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Ranking an (Incomplete) Year of BC Athletics

The celebration of a new year, in all of its resolve-and-evolve spirit, falls at an appropriate time in our hectic lives.

It's the perfect pause in time before another semester (in the life of a college kid) resumes, and a reminder of the importance of a little relaxation and reflection; we know that the next 14 weeks will be filled with exams, lectures, papers and projects, and that the proverbial grind will restart come mid-January.

College sports, though, never seem to fit the same pattern.

For the major sports in college athletics, the coming of the New Year doesn't signal a time for reflection and remembrance, but a time of competition and struggle. Aside from football teams that have played their bowl game before the new year (BC squares off against Arizona on Dec. 31), basketball, hockey and a variety of other sports are in the throes of their regular season competition.

That's why this isn't an ideal time to summarize all that's good and all that's bad in BC sports. That's for spring, when almost every collegiate sports season dies down, and the college sports monster recedes into its cave for a few months.

But, for what we've seen so far, it's worth ranking the best in BC athletics as 2013 comes to a close. A year ago, rings of uncertainty and doubt prevailed among the BC community. The hiring of Steve Addazio and Brad Bates have done a lot to put most of the negativity to rest. And several teams other than men's basketball, football and men's hockey have excelled in 2013, reaching NCAA tournaments and garnering impressive accolades along the way.

Here are five teams that impressed us in 2013:

5. Sailing

Boston College has won 11 national championships across its 29 varsity sports, and six of those championships came from the sailing team in the last five years.

Although the team sailing national championships are not until June, sophomore Erika Reineke won her second consecutive ICSA National Women's Singlehanded Championship in early November.

In the fall stretch of the 2013-2014 season, the team won several New England school-sponsored races, besting programs including URI, Bowdoin, Yale and Tufts.

On Oct. 12, the sailing team won the Moody Trophy and Nicholas Barnett Trophy, intersectional and in-conference regattas that asserted the team's dominance in New England in 2013.

4. Field Hockey (12-8, 1-5 ACC)

BC field hockey competes in the ACC--the equivalent of the SEC in football. So, when they only picked up one win in conference play and still made the NCAA tournament in November, it was no surprise that this team had the ability to compete at a high level.

With a few high-profile upsets against teams like eventual national champion UConn and Syracuse, BC field hockey is building a tradition of consistency in the ACC that could soon turn into 16- and 17-win seasons.

Photo courtesy of Jono Keedy / Gavel Media.

Photo courtesy of Jono Keedy / Gavel Media.

They return seven of their top 10 scorers, including two-time All American and captain Emma Plasteras. Goalkeeper Leah Settipane, who led the ACC in saves and saves per game, also returns as a junior.

Said Head Coach Ainslee Lamb on the outlook of her budding program after a postseason loss to Syracuse: "[The 2014 seniors have] brought our team to this level, and our tribute to them is that we’ve got to work to take that next step. The commitment we made to each other when we left today is that we are going to build off of where they have gotten us to. We get better and better each game.”

3. Women's Soccer (13-10-1, 6-6-1 ACC)

Women's soccer struggled to channel consistency throughout the regular season, but similarly to field hockey, the team faced some of the best talent in the country in the ACC.

After falling to UNC in the ACC tournament, BC received a bid to play in the NCAA tournament, and hit a hot streak. Blowing past Big Ten tournament champion Nebraska 4-1 and Big Ten powerhouse Illinois 4-1, the Eagles' season finally came to an end after losing to NCAA runner-up and ACC foe Florida State, 4-0.

Although the team went .500 in ACC conference play, they displayed dominance in non-conference games--sweeping highly-ranked Big Ten teams (Ohio State, Nebraska and Illinois) throughout the season and defeating Hofstra in OT, 6-5, in September.

2. Men's Hockey (10-4-2, 6-1-1 ACC)

While these rankings are arguably skewed to teams that have done well in the past, men's ice hockey deserves the No. 2 spot for their impressive rebound after a damaging postseason last May.

Photo courtesy of Selly Sallah / Gavel Media.

Photo courtesy of Selly Sallah / Gavel Media.

Coming off a 5-1 loss to Union College in the first round of the NCAA tournament, BC dominated a No. 2-ranked Wisconsin Badgers squad 9-2 early in the season and has gone 8-3-2 since the victory. At one point in the first half of the season, the Eagles were on a five-game winning streak, knocking off crosstown rivals Northeastern and BU.

Aside from a few setbacks--namely injuries to defensemen and a puzzling loss to Holy Cross at home--men's ice hockey is poised to make 2014 another memorable year for the BC community.

1. Football (7-5, 4-4 ACC)

If you told me last December that Steve Addazio would take his team to a bowl game in his first year as head coach, I don't know if I'd believe you.

But here we are. Days away from a match-up against Arizona in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, and a Heisman finalist on our team, too.

Addazio and his staff set the tone for years to come: they reformed a football program that had lost its bruising, hard-nosed identity, built a platform to attract high-caliber recruits and instituted a game strategy that works.

They spent countless hours changing a culture--a mindset. And it paid off.

It paid off in the night game against Wake Forest in the beginning of the season in front of a crammed student section that was hungry for a meaningful win; it paid off during Parents' Weekend when BC, a team that had gone 2-10 a year ago, was beating national championship contender Florida State 14-0 in the second quarter; it paid off when droves of SuperFans--many for the last time--witnessed Andre Williams gallop into the end zone twice, break an ACC record for rushing yards and help claim bowl eligibility against NC State.

And it really paid off when BC accepted its first invitation to a bowl since 2010. Next year will bring its own wave of challenges and setbacks, but BC football has a driven purpose, and sometimes that is all that's needed to engage a fan base and community.

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