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    Season Recap: Legacies Built, Traditions Established During Second-Straight WCWS Run

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Garland Cooper and the Northwestern senior class won more games (178) than any other class in program history.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Garland Cooper and the Northwestern senior class won more games (178) than any other class in program history.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    July 10, 2007

    2007 Final Release in PDF Format
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    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Every year since the Drohan sisters inherited the Northwestern program from legendary and long-time head coach Sharon J. Drysdale in 2002, the twins have improved the Wildcats' NCAA finish or win total over the previous season's performance, restoring NU's place among the nation's elite that it once held during its heyday in the 1980's.

    If 2006's runner-up finish at the Women's College World Series signified Northwestern's arrival back in the center of the national spotlight, then the Wildcats' third-place finish in 2007 announced that the NU program will remain a national title contender for years to come.

    Northwestern again broke its school record for wins in 2007, finishing the season with a 52-13 record and a No. 4 national ranking in both major polls. NU became the first private school to ever reach the semifinals of the Women's College World Series in back-to-back seasons, and shattered 35 individual or team single-season and career records in the process.

    The most successful senior class in school history did much of the record breaking. Seniors Eileen Canney (Paradise, Calif./Paradise), Garland Cooper (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic), Katie Logan (Tempe, Ariz./Corona del Sol) and Jessica Miller (Elberfeld, Ind./Techumseh) combined to win 178 games, the most of any previous class of 'Cats. Along the way, they captured NU's first Big Ten title since 1987 and compiled a 21-10 record in the NCAA Tournament.

    Canney finished her career with a sparkling senior season, putting together a 33-11 record with a 1.65 ERA and a personal-best 386 strikeouts. Her 33 wins tied legendary Lisa Ishikawa's school-record win total from 1984, and gave Canney 97 career victories to also tie Ishikawa's all-time Northwestern mark for wins.

    Canney earned second-team NFCA All-America accolades and was named the Big Ten's Pitcher of the Year for the second-consecutive season, becoming the third hurler in conference history to receive the nod twice. Canney's lasting legacy, however, will be matching the win totals and approaching the strikeout totals of Ishikawa, who established herself as the NCAA's first true dominant strikeout pitcher and ace.

    Cooper capped her career as a 'Cat with the best slugging season in school history. Most notably, the slugger broke the Big Ten conference's single-season (23) and career (55) home run records, while establishing 10 career offensive standards in the NU record book. Her 70 RBIs and .778 slugging percentage in 2007 also broke existing Northwestern records.

    Cooper became the second Wildcat to earn three All-America honors in her career when she was named an NFCA third-teamer in 2007, and she became the first player in Big Ten history to win three Big Ten Player of the Year awards. She finished among the NCAA's all-time leaders in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage, walks and intentional walks.

    While Cooper's bat will leave a monstrous dent on the NU record books for years to come, her legacy comes as much from her off-the-field accomplishments as from her prowess in the batter's box. Cooper was named a first-team Lowe's Senior CLASS Award All-Senior All-American for her work on the field, in the classroom and in the community, and she also picked up NU's first ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America first-team selection. For the player Kate Drohan described as "taking ownership" of the program from the day she set foot on campus, those awards best testify to her contributions to what it means to Wear Purple.

    After beginning her career batting .225 in the No. 9 spot for two seasons, Logan worked herself into one of the nation's premier leadoff hitters as a senior. Logan finished second on the team in 2007 with a .387 batting average, establishing a school record with 225 at bats and recording the third-best single-season hits (87) and runs scored (57) totals in NU history.

    Logan put together an All-America caliber year -- ranking among the nation's leaders in runs scored -- and was named a first-team NFCA All-Mideast Region and first-team All-Big Ten selection for the second-consecutive season. Taking over the all-important centerfield position after playing in left during her first three years, Logan did not commit an error in 2007.

    The leadoff batter's job is to spark the offense, and Logan embodied that role within the team dynamic, as well. Whether through her wildly popular online journal during the fall at NUsports.com, or through her incredibly outgoing personality, Logan's legacy of enthusiasm and passion was on full display during all of her time in Purple, providing spark after spark of energy in every conceivable situation.

    Miller earned herself a starting spot in right field with the 2007 team after playing an important role as the power bat off the bench during her first three seasons. Described by each and every one of her teammates as the hardest worker in the program, that effort paid off in a big way for Miller as a regular starter during the 2007 WCWS semifinal run.

    For a batter whose first six-career hits were doubles, and who didn't hit a single until career-hit number nine, it is fitting that Miller's legacy will be for an extra-base blast. On March 31, 2007, with Northwestern trailing No. 10 Michigan by a run in the sixth inning at Sharon J. Drysdale Field, Miller unleashed a two-run home run onto the roof of Welsh-Ryan Arena, becoming the first player ever in the history of the field to hit a ball that far. The roof shot caused mass hysteria at the ballpark, and contributed to the second of three wins against the rival Wolverines in 2007.

    Northwestern's seniors leave a legacy of success unmatched in prior years, and they pass it on to an able group of underclassmen who were equally impressive in 2007. A school-record six Wildcats picked up NFCA All-Mideast Region accolades and a conference-best seven 'Cats were named to All-Big Ten squads.

    Sophomore Tammy Williams (Roscoe, Mo./Osceola) was outstanding in her second season in Evanston, shattering school single-season records for runs scored (73), hits (91) and total bases (155) while also homering 16 times and driving in 50 runs. She became the third Wildcat in school history to be named a first-team NFCA All-America selection, and the first 'Cat in school history to be named to two Women's College World Series All-Tournament teams. Williams again notched that honor after being the only player in 2007 to hit multiple homers at the WCWS.

    In addition, Williams was named a top-25 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award, joining Cooper on that list. The pair along with Canney were placed on the initial Watch List at the beginning of the season.

    Freshman Nicole Pauly (Palatine, Ill./Palatine) made a huge splash in her first season, picking up Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors along with first-team NFCA All-Mideast Region and All-Big Ten accolades. Pauly hit .303 with 14 home runs and 62 RBIs, the second-best NU single-season total only to Cooper's 70 in 2007. Pauly finished among the nation's leaders in RBIs, and is NU's third conference Rookie of the Year in the last four seasons.

    In the circle, freshman Lauren Delaney (Jefferson City, Mo./Helias) made a debut worthy of her "Boom-Boom" nickname. Delaney picked up second-team NFCA All-Mideast Region and third-team All-Big Ten accolades after compiling a 19-2 overall record and a 1.73 ERA in the circle. Delaney won the first 15 decisions of her career, and was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week three times.

    Junior Darcy Sengewald (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln Way East) turned in career-best totals for hits, runs, batting average and RBIs from the No. 9 spot in the order, but it was her discipline at the plate that was invaluable to the Wildcats' offense. Sengewald drew 30 walks on the year -- the eighth-best total in school history -- contributing a .364 on-base percentage to turn the lineup over at a fantastic rate.

    Sophomore Jessica Rigas (River Forest, Ill./Oak Park River Forest) earned the starting DP role early on during the season, and developed into quite a tough out in her first year as a regular at the plate. Rigas finished third in the Big Ten with six homers in conference play, and was named a second-team All-Big Ten selection for her efforts. She finished with nine blasts on the year, and contributed 33 walks -- the sixth-best school single-season total -- to compile a nearly .400 on-base percentage.

    Sophomore Erin Dyer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport) launched 11 home runs after moving from right field to behind the plate for her second season in Purple. The 11 blasts rank sixth in NU single-season history, and give her 16 for her career to rank her eighth in school history. She was named the Big Ten's Player of the Week on May 7 after blasting three home runs in a doubleheader sweep of No. 14 DePaul, and she ranked fourth on the team with 43 RBIs in 2007.

    Dyer's younger sister Kelly (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport) started every game in left field as a freshman, proving she was up to the challenge against one of the nation's toughest pitchers. In two games against Arizona State and first-team All-American Katie Burkhart, Dyer went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and five RBIs. On Feb. 24 against Burkhart, Dyer homered twice, including a seventh-inning grand slam, to propel NU to a 5-2 come-from-behind victory.

    Every member of the Wildcats made serious contributions in 2007, with every 'Cat getting a base knock at some point during the year (save for freshman Ashley Lafever (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley), who instead led NU's pinch runners with 17 runs scored). Freshman Aly Euler (River Forest, Ill./Oak Park River Forest) tied for third on the team with eight steals in addition to her 15 runs scored, while sophomore Gina Gonzalez (LaVerne, Calif./Bonita) launched a pair of pinch-hit, three-run home runs during the season.

    As a whole, Northwestern shattered eight team single-season batting records. Most notably, the Wildcats hit 85 home runs, besting the old mark of 56 midway through the Big Ten schedule. NU ranked among the national leaders in home runs per game, runs scored per game and slugging percentage.

    All of the achievements listed so far in this story become even more impressive when considering the schedule Northwestern faced in 2007. Ranked by fullysports.com as the nation's fourth-toughest schedule, the Wildcats played 24 games against ranked opponents, 54 percent of its regular-season contests against teams that made the NCAA Tournament and 52 of its 60 games against teams with winning or .500 records at the time of the contest (not counting the first weekend of the year).

    NU began the year with a phenomenally tough nonconference schedule, picking up wins over the likes of then-No. 2 Arizona State, No. 6 Oregon State (twice), No. 8 Stanford (twice), No. 9 Michigan and No. 11 California (twice). The Wildcats went 8-3 against the heralded Pac-10 in 2007, and finished 17-7 in their 24 games against ranked foes.

    During a conference slate ravaged by cold and unseasonably brutal weather, Northwestern topped the league with 15 victories but finished second in the standings to Ohio State in the percentage race. The Wildcats dispatched Michigan State and Michigan at the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio, before bowing out in the championship game against the host Buckeyes.

    Northwestern was rewarded for its ambitious scheduling and success during the regular season with a program-best No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, marking the third-straight year NU has been a top-16 seed. The Wildcats hosted their NCAA Regional and Super Regional rounds for the second-straight year, going 5-0 in the two rounds to eliminate Notre Dame, Illinois State, Wright State and South Carolina from the Tournament.

    Northwestern then faced off with No. 7 seed Arizona State to begin the 2007 Women's College World Series. Canney was fantastic in the circle, allowing only a sixth-inning bunt single and striking out 11 to help NU to a 2-0 victory. Logan doubled home Kelly Dyer and Williams launched a solo home run for NU.

    After a setback to No. 6 seed Washington in the winner's bracket contest, Northwestern pounded No. 8 Baylor, 7-0, to advance to the semifinals for the second year in a row. Williams hit a three-run home run, Cooper and Pauly added solo shots and Erin Dyer had a two-run single for the 'Cats at the plate. Canney tossed her third-career WCWS shutout, scattering five hits and three walks while fanning nine.

    In the semifinals, Northwestern fell to USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Monica Abbott and Tennessee to bow out of the tournament, but not before becoming the 12th program in NCAA history to make back-to-back WCWS semifinals.

    Despite graduating the winningest and most accomplished class in program history, Northwestern remains poised to make a run at the Big Ten title and a third-straight appearance at the WCWS. With seven returning starters, a deep bench and a host of talented newcomers eager to begin their careers in Purple, the Wildcats have the tools and the pedigree to remain remarkable on the national stage.