Live 5's Top 10 Sports Stories of 2015
2015 was among the biggest years in Lowcountry sports that we've ever seen. So big that some pretty major stories, like the College of Charleston's run in the NCAA baseball playoffs or the Medal of Honor bowl becoming a traditional bowl game, weren't able to crack our top 10 stories of the year. Over the next five nights we'll reveal our top 10 sports stories of 2015.
#10. South Carolina Stingrays record win streak - Our list begins in North Charleston and a record setting season for the Stingrays. Over the course of February and March, the Rays put together an ECHL record 23 game win streak. The 2nd longest winning streak in North American professional hockey history. Led by league MVP Jeff Jakaitis, who set a minor league record by not giving up a goal for more than 321 minutes, the Rays would go on to make a run through the Kelly Cup playoffs, getting all the way to game 7 of the finals before falling to the Allen Americans.
#9. Changes for Clemson, CofC baseball - At number 9, the end of a legendary career in the upstate. In early June, Clemson fired head baseball coach Jack Leggett after 22 seasons. In over 2 decades with the Tigers, Leggett led the school to 955 wins, and six trips to the college world series. Just 2 weeks later, Clemson would find Leggett's replacement, someone Lowcountry fans knew very well. College of Charleston head coach Monte Lee was picked as the new head man for the Tigers. That would bring his 7 year run with the Cougars to an end. A tenure that saw the college win 276 games and make 4 NCAA tournament appearances. Just a couple days later, CofC would promote assistant coach Matt Heath as their new head baseball coach.
#8. Ft. Dorchester wins AAAA Div. 1 State Football Title - One of the most dominant high school football teams we've seen in the Lowcountry in over a decade, the Fort Dorchester Patriots finally won their 1st state championship and did it in convincing fashion. Led by one of the best collections of talent we've had in this area on one team including Dakereon Joyner, Datron James, John Simpson and Diondre Champaigne, the Patriots would go 15-0 on the season and won their game by an average of almost 25 points per game. Steve LaPrad's team would end their season by beating Dorman in Williams Brice Stadium for the 4-A Division 1 state title. The 1st team from the Lowcountry to win the title at that level since 2009.
#7. The Citadel wins share of SoCon title - The Bulldogs were picked to finish 7th in the Southern Conference in Mike Houston's 2nd season as head coach. But the Dogs pulled off a stretch of 5 straight wins from October to early November and earned a share of the SoCon title for the 1st time since 1992. Then came their biggest win in over 2 decades. The Citadel went into Columbia and pulled off the upset of the heavily favored Gamecocks 23-22 to the shock of fans at Williams Brice. The Bulldogs would earn their first FCS playoff birth since 1992 and pulled off another upset in the 1st round beating Coastal Carolina. Houston was named SoCon coach of the year and DL Mitchell Jeter named SoCon defensive player of the year.
#6. Charleston Southern football reaches national semifinals - Charleston Southern would go on an 8 game win streak during 2015, highlighted by a win at The Citadel and over then top ranked Coastal Carolina. A stretch that would help them win the outright Big South Championship and earn a national seed in the FCS playoffs. Jamey Chadwell's team would go on to win their 1st ever playoff game in December, beating their cross town rivals from The Citadel again, before having their season brought to an end in the national quarterfinals by top seed Jacksonville State. Chadwell was named the Big South coach of the year for the 2nd time in 3 seasons.
#5. Lowcountry awarded PGA Championship, U.S. Women's Open - Two major golf championships announced that they'll be coming to the Lowcountry in the coming years. In May, the PGA announced that the PGA Championship will be returning to the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. The 103rd edition of the tournament will be played in August of 2021. They previously played on Kiawah in 2012. Then in December the USGA announced that the Country Club of Charleston would be hosting the US Women's Open in 2019. It will be the 2nd USGA event hosted by the club after they had the US Women's amateur in 2013.
#4. Chris Singleton reacts to tragedy - There is no aspect of life in the Lowcountry that wasn't affected by the tragic shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME church on June 17th and sports was no exception. Charleston Southern outfielder and Goose Creek alum Chris Singleton lost his mother Sharonda during the shooting. Just a day later, the 19 year old was in front of a gaggle of cameras, delivering the speech that would help set the tone for how the area would react to this violent act, saying "love is stronger than hate". The sports world would step up around Chris and his family as well. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton would visit a few days later and the Yankees flew Chris and his family up to New York to take in a game at Yankee Stadium.
#3. Summerville's John McKissick retires - At number 3, the end of the greatest high school football coaching era in the sports history. On June 16th, Summerville head coach John McKissick announced he'd be retiring after 63 season and 620 wins with the Green Wave. McKissick, who was 88 when he made the decision, stepped away as the winningest coach in the history of organized football at any level. He also won 10 state titles and 37 region championships. McKissick would be replaced by his grandson Joe Call, who coached Summerville as an interim head coach for 2015.
#2. Steve Spurrier retires from South Carolina - South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier retiring in the middle of the season from the Gamecocks is our number 2 story of 2015. The winningest coach in school history simply ran out of gas mid way through his 10th season in Columbia. He left with an 86-49 record, 1 SEC East title and 3 straight 11 win seasons. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott was the interim coach for the remainder of the year. The school hired another former Florida head coach, Will Muschamp, as their new head coach in December.
#1. Clemson atop College Football Playoff poll - Our number 1 story of 2015 came from a team that spent a majority of their season ranked as the number 1 team in the country for college football, The Clemson Tigers. Dabo Swinney's club rolled through most of the regular season and avoided potential trip ups in Louisville and at home against Notre Dame and Florida State. The Tigers would beat their in state rivals South Carolina for the 2nd year in a row and won the ACC Championship with a win over North Carolina. Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was 1 of 3 finalists for the Heisman Trophy, helped Clemson stay atop the College Football playoff poll each week and now the Tigers are just 2 wins away from a National Championship, starting new years eve when they face Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.