Take a trip down memory lane of accomplishments by Alaska athletes
Friday Flashback is a series created by Alaska Sports Hall of Fame blog editor Van Williams that looks back on great Alaska athletes from the past.
Anchorage tennis player Emma Lewis made her name in doubles at Bowdoin College, but her claim to fame came in singles. In 2012, she rallied for a thrilling three-set victory in the decisive match to lift Bowdoin to a 5-4 win over Middlebury in the NCAA D3 national tournament. Lewis, of South High fame, came back to beat Brittney Faber 5-7, 7-6, 6-2 at No. 4 singles. She lost to Faber at No. 1 doubles earlier in the day, but came through when it mattered most to help Bowdoin reach the elite eight for just the second time in school history. Lewis also came up clutch in 2014 when her win at No. 1 doubles helped propel Bowdoin to a 5-2 win over Middlebury to get the Polar Bears back to the elite eight. A hard-hitting ball machine with power and precision, Lewis became the first college player from Alaska to reach 100 career wins and finished with a then-state record of 125 in singles and doubles. Her 2014 senior season was something special as she posted a 24-7 singles record; her 24 wins rank No. 2 on the school’s all-time list. Lewis finished her career with a 60-30 record in singles and 65-35 mark in doubles. Her 60 wins in singles rank No. 7 at Bowdoin.
Eagle River’s Yohance Humphrey put the University of Montana football team on his back in 2001 and carried the Grizzlies to paydirt. The rugged running back rushed for 132 yards on 30 carries and scored the game’s only touchdown as Montana beat Furman 13-6 in the national championship game of the NCAA DI-AA tournament. Humphrey, of Chugiak High fame, capped Montana’s 99-yard scoring drive in the second quarter when he plowed into the end zone on a 2-yard run up the middle. He was the centerpiece on a 15-1 national championship team – a Hall of Fame player on a Hall of Fame squad. The 5-foot-10 Humphrey was a three-time All-American during his career from 1998-2001 and walked away as the greatest running back in Montana history. He is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,070 career yards and in 2001 set the single-season rushing record with 1,658 yards in 2001. Humphery set the single-game rushing record with 265 yards against Weber State in 2001 and tied the school record with four rushing touchdowns.
Eagle River’s Nicci Ward had it all working for the Villanova University softball team on April 20, 2008. The senior right-handed pitcher threw a no-hitter in a 1-0 win over Providence College in the Big East Conference. Ward, of Chugiak High fame, is believed to be the only Alaska softball player to toss a 7-inning no-hitter at the NCAA D1 level. She struck out eight of 25 batters, issued three walks and benefited from a two-out walkoff double to score the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning. In the fifth inning, Ward was forced to record four outs after the first batter struck out and reached base on a passed ball. She escaped a two-on, two-out jam that inning with a strikeout. Ward finished her final season with a 10-9 record, seven complete games and 2.12 ERA in 28 appearances. She struck out 153 batters in 141.2 innings. She spent her first two years of college at Florida CC Jacksonville, where she was twice named first team all-conference. Ward was a three-time Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year in high school.
The state of Alaska has never seen a football player quite like Anchorage’s Nick Mystrom. A Swiss-Army-Knife-type player at Colorado College, he turned his attention to kicking in 1995 when he signed with the Memphis Mad Dogs of the Canadian Football League. The Mad Dogs turned to an unknown rookie a few games into the season to replace injured or ineffective kickers. It was a daring move by Memphis, but Mystrom kicked to the curb any concerns about his ability to kick at the pro level. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder was named to the CFL All-Rookie Team after converting 37-of-47 field goals and all 18 PATs in 13 games. Memphis finished the season with a 9-9 record, including a 7-6 mark with Mystrom in uniform. Mystrom, of West High fame, was the first of the four Alaskans who have played in the CFL. He’s the state’s all-time leading scorer in the league with 137 points. He played at Colorado College from 1989 to 1993, earning snaps at multiple positions from kicker to wide receiver and quarterback. Mystrom remains the school’s all-time scoring leader for season (101) and career (263).
Wasilla’s Leisa Wissler was a big deal in the Big Ten from 1988 to 1991. The Ohio State University volleyball star was named Big Ten Player of the Year in 1991 and Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1988. She was voted all-conference as a sophomore, junior and senior. Her 1991 season was especially epic as Ohio State made the Final Four and Wissler was named AVCA All-American and the school’s Female Athlete of the Year. The Buckeyes finished 30-4 her final year and won 27 straight matches, marching all the way to the NCAA Tournament semifinals before losing to UCLA. Ohio State posted a 20-0 record in the Big Ten, winning 17 matches by three-game sweep. Wissler, of Wasilla High fame, still ranks top-10 in school history in six all-time categories despite playing 30 years ago. In 1999, Wissler was honored by Sports Illustrated as one of Alaska’s 50 greatest sports figures of the 20th century.