The Chronicle's Top 10: A Banner Year: 5 Final Fours and a bowl win

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:

Duke basketball uses pair of monster runs to push past Robert Morris in Round of 64

Duke basketball advances to Sweet 16 after rout of San Diego State

Home Cookin': Winslow propels Duke basketball past Utah in return to Houston

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: Duke basketball downs Gonzaga to advance to Final Four

Duke basketball blows past Michigan State to earn spot in national title game

FIVE GOLDEN RINGS: Duke wins fifth national title, upending Wisconsin 68-63

50 Shades of Grayson: Allen, freshmen carry Blue Devils to national title

READ MORE on Duke women's soccer's trip to the national championship game:

Duke women's soccer routs James Madison in NCAA tournament win

Duke women's soccer dispatches Florida Gulf Coast to reach Sweet 16

Duke women's soccer tops Florida 2-1, advances to Elite Eight

Proctor's big saves help Duke women's soccer advance to Final Four on penalty kicks

Duke women's soccer beats defending NCAA champion Seminoles to advance to national title game

Time runs out: Penn State beats Duke women's soccer to claim NCAA title

College Cup loss could be building block for future success

READ MORE on Duke football's historic Pinstripe Bowl victory:

A BOWL WIN AT LAST: Duke football beats Indiana 44-41 in Pinstripe Bowl

Duke football seniors move beyond past disappointments, deliver signature win

Controversial field goal call completes full-circle season for Duke football

Wilson explodes onto the big stage for Blue Devils

READ MORE on Duke women's lacrosse's trip to the Final Four:

Duke women's lacrosse defeats Southern California 17-9 in NCAA tournament opener

Duke women's lacrosse advances to national semifinal with win against Princeton

North Carolina dispatches Duke women's lacrosse to reach NCAA title game

READ MORE on Duke women's golf's trip to the Final Four:

Leona Maguire wins individual title at ACC championship as Duke women's golf finishes second

Maguire, Duke women's golf claim titles at NCAA regional as Boutier heats up

Duke women's golf falls in dramatic extra hole in match play semifinal at NCAA championship

READ MORE on Duke field hockey's trip to the Final Four:

Kristen's game-winner sends Duke field hockey on to second round of NCAA tournament

Final Four bound: Duke field hockey takes down Virginia to earn trip to NCAA semifinals

North Carolina ends Duke field hockey's season in Final Four

Check back tomorrow to see what comes in at No. 3 in our countdown of the top Duke sports stories of 2015.

A look at the rest of our top 10 countdown to date:

10. Rebecca Greenwell extends Elizabeth Williams' last dance against Albany

9. A look at Tommy John at Duke and beyond

8. The end of one era; the start of two more

7. Out with the new, in with the newer

6. Tyus Jones leads Blue Devils past North Carolina 92-90 in OT

5. Miami, officials hand Duke Halloween heartbreak


Share and discuss “The Chronicle's Top 10: A Banner Year: 5 Final Fours and a bowl win” on social media.