(WSPA) – The sports team at WSPA has created a ‘Top 10 Moments in Clemson Athletics History’ countdown. Starting Tuesday, April 14 we will be revealing portions of the list daily on WSPA Channel 7 News and online at wspa.com leading up to the top moment in Tigers history. Be sure to follow along as we break down these monumental achievements featuring interviews with former Clemson Sports Information Director and longtime color analyst Tim Bourret, who’s still heard on their radio network and works with the Clemson sports department covering Tigers Golf.
#8: Women’s Tennis makes back-to-back Final Four’s (‘04/’05)
No moment was more impactful on Clemson women’s athletics than the Final Four runs of the 2004/2005 Tigers tennis teams. Clemson featured one of the best players in school history, Julie Coin, and a dominant doubles team leading them to the semifinals in back-to-back seasons under the tutelage of legendary coach Nancy Harris.
In 2004 Clemson women’s tennis entered the season coming off two straight second round exits in the NCAA tournament. But with a promising lineup they were poised to make a trip back to the tourney for a deeper run.
They began by making history in the ACC tournament, taking the conference title with an upset win over fifth-ranked Duke, 4-2, as they were crowned champions for the first time since 1987. But that was just the beginning for the Tigers as they had their eyes set on the NCAA Tourney.
In the opening round they defeated Troy, 4-0, and followed it up with another dominant 4-1 win over South Carolina in the second round.
In the round of sixteen they battled Texas A&M taking down the Aggies, 4-1. This set them up for a showdown with Washington in the NCAA quarterfinals on May 21, 2004.
The Tigers started the match strong against the Huskies. In number two doubles, Julie Coin and Alix Lacelerie defeated Erin Hoe and Dina Hadzic, 8-5.
“Clemson won the doubles point to start out, which was the 26th time in 30 dual matches that year that Clemson had won the doubles point, and was certainly a key to Clemson’s success,” said former Clemson Sports Information Director Tim Bourret.
Coin went on to win her singles match. But the Huskies weren’t going anywhere setting up for a dramatic finish as it all came down to the final match in fifth singles.
Ioana Paun clinched victory with a 7-6 tiebreaker win in the third set over UW freshman Saskia Nauenberg.
“To get to a tiebreaker, it’s kind of like going to overtime,” said Bourret. “She won that giving Clemson a 4-3 victory to allow Clemson to advance to the Final Four in Athens, Georgia.”
They advanced to the program’s first Final Four, and the first such appearance by any women’s team in Clemson history. They fell to UCLA in the semifinal, 4-0.
“It was kind of interesting that that streak, so to speak, of not reaching a Final Four in any women’s sport, was broken and then they did it again the next year,” said Bourret.
In 2005 Clemson returned several key players including Coin. They looked to build off the foundation set in place by the 2004 unit.
In the opening round of the NCAAs, Clemson toppled Furman, 4-0, and then went on to do the same to WIlliam & Mary the following round, 4-0. Northwestern proved to be a more difficult matchup, but the Tigers defeated the Wildcats, 4-3, advancing to the Final Four once again.
Although they lost to the eventual national champion, Stanford, they remain the only women’s team in school history to reach the semifinals.
“It did a lot for the women’s sports program. And while it’s true we haven’t had another Final Four team we’ve had a lot of successful teams,” Bourret said, pointing to the 2018 basketball team that recorded 20 wins and even as recently as the 2019 softball team’s inaugural season, which ended with them winning 11 of their final 12 games before the remainder of their season was canceled.
“They really set a standard.”
Their success can be attributed to some great talent on the team, but it’s also because of the coaching of Harris.
Harris had over 350 wins in her coaching career at Clemson, leading the program to 17 straight NCAA Tournament berths (2002-2018) including those pivotal moments in 2004-05.
After 22 seasons with the Tigers, Harris announced her retirement in 2020.
Clemson Top Ten List: