The biggest moments in Cal sports of 2017

Lianne Frick/Senior Staff

2017 was another eventful year for Cal sports, here are the biggest moments of the past year.

Attendance Takes Another Hit

Attendance at college football games all across the country has been on the decline for a number of years and Cal hasn’t found a way to evade this trend. The number of fans the Bears put in the stands has dropped every season over the past 10 seasons, but this past season was the worst in recent memory. Cal experienced a 22 percent drop, going from an average of 46,628 fans per game in 2016 to a mere 36,548 in 2017. A plethora of factors played into the low numbers, the most notable being the team’s expectations and performance. After a promising first season under head coach Justin Wilcox, however, Cal’s attendance may be on the upswing after a catastrophic low.

Anigwe’s magic touch cements a new level of dominance

The growing legend of Kristine Anigwe continues to take its course. After dropping a school-record 50 points in a nonconference matchup against Sacramento State, the junior forward from Arizona has taken the Golden State by storm, becoming the first player in Cal women’s basketball history to average at least 20 points in back-to-back seasons. In March, Anigwe joined Devanei Hampton as the only Bears named to the All-conference team in their first two years with the Blue and Gold. With no plans of slowing down anytime soon, Anigwe’s next goal continues to be leading her team to a successful tournament run.

Freshman standout records historic inaugural season

It’s hard to start a collegiate career better than infielder/pitcher Andrew Vaughn did in his first year with the Bears. 2017’s Pac-12 Freshman of the Year started all 54 games at first base while also flexing his dual ability to pitch with 10 appearances on the mound. But where Vaughn excelled the most was at the plate, quickly making a name for himself as one of the most dangerous hitters in the Pac-12. During one stretch of the season, Vaughn reached base in 27 consecutive games, including a 14-game hit streak. His name frequently appears in the conference’s top 10s for the season, where he ranked second in total bases, third in slugging and hits, fifth in RBIs and seventh in batting average, good for a robust .349/.414/.555 slash line.

Davis overcomes hurdles, becomes Pac-12 Champion

Then-junior Ashtyn Davis took his mark, got set and started — 13.50 seconds later the moment was gone — in perhaps the Bears’ swiftest sweet victory of the year. It only took Davis a few blinks of an eye to be the first to cross the finish line in the 110-meter hurdles at the Pac-12 Championships, but the win is sure to last a lifetime. Davis is not only a two-sport athlete (football and track), but he is a walk-on who didn’t have any scholarship offers in either sport coming out of high school. Davis went undefeated in the 110 hurdles until the NCAA Championships, and posted seven consecutive meet event wins during the season. Davis will also return for his senior year, when he can top his personal best and potentially earn himself a spot in the 2018 Top 10.

Baker makes big splash as swimmer of the year

With a big smile, junior Kathleen Baker stood at the 2017 NCAA Championships as the recipient of the CSCAA Swimmer of the Year award. The cherry on top of this moment in 2017 is that it involves a Cal Bear topping a rival Stanford Tree, with Baker overtaking sophomore Katie Ledecky in the race for swimmer of the year.

Any time a swimmer is competing in the same pool as Ledecky of Stanford, it is likely that Ledecky is taking home the gold. Ledecky is a six-time Olympic medalist and a 14-time World Championships gold medalist. It goes without saying that she’s an unstoppable force in the water.

But Baker was the only swimmer to win three individual events outright at the championships and played a key role in many of Cal’s relay events. She claimed the 200-yard individual medley, the 100 and 200 backstrokes, and her standout performance helped lift her team to a second-place finish at nationals.

The new, new, new era

Things went from bad to worse for Cal as three highly scrutinized figures quickly became three new faces. Offensive guru Sonny Dykes was fired after an unspectacular four-year run and quickly replaced with defensive-minded Justin Wilcox. For better or for worse, the curtain of a new football era was raised, but Cal Athletics was far from finished with changes. After narrowly missing out on a berth to the NCAA tournament, men’s basketball suffered another setback with the resignation of head coach Cuonzo Martin a day after being ousted in the first round of the NIT. While Martin continues to give post-game speeches to opposing teams, in-house hire Wyking Jones tries to develop what’s left of last year’s mild success in the wake of Martin’s departure. In June, long-time baseball head coach David Esquer completed the trifecta by bolting for his alma mater, none other than Stanford, ending his successful 18-year run with the Bears. In comes former Cal pitching coach and Major League pitcher Mike Neu, the third new hire in a tumultuous six months for Cal athletics.

Welcome to the Show

Cal added to its list of alumni in professional sports as several Bears were selected in NBA, NFL and MLB drafts. Davis Webb (third round, No. 87 overall, New York Giants), Ivan Rabb (second round, No. 35 overall, Memphis Grizzlies) and Denis Karas (10th round, No. 299, Miami Marlins) were the highest selections of the three major sports. Despite the draft, no recently selected Bear has yet made a major impact. Rabb and Jabari Bird (second round, No. 56, Boston Celtics) have played a combined 30 minutes, Webb has sat out all season to develop while his New York Giants devolved from contenders to a tire fire and Karas and Preston Grand Pre (24th round, No. 730, Los Angeles Dodgers) are making rounds through the minor leagues.

Cal Athletics Handles Tragedy

2017 was a tough year for Cal Athletics as the program as a whole dealt with tragedies on multiple occasions. Robert Paylor suffered a brutal injury during the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup that left his lower body paralyzed with limited mobility in his arms, Savannah Rennie is now battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma after already battling a rare disease — congenital hepatic fibrosis with portal hypertension — which threatened to take her life in and of itself and Jared Horn survived a car crash that killed four family members.

Cal Upsets No. 8 Washington State

Friday the 13th is a day when the abnormal becomes reality, and nowhere was that truer than Cal’s 37-3 upset over No. 8 Washington State. With only 26,244 in attendance, the fewest fans in attendance at a Cal home game all season, the Cougars turned the ball over seven times. A majority of those turnovers came from Washington State redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk, who threw a season-high five interceptions. Redshirt freshman Camryn Bynum picked Falk off twice, senior Vic Enwere rushed for 102 yards and redshirt sophomore Ross Bowers flipped into the hearts of Cal fans.

No flipping way: Bowers baffles WSU in end zone

Cal’s upset 37-3 win over Washington State stands on this list on its own, but redshirt sophomore quarterback Ross Bowers stole the flipping show. Early in the fourth quarter of the ball game, with nowhere to throw the ball, Bowers decided to channel his inner gymnast. It wasn’t a bird, it wasn’t a plane — it was Bowers front-flipping over WSU defenders into the endzone to extend Cal’s lead 27-3.

The Bears hyped up their man after his acrobatic stunt, and Bowers attained some brief but hefty viral fame. The only thing that could have made this top-10 moment any better is if Bowers had stuck the landing. Bowers had a nearly identical touchdown flip in high school in which he did stick the landing. Maybe next year.

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