I fear that 2010 will be known as the Year of the Injury. Despite the wonderful things that Purdue athletics accomplished this year, so much more was derailed because of injuries to key players in four sports. In the poll I started last week it was the overwhelming choice for the story of the year. In fact, one could say that injuries may have cost us at least two National Championships, with a third to be determined.
I'll get to that in a moment, but there were a lot of good things that happened in 2010. Multiple Boilermakers had success at the next level. Current Boilermakers were also incredibly successful at the collegiate level. As a school, Purdue earned only its third team National Championship during the NCAA era. We also had our first unanimous football All-American in 30 years when Ryan Kerrigan terrorized the Big Ten. He rated highly in the poll, but so did others.
So, without further ado, here are the nine sports stories of the year in the order that you voted, as well as a 10th story I wanted to say as a thank you.
10. Hammer & Rails gains legitimacy - First off, I owe a huge thank you to you readers. Last year at this time I was barely getting 15,000 visits per month, or about 500 per day. You have grown the site exponentially, and it has allowed me to welcome several new writers, top 1,100 members, and December will likely be the seventh month this year that establishes a new record for most visits. There were 56,705 site visits in the month of November, and there have already been 50,000 for December.
With this has come some wonderful benefits. The Big Ten recognizes the blog as a media entity and credentialed me for the 2010 Big Ten Tournament and Big Ten Basketball Media Day. While the Notre Dame fiasco is over, Indiana and Illinois have already credentialed me for Purdue's visits in February. I will likely be at the Big Ten Tournament once again and I have applied to follow the Boilers to the NCAA's if they play in Chicago or Cleveland.
None of this would be possible without the great community of fans that have built this site. The banner as Open Thread Champs is on the side for a reason. We regularly blow the other Big Ten blogs out of the water when it comes to total in-game comments during basketball season. Only The Only Colors really comes close. This is your community, so this is definitely something to celebrate. Keep spreading the word and making the site grow. I'll keep running it.
9. Women's Volleyball nearly makes the Final Four - This was a meteoric story that began when Purdue upset now four-time defending National Champ Penn State back in October. The Lady Boilers qualified for the NCAA Tourney and were even awarded the #16 national seed. That meant a pair of home games, where the Boilers cruised to 3-1 victories over Louisville and Kentucky. It was Purdue's fourth Sweet 16 trip since 2004, but we had hit a ceiling there before. Purdue had never won a Sweet 16 match in the 64-team era, and #1 Florida awaited.
The Gators had one loss on the season, but it was to a Penn State Purdue had beaten. The Boilers shocked Florida in a three set sweep to earn an Elite 8 match with Texas on its home floor. Purdue even managed to win the first set, but the Curse of the Disturbed Indian Burial Ground Beneath The Mackey Expansion couldn't leave the volleyball team alone.
First, sophomore Anna Drewry tore her ACL and MCL in the 2nd round match against Louisville. Then Jaclyn Hart, possibly Purdue's most indispensible player, injured her hamstring late in the first set against Texas. Purdue couldn't recover with her out, and lost the next three sets to send the Longhorns to Kansas City.
For those that wonder what might have been you need only look to Penn State. When I congratulated the Nittany Lions on their fourth straight title at Black Shoe Diaries one commenter said that "Hart put the fear of God in us, and we wanted no part of her again." This is coming from a team that hasn't lost an NCAA tournament match in five years.
8. Drey Mingo's Frightening illness and recovery - By now you know the story: On a Sunday she was scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds as Purdue won the Women's NIT over DePaul. By the following Tuesday she was in a Lafayette hospital with only a 50% chance of surviving acute bacterial meningitis. This was a terrifying few days for the women's basketball program. They were forced to cancel two scheduled games in Cancun and each player received medication for fear of spreading the disease. Even opposing players from DePaul and South Dakota State took precautionary medications.
The fact that Mingo recovered so quickly is a wonderful miracle. To make things better, she returned to the court three and a half weeks later to play against Auburn in the Boilermaker Blockbuster. She's already scored in double figures again against Western Illinois, showing that she is all the way back.
7. Jay Buente Makes Major League debut with Marlins - Purdue doesn't have a great baseball tradition, but we've had some pretty good pitchers of late. On May 27th one former Boilermaker finally got to the day he had been waiting for. Jay Buente was called up to the Florida Marlins to take a spot in their bullpen. He ended up spending most of the season in the minors, but he did throw 11 innings in eight games with a 6.55 ERA in two separate stints with the Major League club.
6. David Boudia Wins Multiple National Titles, Again - Purdue has really become spoiled with David Boudia. The junior diver from Noblesville wins virtually every meet and has already participated in one Olympics. This will be his final season diving for Purdue, as he plans to forgo his senior season in order to train for the 2012 London Games. If he keeps up his current pace he may just become our next Ray Ewry.
Boudia won the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard National Titles at the NCAA meet, giving him four championships for his career. He is the only diver in NCAA history to win titles on all three boards and he has twice been named the NCAA's Diver of the Year. He is also a two-time Purdue Male Athlete of the Year, and he will look to add even more hardware in March at the NCAA meet. If he wins all three boards in March he will tie for the most National Championships by an individual diver. Should he win gold in London, he should have Hail Purdue play after the Star Spangled Banner.
5. Men's Basketball wins 22nd Big Ten regular season championship - This was a war. We never had our optimum lineup thanks to the injury to Sandi Marcius. Lewis Jackson missed half the season and some role player named Robbie Hummel was out for the last nine games (only the most important ones). It didn't matter. For the first time since 1996, Purdue won the Big Ten in Men's Basketball. It was a shared title with Michigan State and Ohio State, but considering how injuries hit nearly every Big Ten team last year it was well earned.
What made this one special is that it was a team effort. There were different heroes across the board. John Hart at Illinois. E'Twaun Moore at Michigan State. Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant at Minnesota. JaJuan Johnson at Ohio State. This was a noteworthy title because we were road warriors, winning every road game except Wisconsin and Northwestern. There have been better championship teams, but this one was satisfying because it felt like it was won with true grit.
4. Women's Golf wins National Championship - For the first time in 11 years Purdue University won a National Championship. Our golf ladies, from a United Nations' worth of countries, became the first "Northern" school in NCAA history to break through and win a title, winning by a single stroke over USC. Purdue had come close before, finishing as high as second a few years ago, but Maude-Aimee-Leblanc, Laura Gonzalez-Escallon, Thea Hoffmeister, Paula Reto, and Numa Gulyanamitta got the job done with the second lowest four-round team score in NCAA history. Their story was Golf Week's top story of the year, although it probably would have been topped if Tiger had hit another tree. For good measure, all five ladies are back to defend their title this spring.
3. Ryan Kerrigan named 1st Unanimous All-American in 30 years - Because of our number one story it is amazing that Kerrigan didn't come down with ricketts or something. He was an enormous bright spot in an otherwise dismal football season. He was the focal point for every offensive line we faced, often drawing double-teams and getting held on nearly every play. It didn't matter. He finished his career with 14 forced fumbles (an NCAA record), 33.5 sacks and 57 tackles for loss. 26 of those tackles for loss came this season, as did five forced fumbles and 12.5 sacks. He led the nation in tackles for loss and was third in sacks. His best game was a four sack day against Michigan when he turned their tackles into turnstiles. He finished with 10 tackles (five for loss), four sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery against an offensive line that had only given up four sacks in its first nine games of the year. This was good enough to earn him a National Defensive Player of the Week nod. Superman indeed!
2. Drew Brees wins Super Bowl, MVP, and Named Sportsman of the Year - I don't know of a single Purdue fan that doesn't have a mancrush on Drew Brees. We love him for what he did as a Boilermaker. We love him more because he is an excellent human being that gives back much of what he has been given. Every reader of this blog knows of his accoledes. I am such a Brees fan that, as a Colts season ticket holder, I wore his jersey in Indianapolis on Super Bowl Sunday. When he lifted his son Baylen before getting the Lombardi Trophy they might as well have been filming a sports movie. He has done so much for the city of New Orleans, but I am exceedingly proud to have him as a fellow alumnus. He makes every Purdue alum look good with what he does both on and off the field.
1. Injuries - Sadly, this topic received 243 of 575 votes in the poll. You can't help but talk about it. 2010 began with two players, Lewis Jackson and Sandi Marcius in street clothes as Purdue took on West Virginia. It will end tomorrow with Robbie Hummel on the bench in street clothes as we wonder what might have been. Barring anyone else going down in tomorrow's game, here is the final total for the year:
Football: Ralph Bolden, Robert Marve, Justin Siller, Jonathan Linkenheimer, Keith Smith, Keith Carlos, Dan Dierking, Mike Eargle, Kevin Pamphile, Rob Henry, Al-Terek McBurse, Cortez Smith, and O.J. Ross - All suffered injuries that cost them at least one full game. Bolden, Marve, Siller, Linkenheimer, and Ross were lost for the season with theirs. All of these players were starters or expected starters, even Linkenheimer as a kickoff specialist.
Men's Basketball - Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson, Sandi Marcius, John Hart - LewJack is back, but has had two foot surgeries. Hart is currently out with a stress fracture. Marcius was lost all of last year, which was critical to his development because he'd be a year farther along for this season had he played. We all know about Hummel: two ACL's and, unless he pulls a Willis Reed and runs out of the tunnel on Senior Day, he is done until next year.
Women's Basketball - Drey Mingo and KK Houser - I already went over Mingo, but Houser was lost to a torn ACL against Austin Peay. She was a starter and key player at point guard.
Woen's Volleyball - Jaclyn Hart and Anna Drewry - As mentioned above, the loss of these two players in the NCAA Tournament was huge and possibly cost them a National Championship.
This could end up costing Purdue no less than three National Championships. It is entirely possible Purdue wins the volleyball title with Hart, as they were cruising against Texas when she went down and she was a key setter. The loss of Hummel will always raise questions of What If. At the moment he was hurt, Purdue was destroying a very good Minnesota team on its home floor and looked unstoppable. If he stays healthy, Purdue has a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and might have been able to beat Duke in Indianapolis. His re-tear will always raise questions about this current season because he would have made a good team a phenomenal one.
So that is 2010 in a nutshell. Once again, I want to thank you, the reader, for making this community so successful. Every time I think this blog as plateaued you readers take it to a new level. Here are my wishes for a wonderful 2011 that includes healthy Boilermakers dominating like we know they can.