Biggest local sports moments of 2019
WASHINGTON, DC — JULY 28: Cori Gauff celebrates a point against Hiroko Kuwata of Japan during qualifying for the Citi Open at Rock Creek Tennis Center on July 28, 2019 in Washington, DC.
(Getty Images/Rob Carr)
10. Coco Gauff takes Citi Open by storm
Coco Gauff made international headlines this summer after beating Venus Williams and storming to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon at just 15 years of age. Her next stop? The Citi Open in D.C., where she had to qualify just to make the main field. That she did, capturing the crowd along the way, before bowing out in the Round of 32. With a commitment to return to D.C. in 2020 already in the books, let the hype for the summer begin.
Georgetown’s Paul Rothrock (3) celebrates with Derek Dodson (9) after scoring a goal during the first half of the NCAA college soccer championship against Virginia in Cary, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019.
9. Georgetown soccer wins title in PKs
A rollicking, back-and-forth game that saw Georgetown push ahead in the 81st minute, only for Virginia to tie it in the 86th couldn’t be settled by two overtime periods. Deadlocked 3-3, nobody could miss in penalty kicks until the Hoyas’ freshman keeper Tomas Romero saved Axel Gunnarsson’s shot on in the seventh round, clinching the first ever soccer title for the Hoyas. Despite featuring a matchup of the nation’s top two defenses, Georgetown and Virginia combined for six goals, the three against the Cavaliers marking a season high.
Members of the Maryland Terrapins celebrate following their 12-10 win over the Boston College Eagles to win the 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship at Homewood Field on May 26, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland.
(Getty Images/Rob Carr)
8. Maryland women’s lacrosse caps dominant decade
Ten years, 10 Final Fours. In fact, Cathy Reese’s teams have made lacrosse’s final weekend in each of her 13 years in College Park, winning their fifth national title of the decade and fourth in the last seven years this spring. The women’s lacrosse team won half of the 10 national titles across all sports, men’s or women’s at the school this decade. They avenged their lone loss, a 16-11 defeat to Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament, with a 25-13 thrashing in the national semifinal, their highest scoring game all year.
Derby County manager Phillip Cocu, left, shakes hands with Britain soccer player Wayne Rooney after a press conference, at Pride Park, in Derby, England, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. Rooney will be leaving Major League Soccer after less than two seasons to return to play in England and be closer to his family. The 33-year-old former England captain will remain at D.C. United until the end of the season before joining second-tier Championship team Derby County as player-coach from January.
7. Rooney announces he’s leaving
Wayne Rooney’s arrival in Washington as Audi Field opened seemed to chart the course for a new era of D.C. United. He combined with Luciano Acosta to provide arguably the most exciting tandem in franchise history, and with a 3.5-year contract, seemed to be a stabilizing force. But soccer can be highly unstable, and just a year-and-a-half into his tenure, Rooney is headed back to England, with Acosta following out the door, just two first-round playoff exits to show for their union.
FILE — In this April 14, 2016, file photo, Washington Wizards basketball President Ernie Grunfeld speaks during a news conference at the Verizon Center in Washington. Grunfeld has been fired as president of the Washington Wizards after 16 seasons in charge of the team. The Wizards announced his dismissal on Tuesday, April 2, 2019, with four games left in a disappointing, no-playoffs season.
(AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
6. Wizards fire Ernie Grunfeld
At long last, Ted Leonsis opted for a change in leadership, as the Washington Wizards revamped their entire basketball operation for the 2019-20 campaign. Under Grunfeld’s tenure, the team constantly mortgaged the future for the present, trading away draft picks for reinforcements. But the Wizards were never one role player or complementary piece from a title, so their midrange finishes piled up, all while the reserves of young talent ran dry. While we still don’t know what to expect from John Wall once he returns, at least the focus has returned to development, as the Wizards chart a new path forward.
Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg smiles during a baseball media availability at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019, in Washington.
5. Strasburg returns, Rendon doesn’t
Despite winning the World Series, the Washington Nationals gave every indication they were only willing to spend to re-sign one of their two big free agents on this year’s open market. That one always was likely to be Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick who has defined this era of Nats baseball as much as anyone and who was fresh off a World Series MVP. But that meant saying goodbye to Rendon, who leaves a tremendous void at third base in his wake, both offensively and defensively.
4. Rose Lavelle’s goal seals World Cup
The American women dominated the group stage of this summer’s World Cup, but found more resistance in the knockout stage, including the Final. They found themselves in a tough fight with a game Netherlands squad, heading into halftime in a 0-0 draw. They pushed ahead on a penalty kick that only came about through VAR, and might have felt lucky to have a lead at all in the 68th minute, when Lavelle took the ball from 40 yards out and ran all the way to the top of the box, letting fly a wicked strike just before two defenders converged upon her. As she spun to the turf, she saw the ball escape to the diving keeper’s left, her face exploding with joy and exuberance, knowing what everyone else in Paris and around the world knew, that the World Cup was theirs once again.
Virginia players celebrates after defeating Texas Tech 85-77 in the overtime in the championship of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 8, 2019, in Minneapolis.
(AP/David J. Phillip)
3. Virginia finds redemption
If you were going to write the story of redemption for the first 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed, you’d play up the drama for maximum effect. They’d have to trail the opening round 16 seed again, by double digits, to start. They’d have to trail every game, to need a miracle to force overtime in one game, then another to win the next. They’d need heart-stopping drama at every turn, making you think that redemption is too good to be true. And then, they’d have to cap it all off with not just a Final Four, but the first national title in program history (in overtime, naturally). Good thing Virginia stuck to the script.
Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud holds up the trophy as they celebrate after Game 5 of basketball’s WNBA Finals against the Connecticut Sun, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Washington.
2. Mystics run it back
After heartbreak in 2018, the Washington Mystics weren’t going to be stopped this year. Battling lingering injuries throughout the regular season and the playoffs, they found another gear with the return of Emma Meesseman, whose role continued to grow and blossom all the way to the decisive Game 5 finish at home, ultimately leading to her being named WNBA Finals MVP. For the rest of the crew, a title was validation of a yearlong promise to “run it back,” to make good on the promise of the talent and experience in D.C. To do it all on their brand-new home floor was just icing.
The Washington Nationals celebrate after Game 7 of the baseball World Series against the Houston Astros Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in Houston. The Nationals won 6-2 to win the series.
1. Nationals win World Series
It never really seemed real, or possible, until that leather sphere clanked off the yellow-painted pole in right field at Minute Maid Park. At no point did the Nats seem like they would actually pull it off, not with their history, not with the way the Wild Card Game, or Game 5 in LA, or Game 7 in Houston actually unfolded. Not until Howie Kendrick’s opposite field blast suddenly shifted the balance of the final game of the baseball season did the Nats ever feel like favorites to actually bring the Commissioner’s Trophy back to South Capitol Street. And yet, here they are.
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