Greatest moments in recent Falcon history

Athletes, Coaches Recall their favorite moments

Kyle Morrison, Staff Reporter

Alaska Fairbanks players jump to block a spike by SPU’s Maddie Batiste. (Jacky Chen | The Falcon)

With Winter and Spring sports canceled in the wake of COVID-19, Falcon sports fans have had to wait for their fix of on-field action. To pass the time, The Falcon decided to take a look back at some of the memorable games from the recent past. Athletes and coaches from five Seattle Pacific University athletic programs spoke about their favorite moments as Falcons.


Head volleyball coach Abbie Wright picked two chapters of her Falcon coaching career as her favorite moments.


The first memory takes place on November 1, 2018. The Falcons went to Anchorage, Alaska as underdogs. SPU had a record of 10-13, while the Seawolves came in 19-5. Despite the record disparity, SPU went into enemy territory and pulled off an unlikely upset, winning the match 3-2. The Falcons were led by, then junior, Gabby Oddo who had 18 kills.


Wright’s other favorite moment was in 2019, when the Falcons pulled off another upset, this time at home. On October 26, 2019, SPU beat Central Washington 3-2 at Royal Brougham Pavilion. The Falcons came into the match 8-11, while the Wildcats held a record of 12-7. Senior Maddie Batiste led the Falcons with 18 kills.


For junior cross country runner Dania Holmberg, her favorite memory came very recently.


On November 23, 2019, the women’s cross country team finished a season that was full of injuries and adversity with a historically high finish at the national championships.


Kaylee Mitchell put up a fight against Alaska Anchorage, as she paced with their pack throughout the entire race.
(Ben Hansen | The Falcon)

 SPU, which had to deal with injury and health problems all year, lost arguably their best runner in the middle of the season, Kaylee Mitchell. Mitchell was, for many, a favorite to win the conference and have a high placement at nationals, and she decided to transfer to Oregon State as the Falcons were gearing up for their postseason run.


Despite the loss of such a key component to their success, the Falcons still managed to finish twelfth in the nation, which is the highest any SPU women’s cross country team has finished in 10 years. That team was led by Holmberg, who finished as the 21st fastest individual at the NCAA women’s race, covering the 6K course at Ash Creek in Sacramento, California at 20:48.8. 


On the men’s side of cross country, Elius Graff also has fond memories of the 2019 season. 


For Graff, his favorite moment was the GNAC conference meet on October 26, 2019. On a snow-covered day in Billings, Montana, the Falcons took a huge step as a program by finishing fifth. Just the year before, SPU had finished dead last in the GNAC. The Falcons were led by Graff, who finished 8th best in conference individually with an 8K time of 25:29.8. 


Women’s basketball head coach Mike Simonson has three favorite memories as head coach for SPU. On January 17, 2019, the Falcons overcame a 20-point deficit in the second quarter to beat their heavily favored rival Western Washington University 61-59. The game was not devoid of drama as, then senior, Carly Rataushk hit a game winning layup with seven seconds to go to secure the victory.


This year, playing against Western Oregon University on February 13, the Falcons beat the Wolves 55-53, with Natalie Hoff hitting a buzzer-beater to finish off the victory.


 Where winning matters the most in sports is the postseason. Perhaps the most important moment of Simonson’s coaching career came on March 2, 2018. The Falcons upset Alaska Anchorage 74-65 in the GNAC Championships Semi Finals on the Seawolves home court in Anchorage, Alaska. SPU was led by, then senior guard, Rachel Shim who recorded 18 points to pace the Falcons scoring effort. 


For men’s basketball coach Grant Leep, choosing a favorite moment was very difficult, considering all of the success he’s had as a coach at SPU.  


While Leep was unable to pick a singular greatest moment, he did point out all the regular season championships the Falcons have won since he became a coach at SPU (2010, 2014, 2020), and the tournament championships turned in by the program as well (2013, 2014, 2015, 2019). Leep takes pride in getting to compete in nine NCAA Tournaments.


Coaching at SPU has been an amazing experience for Leep because of these moments and many others.


“It’s hard for me to count one moment in the 11 years I’ve been at SPU,” Leep said in a text message. “The relationships that have been built through our program are equally important and make coaching at SPU equally rewarding.”