about Brazilian forward Kaka, but City features more than that. Orlando should set in goal with Jamaican national team goalie Donovan Rickets. And if midfielder Brek Shea can find the same success he had a few years ago with FC Dallas, City might have a solid attack.
4. New York City F.C. – Of course, the biggest name team coming into this year is New York City F.C. under the combined ownership of Manchester City and the New York Yankees. While some uncertainty still looms over whether or not midfielder Frank Lampard will make the transfer from Manchester, City have a solid team in place anyway with forward David Villa, midfielder Mix Diskerud and defender George John. With a relatively weak Eastern Conference, NYC F.C. will certainly be contenders to make it to the MLS Cup.
5. Sporting Kansas City – Last year was a disappointment for Sporting K.C., dropping out of the postseason in the wild card round a year after making it to the MLS Cup. And things won’t get much easier for them this season either as Kansas City, along with Houston, make the jump to the stacked Western Conference. Still, SKC boasts of U.S. national team players midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler, and forward Dom Dwyer became a force to be reckoned with last year. It won’t be easy in the Western Conference, but Sporting will not be an easier out for anybody this season.
The Bench – 6. Real Salt Lake, 7. New York Red Bulls, 8. D.C. United, 9. Houston, 10. FC Dallas
Games to Watch
· New York City F.C. at Orlando City, 4 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2
Great scheduling from the MLS scheduling crew resulted in the two expansion teams facing off against each other to start off the season. But while it seems like a gimmick, this should still be a great match. Both teams come is as contenders right off the bat to top the Eastern Conference. Both teams also feature big names such as Kaka and Villa. This game should be the best game of the weekend.
· New England at Seattle, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox Sports 1
Of the teams we know about and are returning, this should be the best match of the weekend. New England was oh so close to coming away with the MLS Cup last year, falling in the final minutes to Los Angeles. The Revolution have a bright star in midfielder Lee Nguyen and also feature U.S. national team defender Jermaine Jones. Seattle, as mentioned earlier, have been close to getting to the MLS Cup, but have yet to fulfill that goal. With the great Seattle fans providing the backdrop, this should be a fun one.
Rest of the Schedule
· Chicago at Los Angeles – 9 p.m., Friday, MLS Live, UniMas
· Montreal at D.C. United – 2 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live
· Colorado at Philadelphia – 3 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live
· Toronto F.C. at Vancouver – 5 p.m., Satuday, MLS Live
· San Jose at FC Dallas – 7:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live
· Columbus at Houston – 7:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live
· Real Salt Lake at Portland – 9:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live
· New York Red Bulls at Sporting Kansas City – 6:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Celebration time is over for the Seattle Seahawks. The start to another Super Bowl run has begun.
Of course, the odds are against these Seahawks repeating. The last two Super Bowl champions have failed to even reach the playoffs following their championship season.
Seattle started training camp with a handful of starters returning on both sides of the ball. Led by third year quarterback Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and a healthy Percy Harvin, the offense should continue to build on last year’s solid season
But the key to the Seahawks Super Bowl run was their stellar defense in 2013. Seattle spent plenty of money to keep their defense intact, signing Pro Bowlers Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman to long-term deals and preserving what is arguably be the best defensive backfield in the business. Seattle also solidified their defensive line by resigning Michael Bennett to a long-term contract.
Based on what we’ve seen in mini-camp, the Seahawks definitely seem ready to get back to work. Just a few days into practices, the Seahawks have already demonstrated the intensity that lead them to a last year’s Super Bowl. Wide receiver Phillip Bates and Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman got into a heated argument, which led to punches being thrown between the teammates. Teammates blamed the fight on the Seahawks competitiveness but were quick to explain the fight will be quickly forgotten.
As it has been the last few years, the NFC will be incredibly competitive once again in 2014. Of course, the 49ers will be returning a good core to try to end the Seahawks reign. Led by Drew Brees, the Saints will also contend to win the conference. Green Bay and Carolina, led by solid quarterback play, also have the potential to make a Super Bowl run. Nonetheless, the Seahawks will be certainly be the favorite to return to the Super Bowl.
The Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl Champions for the first time in their 38 years of existence.
The Seahawks defense suffocated the Denver Broncos number one scoring offense from the very start of the game leading to a 43-8 blowout.
“This is an amazing team,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “Took us four years to get to this point but they never have taken a step sideways. These guys would not take anything but winning this ballgame."
The Broncos played a horrendous game which started with a safety on the first offensive play of the game. The Broncos offense wasn’t able to recover. Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning threw two interceptions and fumbled once. Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas also had a fumble.
Seattle took advantage of those four Denver turnovers. The Seahawks scored 21 points off turnovers. Seven of those 21 points were off of a Michael Smith interception return which helped Smith win Super Bowl MVP honors.
After a disastrous first half, down 22-0, the Broncos had an opportunity to stage a comeback but Seattle’s Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown to extend the Seahawks lead to 29-0.
The Broncos’ offense finally scored at the end of the third quarter to close the gap to 36-8 but that would be the last time Denver would find the endzone.
When the game ended, Carroll was showered with Gatorade, blue and green confetti streamed down and the Seahawks hoisted the Lombardi trophy as NFL Champions for the first time ever.
“We’ve been relentless all season. Having that mentality of having a championship day every day,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. “At the end of the day, you want to play your best football and that is what we did today.”
Super Bowl XLVIII: Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Time: 5:25 p.m. CST
Spread: Denver (-3)
This year’s Super Bowl features the number one scoring and yards defense as well as the top-ranked offense in scoring and yards.
This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object; the offensive juggernaut Denver Broncos meet the stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in a Super Bowl matchup for the ages.
The Broncos make their first appearance in the Super Bowl since 1998 while the Seahawks make their second appearance, first since 2006.
This is only the second time in the past two decades that the top seeded teams in the AFC and NFC will meet in the super bowl.
The Seahawks will rely on their star-studded secondary to keep Peyton Manning in check. While Manning and the Broncos will try to exploit any possible mistakes made by the Seattle defense.
This game will be won by the team that can use their style to their advantage. Will the Seattle defense contain the Broncos high-scoring offense or will the Broncos offense be too much for the Seattle to handle?
Peyton Manning has had one of the best seasons any NFL quarterback in the history of the game. During the regular season, Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, both NFL single-season records. Manning is a four-time MVP, a Super Bowl MVP and two super bowl appearances. While Seattle’s Russell Wilson has had success during his two years in the NFL, Manning’s experience gives the Broncos the advantage.
Known for his “Beast Mode” nickname, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored 12 touchdowns this year. Complimented by Robert Turbine, Lynch and the Seahawks have an advantage over Denver’s Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman.
Denver has a trio of receivers - Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker that have scored 35 touchdowns and have accumulated over 3,400 receiving yards. Throw in tight end Julius Thomas, who had 12 touchdowns during the season, and the Broncos’ receivers clearly outshine Seattle.
Seattle’s line has a slight advantage over Denver. Seattle has not lost any defensive lineman while Denver lost defensive end Derek Wolfe and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson.
Denver lost Von Miller for the season in December; Miller was one of the Broncos’ best linebackers. The Broncos still have linebackers Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard. While Seattle has three solid linebackers - Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith and Bobby Wagner - Denver has a slightly better linebacker corps.
Known as the Legion of Boom, Seattle’s secondary is the best in the NFL. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas anchor the secondary. Sherman and Thomas account for 13 of Seattle’s 28 interceptions. Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell are Seattle’s other secondary starters. Seattle’s starting secondary accounted for 204 tackles and four forced fumbles.
Seattle 26 Denver 24
Stepping into the batter’s box used to be a part of Russell Wilson’s normal routine. The Colorado Rockies drafted Wilson in the fourth round of 2010 MLB Draft.
Wilson had two solid seasons in the Rockies farm system but he had an urge to play football that he couldn’t shake.
Wilson left the Rockies organization in the winter of 2011 and enrolled at Wisconsin to play football.
Wilson had a successful season for Wisconsin throwing for over 3,000 yards, 33 touchdowns and led the Badgers to the 2012 Rose Bowl.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks gambled on Wilson.
Many sources didn’t like the Seahawks decision to draft Wilson and Seattle was given an ‘F’ for the selection. At the time, drafting Wilson didn’t make sense, Seattle had just spent $25 million on free agent quarterback Matt Flynn.
But when Wilson stepped on the field, it was obvious why the Seahawks gambled on Wilson. Wilson has a strong arm, functional mobility and great downfield vision.
Those skills led Wilson to a stellar rookie season- 26 passing TDs, 4 rushing TDs, 3,118 passing yards and 489 rushing yards.
Unlike many NFL players, Wilson didn’t suffer through a sophomore slump, he followed his rookie season with an equally impressive 2013 season- 26 passing TDS, 1 rushing TD, 3,357 passing yards and 539 rushing yards.
As Wilson prepares for this weekend’s super bowl, the Seahawks can rest easy, their gamble paid off.
For Manning, it’s been a clear cut path to NFL success. Son of NFL great Archie Manning, Peyton has football in his genes.
Manning was a coveted high school recruit who chose to play for the Tennessee Volunteers. Manning played all four years for the Vols.
During his senior season, Manning threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns. Manning was awarded the Davey O’Brien award and the Johnny Unitas Award.
Manning was picked first overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft.
During his 13 seasons with the Colts, Manning won four MVP Awards, appeared in two super bowls and won one.
Now, with the Denver Broncos, Manning has an opportunity to win his second Super Bowl in his third appearance.
Two Paths Collide
The 12-year gap between Manning and Wilson is the largest age gap between competing Super Bowl quarterbacks in the history of the game.
And while they may have taken different paths to get to this Super Bowl, they have one thing in common - work ethic.
Both quarterbacks are known for being the first ones into work and the last ones to leave.
Wilson has made an impression on the players and coaches in the Seahawks organization.
“Man, around 6:15 a.m. It's hard to beat (Wilson) here,” Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith said. “It rubs off on guys. You don't want to be slacking when you know he's in here getting better."
“Russell is fabulous in everything we have asked him to do. He's done a great job of managing all of the situations, and he's come up big just about every time," Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
During his fifteen years in the NFL, Manning has been admired for his hard work.
“Peyton's attention to detail, that's probably what separates him from other guys and other people that have played this game," tight end Julius Thomas said. "Every day, I see how much he prepares, I see the little things that he does to make sure he's on top of his game.”
While Super Bowl XLVIII brings these quarterback’s paths together, this game will also send them in different directions.
For Wilson, his career is still young and with his skill set, this probably won’t be his only Super Bowl appearance. A win would put Wilson among the NFL’s elite.
Manning’s career is at its twilight. This Super Bowl is an opportunity for Manning to silence his critics and cement his place as one of the all-time best NFL quarterbacks.
Denver defeats Patriots 26-16; Advance to Super Bowl XLVIII
Late in the third quarter, down 20-3 to the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots had a decision to make-- go for it on a fourth and two at the Denver 30 or kick a 47-yard field goal down.
The Patriots rolled the dice and came up empty as Denver sent a well-timed blitz and sacked Tom Brady.
Whether New England wants to admit it or not, the game had been long decided before that moment. Peyton Manning and the Denver offense carved through the Patriots defense which lead to a 26-16 Broncos victory.
Manning outshined rival quarterback Tom Brady throwing for 400 yards and two touchdowns. Manning played a well-crafted game, completing an AFC championship game record tying 32 passes.
“It's very rewarding when you put a lot of hard work into the offseason and the regular season,” Manning said. “It pays dividends with a huge win.”
Meanwhile, New England was held in check for most of the game. It took the Patriots over 50 minutes to find the end zone by the time they scored it was already too late.
New England was able to score 13 points in the final ten minutes but fell short when they were unable to punch in a two-point conversion to make it a one possession game.
With the win, Denver will make their first super bowl appearance since 1998. For Manning, it will be his third appearance in the super bowl, his first with the Broncos.
“We kept our nose to the grindstone, kept persevering,” Manning said. “It’s gratifying to get this win today.”
Denver will matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII at Metlife Stadium on February 2, 2014.
Late turnovers sink 49ers; Seahawks advance to Super Bowl XLVII with 23-17 win
49ers quarterback Collin Kaepernick launched a pass in to the end zone intended for Michael Crabtree, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman tipped the pass and it landed in the hands of linebacker Malcolm Smith.
The interception sealed a 23-17 victory for Seattle and a trip to the super bowl.
“I’m the best corner in the game,” exclaimed Sherman in a post-game interview with FOX’s Erin Andrews. In another interview, Sherman said that he “knew it would come down to (the defense) in the back end to win this thing.”
The game was a classic heavyweight fight, each team delivering and taking shots. The 49ers were first to strike with a strip-fumble on the first play of the game.
Kaepernick was key to the 49ers offense, he lead the 49ers with 130 rushing yards. But the Seahawks were able to take advantage of Kaepernick’s mistakes, he turned the ball over three times in the second half.
For the Seattle offense, momentum swung their way when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 40 yard run. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson managed the game with 215 yards passing and one touchdown.
The NFC championship game was defined by the defensive play by both teams. The 49ers made two fourth down stops and forced a turnover. But it was the Seattle that landed the last punch with three forced turnovers in the second half.
“This is as sweet as it gets,” Sherman said.
“This is really special,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll added, “It would really be a mistake to not remember the connection and the relationship between this football team and the 12th Man and these fans. It's unbelievable."
Seattle will meet the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at Metlife Stadium on February 2, 2014.
The Daily Texan sent a writer and a photographer to Seattle, Wash. to cover the NCAA Women's Volleyball Final Four, in which the top-ranked Longhorns lost to No. 12 Wisconsin in the semifinals. Here are some other scenes from the city.
SEATTLE, Wash. — At first, the crowd — almost entirely University of Washington fans — couldn’t believe what they saw. A scrappy, underdog Badger team dominated the top-ranked Longhorns from the start. But then something odd happened: Wisconsin never stopped.
An early 8-3 lead in Set 1 snowballed into a 2-0 match lead. At that point, Wisconsin and the crowd believed the upset was possible. Texas fought back and looked to regain control in the fourth set, but, in the critical moment, the Badgers took control
When the final point hit the ground, the fans let out huge roar. The No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers had advanced to the NCAA championship over the No. 1 Longhorns 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23), ending Texas’ repeat national championship bid.
“We played our poorest game of the year,” Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We didn’t serve well. We didn’t pass well. We didn’t hit well. It’s tough to win with 43 hitting errors.”
The Longhorns started off flat in Wisconsin’s opening run. They committed four service errors, allowed three aces and failed to give their hitters an opportunity to put balls away. After cutting the lead to 20-19, the Badgers rallied for five straight points to take the first game. Despite hitting more efficiently and executing more blocks, the Longhorns weren’t able to overcome the early deficit.
“For some reason, we got on our heels off the bat,” Elliott said. “We couldn’t figure it out.”
Game 2 didn’t go any better for Texas. The Longhorns fell behind 10-3 early because of a myriad of troubles in returning the serve. They cleaned that up later in the set but failed to produce any kind of extended run and lost the set 25-18.
“We had to serve fearlessly,” Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “We kept them out of system. We have one of the best backcourts in the country, and they needed to make the digs today.”
Texas was forced moved into survival mode in Game 3 and managed to endure. After back-and-forth play all game, with both teams struggling to kill the ball, Texas found itself with two game points at 25-23. But Wisconsin, like it had all night, responded. It wasn’t enough though, as two errors extended the match to a fourth set.
But Texas couldn’t endure another late Badger run. After controlling the game the entire set, Wisconsin clawed back to take the fourth game, and the match, late.
“We are used to teams trying to serve tough,” senior setter Hannah Allison said. “That is the only way to throw us off, and they executed that well.”
In the match, both teams struggled offensively. Texas hit .156; Wisconsin .131.
The loss was the Longhorns first since non-conference play, which ended a repeat national title bid and a season that already included the first undefeated Big 12 run in school history.
“Nineteen blocks and they hit .131,” Elliott said. “If you told me that before the match I’d say we win 90 percent of the time. We managed our game poorly. It stinks that we played our poorest game of the year today.”