Volume 43 | Number 2 | Fall 2013
Fall 2013 Issue | By Jerek Wolcott
On the court and in the classroom, the women of Idaho State University Athletics are excelling. Since 2012, the soccer, softball and women's basketball teams have all won Big Sky titles, and they are primed for more success.
In 2012, the Idaho State soccer team won a conference title. The Bengals were picked to finish seventh in the Big Sky, but ISU surprised the rest of the league and tallied a 6-2-1 conference record, tied with Montana and Portland State for the best record in the conference.
The Bengals won the right to host the 2012 tournament because of a win over PSU and a tie with UM.
In the semifinal match, the Bengals played Weber State to a 1-1 tie but advanced to the championship with a 4-3 shootout win. In the finals, ISU faced Montana who beat Portland State, 3-2, in the semifinal.
After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, the Bengals defeated the Griz 4-3 in the shootout to claim the Big Sky title.
The championship was the fifth in the 15-year history of the Idaho State Soccer Program (2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2012).
Soccer coach Allison Gibson knows that winning tradition would not be possible without the support of the university and community.
"Anytime we have a recruit on campus, people are very helpful and friendly. That goes a long way with the student-athletes we are recruiting and their parents," Gibson said. "In our program we talk a lot about being good people and striving on a daily basis to make the best choices, no matter the topic. When you commit to being a good person and working hard in all aspects of your life, it will naturally transfer onto the soccer field."
Expectations weren't high for the Bengals at the start of softball season; the coaches picked Idaho State to finish last in the newly formed Big Sky conference league.
The Bengals blew away those predictions early when they scored wins over high caliber teams such as Nevada, Utah, Cal State Northridge, Fresno State and Santa Clara in the non-conference schedule.
The Bengals cruised to a 14-4 Big Sky record and earned a share of the regular season Big Sky Championship and the right to host the first ever Big Sky Softball Tournament at Miller Ranch Stadium.
Softball is in its second stint as a varsity sport at Idaho State. ISU fielded a team from 1976-83 before discontinuing the sport. It was brought back in 2007 and Head Coach Julie Wright finished her third season in 2013.
Wright hopes the 2013 title will help bridge the gap between the two generations of Bengal teams.
"The fact that we were able to bring the first ever conference championship to the program really made our current team proud," Wright said. "We have three softball players in the ISU Hall of Fame and we talk a lot about their successes and how we want to honor them with our own success. In a sense, we hope that all of the turmoil in the past can be put to rest and that our alumni can now look at the program with pride."
The softball field isn't the only arena where Bengals have exceeded expectations.
The Bengal women's basketball team closed out the 2011-12 season with its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2007.
ISU went 14-2 in conference play to earn the right to host the tournament and then beat Northern Colorado in front of a packed Reed Gym in the Big Sky Conference Championship game.
In 2012-13, the Bengals went 13-7 in the expanded Big Sky to earn a trip to the conference tournament in Missoula, Mont. The Bengals boast an impressive 45-9 mark at Reed Gym in the last four years.
Coach Seton Sobolewski believes that Idaho State's fans have helped to create a top-notch, game day atmosphere at Reed Gym.
"Our fan support is what separates us from a lot of the Big Sky Conference," Sobolewski said. "We have better attendance at Reed Gym than all of the major universities in our region as well as some of the big university names in our country. Our fans are amazing!"
In volleyball, the Bengals were undefeated at home for the first time since 1989, and posted a 23-7 season, led by Big Sky MVP Lori Mendenhall-Lee. Mendenhall-Lee was the second ISU volleyball player to receive the award. Susie Johnson earned the first MVP honor for her 1990 season with the Bengals.
The women's cross country program had a notable accomplishment in 2010 when Erica Wendt-Richardson won the Big Sky Women's Individual Cross Country championship. The only other Bengal runner to win the award was on the men's side when Art Scott won the event in 1964.
The success on the field has been matched with success in the classroom. Overall Idaho State ranked No. 1 in the Big Sky for academics for the 2012-13 season.
A school record 14 players from the 2012 Big Sky title soccer team were named to the All-Big Sky Academic team. Eleven players from the softball team were also named to the team and six members of the 2012-13 Bengal women's basketball team were honored.
The future looks bright for Idaho State athletics and the amazing student-athletes that carry the banner for this wonderful institution.