Sunday saw absolutely no news whatsoever regarding Kansas State athletics, which is not surprising for the first Sunday in July. Thankfully for us, and for you, we get to use this week's Monday Slate for an entirely different purpose:
Smug gloating and chest-thumping.
But first! Allow us to direct your attention to yesterday's content, where our feline of the brackets celebrated the 62nd day before kickoff with a profile of incoming true freshman offensive lineman Tyler Mitchell.
Although the silly dream of having eight Royals start the All-Star Game is dead, our localish major league franchise still accomplished what no other Royals team ever did before -- not even the glory-days era teams with George Brett, Frank White, and Amos Otis. The Royals will have four starters in the Midsummer Classic, as Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, and Lorenzo Cain were voted into the starting lineup. Only once before did Kansas City land three starters; Brett, White, and Darrell Porter started the 1979 classic.
Reserves will be announced this afternoon. Even without Ned Yost managing the squad, reliever Wade Davis would be a lock for a spot on the AL roster. Mike Moustakas might also get in, and Eric Hosmer has a slim chance. Just one of those two would give the boys in blue six All-Stars -- which would break another Royals record. In both 1972 and 1982 the Royals landed five players on the squad. (Of course, if one counts Yost himself and assumes Davis, the Royals will have more representatives on the squad than ever before regardless.)
Robert Streb broke his putter yesterday when he tossed it at his golf bag following the ninth hole at Greenbrier. You'd think that would be bad, but Streb, using his wedge, birdied five holes on the back nine on the way to posting a 32 on the latter half of the course and a 65 overall.
Unfortunately, he also three-putted 17 for a bogey after having taken the lead with a birdie on 16, and that cost him the championship. A par on 17 would have left Streb with a one-shot lead at 14 under; instead, the tournament ended with four players tied at -14 and a sudden-death playoff. Streb and Kevin Kisner were eliminated on the first playoff hole before Danny Lee took the title over David Hearn.
Still, Streb earned a tie for second-place and half a million dollars, moving him back up to eleventh on the PGA money list for 2015.
And then there was that other thing that happened yesterday.
It's a shame K-State's fledgling soccer program won't be taking the field this fall, because the excitement over the women's game couldn't be higher than it is right now. In a glorious explosion, the US women's national team capped their World Cup with a flourish yesterday, stunning Japan with four goals in the first sixteen minutes of the match.
SB Nation's own Kevin McCauley had brutally criticized Carli Lloyd last week while at the same time predicting she would win this game; his analysis was spot-on, and so was his prediction. Lloyd recorded a hattrick -- a feat only ever matched in World Cup final history by England's Geoff Hurst back in 1966 -- almost before Japan even realized the game had begun. Lloyd struck in the third and fifth minutes; the third goal, which gave the US a 4-0 lead following FC Kansas City star Lauren Holiday's strike in the fourteenth minute, was sublime and ridiculous all at once:
What's more epic than Carli Lloyd's half-field wonderstrike? Carli Lloyd's half-field wonderstrike IN SPANISH. pic.twitter.com/PdQog7R9N6— Zack Goldman (@ThatDamnYank) July 6, 2015
From that point, the game was effectively over, even though Japan outscored the US 2-1 over the final 74 minutes. (Tobin Heath added the final goal in the 54th minute.) Even then, Japan only scored one goal on their own; their other tally was the nadir of the brilliant Julie Johnston's sudden descent into purgatory. Johnston, who just 142 game minutes prior had been the odds-on favorite to win the Golden Ball in the event the US went on to win the cup, dumped an own goal past Hope Solo. The championship will rightly erase most memory of Johnston's struggles in the final two games.
Indeed, the media sorely understated the importance of the American back line in this tournament. Perhaps that was justifiable in the wake of a World Cup championship match won with a burst of offense, but the undeniable truth is that if it weren't for the stellar work of Johnston, Ali Krieger, Megan Klingenberg, and FC Kansas City's Becky Sauerbrunn throughout the the group stage and in the first two matches of the knockout phase, this team would have gone home.
Klingenberg is your benevolent despot's pick as the team's MVP for the tournament as a whole, though some other observers prefer Sauerbrunn for that honor; neither party objects strenuously to the other's postition. Time and time again, Klingenberg and to a lesser extent Krieger not only turned away attacks but instigated exciting counters. Over and over, Sauerbrunn was in place with a perfect defense, and she barely struck a poor pass the entire tournament. And, of course, Johnston was utterly brilliant up until the semifinal. That the Americans only scored nine goals in six games prior to the final should rightly be a point of conversation in regard to the American strikers; it was certainly not due to a lack of distribution from the backs.
Speaking of the Golden Ball, it obviously went to Lloyd even though she wasn't the best player on her own team. Burying your opponent with a sixteen-minute hat trick in a World Cup final tends to have that effect. Lloyd also received the Silver Boot after tying Germany's Célia Šašić with six goals; Šašić won the tiebreaker and the Golden Boot because she played fewer minutes. Solo won her second consecutive Golden Gloves award.
We can't allow this to go unmentioned; in a subtle but moving display of respect, the team captaincy changed hands twice last night. Much was made of Lloyd turning over the captain's armband to Abby Wambach when the latter entered the game to replace Heath with eleven minutes remaining. Less noticed was the transfer from Wambach to Christie Rampone after she entered for a final cameo in the closing minutes. It was a necessary demonstration of the transition of the team from past to future, played out respectfully in reverse.
The USA is now the undisputed champion of women's international soccer, becoming the first women's national team to earn their third kit star. The title was a fitting end to the international careers of Rampone, Shannon Boxx, and (most likely) Abby Wambach and Hope Solo. We've probably also seen the final featured World Cup performances of Lloyd, Sauerbrunn, Krieger, and Heather O'Reilly, all of whom are now in their 30s with talented youngsters waiting their turn. (Megan Rapinoe is also 30, but one suspects she will take on the Wambach role in 2019.)
That's always the gloomy side to the end of a World Cup. Win or lose, it's the end of an era. Time moves on, inexorably, and yesterday's stars become tomorrow's memories. But at least this time, after so many heartbreaks, that era ended with a trophy.