Cow bells rang, pom-poms waved and cheering echoed throughout campus as fans braved the cold to honor the women’s soccer team on their 2016 National Championship title.
The team led a student march through campus with trophy in hand Monday, Jan. 23, starting from the Wade King Student Recreation Center and ending at the Viking Union.
The team shattered records during their 2016 season with a 24-game winning streak that included 17 shutouts. Western scored 66 goals and conceded 10 goals all season.
Their 24-0-1 season gave them the most wins ever by a women’s collegiate team in Washington.
“It just means so much to our team to be able to bring a championship home and celebrate with everyone in the community.”
President Sabah Randhawa said he was proud of the excellence the team has brought to Western.
“What a great role model for girls coming up in terms of striving for excellence,” Randhawa said.
Travis Connell, head coach for the women’s team, said his mind has begun to move toward the next page and planning for the future. Still, he wants to be able to slow down and enjoy the victory.
“What I take from championships mostly is it’s such a great experience for the players,” Connell said. “It’s an awesome feeling. I’m really happy and proud of the gals.”
Junior center back Sierra Shugarts was named NSCAA National Player of the Year. In the 21 year history of the award, she is only the second defender to be awarded.
Senior midfielder Caitlyn Jobanek was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament MVP and scored two goals for Western during their 3-2 victory over Grand Valley State University in the championship game.
“It just means so much to our team to be able to bring a championship home and celebrate with everyone in the community,” Jobanek said.
Courtney Stringer, Western’s Associate Athletic Director for Community Engagement said the event was to honor the players as well as bring community members together to celebrate their achievement.
“I could not be more proud of these young ladies. I feel a very strong sense of pride being involved in the athletic department,” Stringer said.
Seen throughout the event was the championship crest designed by Connell and Alex Hamilton, Western’s Marketing and Promotions Coordinator. A crest is a tradition in soccer. All national championship holders have one, including the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers.
“The alumni, players and coaches that came before should be recognized for this ultimate championship,” Connell said. “The crest helps to commemorate some of the history of the program which I think is super important.”
It was announced during the event that throughout Bellingham, Jan. 23, will now be “Western Washington University Women’s Soccer Day” to honor the team’s hard work and dedication.