The Mtn., a heretofore obscure regional sports network devoted to the Mountain West Conference, broadcast the MWC women's soccer semifinals between the Lobos and regular-season champion BYU last Thursday, catching New Mexico defender Elizabeth Lambert in a series of transgressions, most notably a violent tug on the pony-tail of Kassidy Shumway that caused the BYU star's head to snap back as she fell to the ground.
Within hours, ESPN had a montage of Lambert's fouls and the next morning everyone was watching on the Internet. One You Tube post had 2,854,332 views and 5,360 comments at last count. Facebook pages popped in support of Lambert and against her. From morning to night, from ABC's "Good Morning America" to "The Late Show" with David Letterman, the video of Lambert played on national television. Even the noted international soccer columnist Rob Hughes devoted a whole column to the incident and its fallout in the New York Times.
Yes, there was sensationalizing -- the You Tube post was headlined "Cat fighting gets ugly ...". Any number of violent fouls, whether in ice hockey, football or basketball, might get attention but not this kind of attention. North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance lamented in the New York Times that "the only way we seem to make the news is when something like this happens." But it is not just a women's college soccer problem but a college soccer problem. A few weeks back, SMU freshman Ryan Rosenbaum scored a goal from 95 yards that was replayed again and again on television and had 420,389 views at last count on You Tube. A fluke goal, nothing more or less. There are dozens of better goals -- scored by men or women -- every week that no one ever sees.
Within 24 hours of the game, Lambert was suspended, but what about Lobo coach Kit Vela and Joe Pimentel and his refereeing crew. Why didn't they see anything? In her first interview, Vela told USA Today's Cristine Brennan, "If I had seen the hair pull, I would have pulled her off the field, and we wouldn't be sitting here today. ... But nobody saw the hair pull in the run of play."
Lambert hasn't spoken publicly, but Vela says her player says, "In hindsight, I wish [Pimentel] would have seen this and thrown me out."
* STANFORD HAT TRICK. No. 1 Stanford's Kelley O'Hara was named Pac-10 Player of the Year, while teammate Mariah Nogueira was named Freshman of the Year. The Cardinal's Paul Ratcliffe was named Coach of the Year for the second straight year. O'Hara and Nogueira were joined on the All-Pac-10 first team by teammates Ali Riley and Christen Press. (All-Pac-10)
* PENN STATE SWEEP. Penn State seniors Katie Schoepfer and Alyssa Naeher were tabbed the Big Ten's Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively, after leading the Nittany Lions to their 12th consecutive conference championship. PSU newcomer Christine Nairn took home Freshman of the Year honors, while Erica Walsh earned Coach of the Year laurels. (All-Big Ten)