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July 15, 2009

MSU's best teams

Two weeks of true offseason left. This week: Looking back at the MSU sports year. Next week: Looking ahead to football camp. All in top-10 lists!

   Top 10 MSU teams of 2008-09:
    1. Men's basketball. Easy choice for a team that won the league by four games and reached the final game. Technically, this is the third-best team in program history and theatrically, it's on a very short list in school history.
    2. Women's rowing. A program that has been excellent since its 1998 debut won the Big Ten championship and finished sixth at the NCAA championships, matching its best showing there.
    3. Men's soccer. Remember that short list? Put this team on it, too. It got Joe Baum his first Big Ten regular season title in his last season, on the last day. Then it won the Big Ten Tournament. Then it suffered a dramatic loss to UIC in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, on penalty kicks.
    4. Field hockey. Another consistently strong program, it finished a game out of the title thanks to a 4-3 overtime loss to Iowa. Then lost 3-2 in overtime to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. Then lost 1-0 to Iowa in the NCAA Tournament, after upsetting defending champ North Carolina in the first round. Is Iowa coached by Bo Ryan or something?
    5. Women's cross country. Did you know they finished 11th at the NCAA championships? All-Americans Nicole Bush (seventh) and Lisa Senakiewich (21st) led the way.
    6. Women's golf. Led by All-American Laura Kueny, Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll's Spartans finished second in the Big Ten championships and earned the program's second-best showing at the NCAA Championships, finishing 13th.
    7. Women's basketball. A tie for second in the Big Ten, a huge win over Ohio State, a much larger win over Duke and P. to get to the Sweet Sixteen. All despite serious injury woes. Impressive.
    8. Football. There's no tournament by which to compare football, but a New Year's Day bowl puts you in the top 18 or so, and MSU finished ranked No. 24. A third-place Big Ten finish was the best in nearly a decade. Wins over Notre Dame and Michigan -- in Ann Arbor for the first time since 1990 -- and the dramatics to beat Iowa and Wisconsin highlighted the best year since Nick Saban patrolled the sideline.
    9. Track and field. As in cross country, Nicole Bush and Lisa Senakiewich earned All-America honors, with Bush finishing second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. It was her third All-America showing in the event. Senakiewich was fourth in the 5,000.
    10. (tie) Baseball and women's soccer. Baseball gets a nod for upward mobility, making the Big Ten Tournament under first-year coach Jake Boss, for the first time since 2004 -- highlighted by taking two of three from Michigan. Soccer had a 14-7-3 season, finishing fourth in the Big Ten and pointing toward the future. That's because freshman Laura Heyboer had 21 goals and 51 points, and became the first All-American in program history.

   

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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