Starting on Saturday, Dec. 27, InsideNU will be counting down the top five moments of the year in Northwestern sports. With an emphasis on the revenue sports, and from games to controversies to championships, we'll bring you one moment per day in descending order, with the top moment of 2014 being revealed on New Year's Eve.
Today, we have the honorable mentions. The following five moments just barely missed the cut for the top five.
Collins breaks through in Big Ten
Jan. 12 -- Chris Collins' first Big Ten campaign had not gotten off to a good start. The Wildcats had lost their first three conference games by a combined 86 points and were staring the possibility of an 0-4 start in the face when 23rd-ranked Illinois visited Welsh-Ryan arena.
I'll always remember the tournament-like atmosphere that day. As the teams traded blows in the second half, the half-and-half crowd was going back and forth. One moment, purple would rise and orange would slump, and the next moment, vice versa. In the end, it was Northwestern, and particularly Tre Demps, that made enough big plays down the stretch to come away with Collins' first Big Ten win.
Perhaps the coolest part about the day though was how Northwestern's inspired play created the tournament-like atmosphere. The Wildcats laid it all on the line, and after the game, celebrated as if they had just pulled off a gargantuan NCAA Tournament upset.
The win also changed Northwestern's season. It was the birth of NU's new defensive identity, and it was the catalyst for a stretch in which the Wildcats would win five game out of seven and make national headlines. Check back for more from that stretch in the top five moments of the year.
Field Hockey wins first Big Ten title
Nov. 9 -- Northwestern field hockey is a program on the rise. In fact, it was even before it headed to Ann Arbor during the first full week in November for the Big Ten Tournament. But even after beating two top-15 teams in the quarterfinals and semifinals, 2nd-ranked Maryland, a perennial power, and its 13-game win streak stood in the way of Northwestern and its first ever Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament title.
This was NU's time to shine though. A sterling defensive effort and goals from Lisa McCarthy, Isabel Flens and Dominique Masters gave the Wildcats a 3-1 win, cued gleeful celebrations, and earned Northwestern an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Number 600 for McKeown
Nov. 21 -- Northwestern women's basketball is off to a flying start, but the most memorable of the Wildcats' 10 non-conference wins was their third of the season. That's because it was legendary coach Joe McKeown's 600th.
The game itself didn't provide much drama. Northwestern jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Five Wildcats scored in double figures en route to a 72-54 victory over Kent State.
After the game, to commemorate McKeown's achievement and congratulate him on reaching the milestone, the following video was compiled.
Women's Tennis wins Big Ten in dramatic fashion
Apr. 27 -- Northwestern women's tennis' streak of 15 straight Big Ten titles seemed to hanging by a thread. At one point of NU's Big Ten championship matchup with top-seeded Michigan, the Wildcats trailed 3 matches to 1, meaning they would have to win all three remaining matchups to record a 16th straight conference title.
At another point, Michigan had won the first set of one of the remaining matches 6-1. At another point, NU senior Nida Hamilton faced a do-or-die tiebreak. And then after NU tied it up at 3-3, in the decisive match, senior No. 2 Belinda Niu faced a 5-2 third set deficit. Later, at 5-3, Michigan had two championship points. But Niu won five straight games, three times breaking her opponent's serve, and clinched an incredible comeback for Northwestern.
Lacrosse upsets Florida in Elite Eight
May 17 -- Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller and Northwestern were in trouble. Playing Florida, a team to whom they had already lost twice earlier in the season, on the road, the Wildcats' dreams of an amazing 10th straight NCAA semifinals berth were fading away.
But there's something about this program. They just win. Despite twice facing three-goal deficits, and after six ties and seven lead changes, Northwestern barely managed to force overtime against the 4th-ranked and favored Gators. And with 15 seconds remaining in the extra session, senior Kat DeRonda sent the Wildcats to the Final Four.