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What a year in UA sports

By Chris Jackson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 5, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Chris Jackson

Ah, 'tis that time of year when things wind down and it's time to reflect what has gone by.

The 1998-99 sports year at Arizona was one of many ups and downs. It saw freshmen shine, seniors step up and lofty expectations all around. And while most of those expectations were not met, it was still a fun year to watch.

The football team marched out and rolled past everyone till it met that buzzsaw known as the UCLA offense. But the Wildcats learned from their mistakes and won out, going all the way to the Holiday Bowl, and overpowered the mighty Nebraska Cornhuskers.

They had a 12-1 record, a No. 4 national ranking and so on and so forth.

They were good, real good. And next year they can be even better. Sure, they'll miss Kelvin Eafon in short yardage situations and Chris McAlister's ability to completely neutralize one side of the field.

But UA has the best quarterback duo in college football, and a ton of depth. They won't forget how to use Trung Canidate this year because he won't let them. Penn State here we come.

As for the other fall sports, Marisa DaLee busted out the whoopin' stick in setting a new record in kills for the volleyball team, while super frosh Dana Burkholder set a few of her own. They'll both be back this fall as the team tries to clear its next hurdle and reach the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

The cross country team will miss Amy Skieresz and Abdi Abdirahman, who were two of the best head coach Dave Murray has ever had. But pint-sized powerhouse Tara Chaplin and a men's team that is a solid all-around group return, and could be just as good as last year's squad.

As for soccer, the growing pains are still lingering, but a JC transfer who scored over 40 goals last year should help ease the loss of the best player in team history, Nikki Jones.

Then the big boys hit the court, and Lute Olson's 1999-2000 team should be a lot better than this season's group, Terry or no Terry. Loren Woods and uber-frosh Jason Gardner are going to make a huge impact.

While the men are away, the UA women will be at McKale, looking to get back to the Sweet 16. With virtually her entire roster returning, coach Joan Bonvicini should be able to field a team even better than last year's pack of scrappy underdogs. The women's team overachieved in 1998-99, but next year no one's going to take them from granted.

The UA Icecats return virtually their entire team next year as well, and with the national tournament looking like it'll be in Tucson for the first time, a little postseason home ice advantage may help Arizona capture its second national title.

Come spring, the baseball team will be loaded, the softball team will be... well, the softball team. And the swimming team will be adding two Gold Medalists on the women's side and the return of the entire men's team, led by superman Ryk Neethling.

Even though the coaches will hate to hear it, football could win the national title, as could men's basketball, the Icecats, baseball, softball and both swim teams. So could women's golf, and volleyball and women's hoops might even have a shot.

Heck, everybody can win next year!

Chris Jackson is a senior majoring in journalism and can be reached at