Happy New Year, faithful readers!
Before we continue to move forward into 2009, we need to look back. It's tradition around here.
Here is my list of the top 10 women's sports stories for 2008:
10. Bye-bye, Bo: In one of the most bizarre stories I've covered, Chicago Sky coach Bo Overton announced his resignation in March amid allegations of sexual harassment that seemed to originate on a message board on the team's Web site. An anonymous poster on the site said that Overton was inappropriately involved with a player. Through his lawyer, Overton vehemently denied the charges and vowed to eventually bring the truth to light. Overton and his attorney were never heard from again.
9. Houston ... a problem: It was a sad day in early December when the Houston Comets, the cornerstone franchise of the 12-year-old WNBA and winners of the league's first four championships, ceased operations because of bad management and financial troubles.
8. First lady: In April, Danica Patrick became the first female driver to win an IndyCar race at the Indy Japan 300. The win was downplayed by some racing "enthusiasts" because Patrick won on fuel mileage. Of course, the week before Jimmie Johnson won the NASCAR Sprint Cup event in Phoenix on fuel mileage and no one said boo. Typical!
7. Sand castle: The queens of beach volleyball reigned again. At the Summer Olympics in Beijing, Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won their second straight gold medal to run their winning streak to 108 matches. That streak was pushed to 112 (and 19 straight titles) before the dynamic duo lost in late August for the first time since August 2007. Just when another streak will start remains to be seen. Walsh is pregnant and due in the spring, and May-Treanor is recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon, which she suffered during a rehearsal for "Dancing with the Stars."
6. Young blood: The Chinese women's gymnasts, who won the gold medal in the team competition at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, were accused of using athletes too young - as young 12 or 13. The United States placed second overall but was able to take some solace amid the controversy in seeing Nastia Liukin win the all-around title. The American sweetheart finished with 5 medals.
5. Big Syl, big summer: Despite missing more than half of the 2008 season with an injured knee, Chicago Sky rookie Sylvia Fowles lived up to her billing as one of the top new players in the WNBA. The No. 2 overall pick averaged 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. But perhaps the best indicator of her potential for the future was the way she played in the Olympics. She helped the United States earn its fourth straight gold in women's basketball by averaging a team-best 13.4 points and 8.9 rebounds.
4. Oldie, but goody: Swimmer Dara Torres showed in Beijing that age really is just a number. The 41-year-old veteran Olympian won 3 silver medals while becoming the oldest American ever to swim at the Olympics. Torres, who is tied with Jenny Thompson for most Olympic medals (12) by an American woman, started her Olympic career at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles at 17.
3. Near perfection: How impressive was the Penn State women's volleyball team this season? In addition to winning its second straight national title in December, the Lady Lions finished 38-0. On top of that, they lost only two sets all season. College matches are based on a best-of-five sets. Penn State, which boasted national player of the year Nicole Fawcett among four first-team All-Americans, rolled over Stanford 3-0 for its national championship.
2. The four-peat: Winning national titles is becoming old hat for the Northwestern lacrosse team. The Wildcats won their fourth-straight NCAA title in May by defeating Penn in the championship game. With only four seniors on the 32-player roster, the dynasty seems to be on solid ground at Northwestern, which made history in 2005 when it became the first team outside the Eastern time zone to win an NCAA lacrosse title.
1. Her year: No wonder Naperville native Candace Parker was named The Associated Press female athlete of the year. The year was very good to the basketball superstar. In April, she carried Tennessee to its second straight NCAA title, and a day later she was taken No. 1 in the WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. In August, she helped the United States win its fourth straight Olympic gold medal. She then returned for the rest of the WNBA season and cleaned up in the awards department by being named the league's MVP and rookie of the year.