With the end of 2015 quickly approaching, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest sports stories of the year. Each day, The Blue Zone will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year in Blue Devil athletics.
Coming in at No. 4 on our list: A year full of winners for the Blue Devils, as five programs advanced to the Final Four in their respective sports. Men's basketball captured its fifth national title in April and women's soccer nearly earned their first in December's title game. To cap things off, David Cutcliffe and the Duke football team won its first bowl game in 54 years Dec. 26 against Indiana at Yankee Stadium.
2015 was a banner year for Duke all across the athletic spectrum.
The men's basketball team set the tone for the year, capturing its fifth national championship in 25 years with a thrilling 68-63 victory against Wisconsin. Thanks to the heroics of freshmen Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen, the Blue Devils blew past Michigan State in the Final Four before knocking off the Badgers in Indianapolis—the same venue where they won their last title in 2010.
In May, the women's lacrosse team made their own run to the Final Four for the first time in seven years and the seventh time in program history thanks to the offensive firepower of a veteran-laden squad. But the road ended there, as third-seeded Duke lost a 12-6 decision to second-seeded North Carolina, leaving head coach Kerstin Kimel and her squad still searching for the team's first appearance in a national championship game.
As that was unfolding in Chester, Pa., the women's golf team was competing in the national championships in Bradenton, Fla. Led by Player of the Year Leona Maguire, the Blue Devils finished in second place in the stroke play portion of the championship and defeated Texas Tech 4-1 in match play to advance to the semifinals against Baylor. The match came down to the final pairing between Maguire's sister, Lisa, and the Bears' Lauren Whyte. Knotted after 18 holes, the duo played six extra holes before Whyte claimed a victory with a bogey. The 3-2 win sent Baylor on to the championship match and ended Duke's defense of its 2014 national championship.
When school resumed in the fall, the success continued. For the second time in three years, the Duke field hockey team advanced to the Final Four in Ann Arbor, Mich. After avenging regular-season losses to Stanford and Virginia to start off the tournament, the Blue Devils finally met their match in rival North Carolina—which had defeated Duke 2-1 during the regular season and dispatched the Blue Devils 2-0 in the national semifinals.
As the semester wore on, the women's soccer team overcame a rough start in conference play to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament, and from there the squad caught fire. The Blue Devils defeated five consecutive conference champions to reach the national championship game for just the second time in head coach Robbie Church's 15-year tenure and the first time since 2011. But the magical run ended for Duke without a title, as a goal in the 72nd minute proved to be all that Penn State needed to knock off the Blue Devils 1-0 and claim the national championship.
The Duke football team finished well shy of the College Football Playoff, but the Blue Devils finally ended the season on a winning note after three straight years of excruciatingly close calls in the postseason. Duke secured its first bowl victory since the 1961 Cotton Bowl as Indiana kicker Griffin Oakes' game-tying field goal attempt in overtime sailed just wide of the upright, giving the Blue Devils a 44-41 win in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in the Bronx, N.Y. Quarterback Thomas Sirk and running back Shaun Wilson were named co-MVPs and accounted for three touchdowns of 70 yards or longer, helping carry a Duke squad that earned the win even without injured ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Cash.
READ MORE on Duke men's basketball's fifth national championship:
READ MORE on Duke women's lacrosse's trip to the Final Four:
READ MORE on Duke field hockey's trip to the Final Four:
A look at the rest of our top 10 countdown to date:
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