Michelle Akers

Long regarded for its soccer heritage and success, Seattle Pacific University has added women's soccer as its 12th varsity sport, and the Falcons will begin play in the fall of 2001.

President Philip Eaton, who made the announcement March 7, noted that SPU has enlisted the expertise not only of legendary SPU men's coach Cliff McCrath, but also one of the world's most prominent female soccer players. Michelle Akers, a Seattle native and star of the United States' victorious World Cup teams in 1991 and 1999, has agreed to serve as an advisor for the initial start-up period. Akers, 34, plans to retire as a player following the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

"In many ways, this is a tribute to the extraordinary success of SPU soccer under Coach McCrath," says Eaton. "We are building on that foundation."

Plans for a women's soccer program have been progressing over the past 4-5 years, with the opening of Interbay Stadium in 1997 accelerating the process. Funding for the program was approved by the Board of Trustees in February.

Seattle Pacific Athletic Director Tom Box said the search for a head coach will begin immediately, and he would not rule out Akers as a candidate. The women's team, like the men's program, will compete at the NCAA Division II level and will be affiliated with the Pacific West Conference. McCrath has guided SPU to five men's national championships and a record 28 playoff appearances in the last 30 years.


The Seattle Pacific University women's basketball team qualified for the NCAA tournament this spring for the fourth year in a row. Even more impressive was the gymnastics team's record of 18 consecutive trips to a national championship meet.

The women's basketball team made a late push to reach the playoffs, winning its final eight regular season games. Although they fell to Montana State Billings 79-64 in the first round of the regional tournament in Pomona, California, March 9, the Falcons finished 21-7. Better still, they will return all but one senior, including all-conference forwards Ashley Miller and Gus Balogh.

At the USA Gymnastics Championships in Tempe, Arizona, April 6-8, Seattle Pacific posted the meet's fourth-highest score, but was unable to advance to the finals, breaking a string of 16 straight years of finishing among the top four teams. The Falcons, said Coach Laurel Tindall, were victims of a new format in which three of the top four teams were placed in one group, and only two could advance to the finals.

Individually, three gymnasts earned All-America honors. Cassie Althauser finished third on the uneven bars, and teammates Erin Kawasaki and Kristin Strid finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the individual finals.


Seattle Pacific University cross country coach Doris Heritage has become only the second woman inducted into the United States Track Coaches Hall of Fame. Heritage, a two-time Olympian and five-time world cross country champion, was inducted in 1990 into the U.S. Track & Field Hall of Fame for her accomplished running career.

During her coaching career, Heritage has served as U.S. head coach for the world cross country championships, and has been a member of the U.S. staff for the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympic Games and the 1990 and 1997 World Championships.

At SPU, Heritage has guided the Falcon women to 10 top-10 finishes in the NCAA and AIAW championships, including sixth place this fall at the Division II national meet.

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