St. Patrick's Day means green, even in the sports world.
Last Tuesday, the Chicago Bulls wore green uniforms against the Boston Celtics to celebrate the holiday. From Doc River's Irishmen's ascent out of last place, to pitcher David Wells chugging a six-pack of Guinness and munching on potato chips in his recliner, to Notre Dame playing in the NCAA Tournament, sports went all out to celebrate. But there is one Patty connection in particular that stands out.
Over the green weekend, it was Patty who proved to the world just how invaluable she is. She didn't even need any shamrocks to ascertain it. As last season's Patty Kazmaier award winner as the nation's top performer, and a finalist for the award this year, Sara Bauer is simply prolific. She recorded six points (one goal and five assists) in the Frozen Four to secure Wisconsin's second consecutive NCAA Championship. In addition, the St. Catharines, Ontario, native was a major reason why they made it there in the first place. Bauer connected with fellow line mate Jinelle Zaugg on a one-timer to send Wisconsin to victory and Lake Placid, N.Y., before 5,000-plus fans after over two hours of highly contested hockey with Harvard.
With 72 points this season, Bauer ranks second in the nation. And her 218 career points are easily the most in school history — 41 more than Meghan Hunter.
But more than just her numbers can possibly reflect, she makes everyone around her better. The team is extremely deep, and the goaltenders are seemingly flawless, that much is true. And Zaugg and Meghan Duggan are fantastic prototypes in their own right — they both were among the top 11 in the country in scoring with more than 50 points apiece — yet I find it hard to believe that their stats aren't inflated by the presence of Bauer. Even Duggan, one of the top freshmen in the nation, couldn't contain her excitement to get the opportunity to play on the same line as the senior forward.
"I mean it's an honor to play with an individual like Sara Bauer," Duggan said. "I'm having a good time learning to play with [Bauer] and just new combinations and everything that she brings; it's just a lot of fun."
Much in the same manner a great point guard like Steve Nash makes all the players around him better, Bauer is the epitome of an MVP. Take her away, and I don't know that this team can win the way it has over the course of two seasons (72-5-5 and 54-1-4 in its last 59).
Yet, after four seasons here at UW, Bauer, who is arguably the greatest talent the women's hockey team has ever seen, remains unknown, hidden behind the shadow of other sports and student life. She's quiet. Reserved. And she certainly isn't the best interview among UW athletes. Just because she doesn't make herself known around campus shouldn't prevent us from recognizing her for all she has achieved.
She is a model student-athlete. Bauer is as much a model citizen in the classroom as she is on the ice. Her GPA is almost a perfect 4.0.
While others may not know of her, I do. This is my tribute to her remarkable season, career and life.
It's hard to say how the team will fare next season without the services of No. 15. I imagine they'll still be a contender considering the level of talent they have coming back. Even so, the playmaker from these past four years will most definitely be missed.
So put on your top hat, grab a Guinness and make a toast to something truly special.
Kevin is a junior double-majoring in journalism and economics. If you are still hung over in the St. Patty's Day mood and would like to toast with him, he can be reached at [email protected]