Top sports moments of 2018 highlight exciting, surprising year

Nikhil Sriram, Sports Editor

With the new year in full swing, now is an ideal time to reflect on the previous year. 2018 featured the Winter Olympics and the World Cup, and it was characterized by unexpected victories and crazy comebacks. So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at the top sports moments of 2018.

UMBC Does the Impossible

After a dominant 31-3 season led by guards Devon Hall and Kyle Guy, the Virginia Cavaliers found themselves ranked No. 1 overall in the 64-team tournament. Many experts and fans alike predicted UVA to go all the way to the championship game. That is, until 16-seed University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) came along.  

UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament history; No. 16 seeds were previously 0-135 all-time against No. 1 seeds. Perhaps the most astounding aspect of the contest was the final score, 74-54. Not only did UMBC do the impossible, they did it in spectacular fashion, outscoring Virginia by 20 points in the second half. While this unlikely victory is obviously a highlight of 2018, it will likely go down in history as one of the greatest sports upsets of all time.

Crimson Tide Comeback

An unexpected sports highlight of 2018 came just eight days into the year as the Crimson Tide mustered up a fantastic comeback against the Georgia Bulldogs to capture their fifth national championship since 2009. After going down 13-0 in the first half, head coach Nick Saban decided to sub out veteran quarterback Jalen Hurts and replace him with the true freshman backup Tua Tagovailoa.

Tagovailoa would go on to throw two touchdowns in the second half in order to help even the score up at 20 and force overtime. In the overtime period, Tagovailoa threw a 41-yard bomb to DeVonta Smith to win the game for the Tide 26-23. Since that historic moment, Tagovailoa has continued to dominate, earning the SEC Offensive Player of the Year award in the 2018 season and finishing second in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Croatia Cruises to the Cup

Coming into the 2018 World Cup with 30-1 odds, the Croatian national team was not exactly at the top of most people’s lists to advance to the championship match. Despite the odds however, the team, led by midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, made it all the way to the World Cup final for the first time in the team’s history, until they were defeated by France 4-2.

The team’s run in the World Cup was a magical one, besting Denmark and Russia in consecutive penalty shootouts. In the semi-final match, the Croatian squad forced extra time against England and went on to win 2-1. The performance by the 2018 Croatian national team will likely go down in World Cup history and will be remembered by soccer fans in Croatia and across the globe.

World Series Won’t Stop

While it did not feature an upset or amazing comeback, Game 3 of the 2018 World Series set plenty of records. The match, which pitted the Boston Red Sox against the Houston Astros, was the longest World Series game ever, in terms of time (seven hours, 20 minutes) and innings (18).

The game ultimately came to close when first baseman Max Muncy stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 18th, as he hit a walk-off home run to end the historic game. The context was truly a test of grit and mental fortitude on both sides, and it is highly unlikely that any of the previously mentioned records will be broken any time soon.

Luck of the Irish

College basketball has had its fair share of buzzer beaters. But to beat the horn in two consecutive games, the first to advance to the national championship and the next to win it, requires a bit of luck. Thankfully for Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale, the luck of the Irish was on her side.

Trailing by two in the Final Four matchup against the University of Connecticut, Ogunbowale put up a tough, contested three with one second left on the clock to win the Irish the game 91-89. But she did not stop there. In the national championship game against Mississippi State, Ogunbowale received the sideline inbounds pass and attempted an even tougher three-pointer that sinked in as the buzzer sounded. Ogunbowale won Notre Dame its first women’s basketball title since 2001. Her extraordinary performance in both games will go down as one of the most clutch feats of all time.