March 5, 2011

 

SAN BRUNO, Calif. - Former Gonzaga University men's soccer standout Brian Ching was inducted into the third annual West Coast Conference Hall of Honor Saturday morning in ceremonies held in conjunction with the West Coast Conference Basketball Championships in Las Vegas.

Ching was one of eight new members representing the eight WCC schools to be inducted. Former Gonzaga basketball players Frank Burgess and Jeff Brown were the first two Gonzaga inductees, respectively.

With his two brothers and his mother among the friends and family in attendance, Ching thanked his mother for raising three children as a single parent and for giving him the values he has carried throughout his life. He also credited Gonzaga head coach Einar Thorarinsson for believing in him and providing him the skills to grow and mature to be able to compete at the next level.

Ching is currently in training camp with the Houston Dynamo as he prepares for his 11th season of professional soccer and his 10th season in the MLS. He is currently recovering from left thumb tendon surgery as a result of a pre-season game injury and is expectd to get the cast off Monday.

In addition to Ching, the 2011 WCC Hall of Honor class includes Loyola Marymount University's Sarah Noriega (women's volleyball), Pepperdine University's Wayne Wright (athletic director/coach), University of Portland's Tiffeny Milbrett (women's soccer), Saint Mary's College's Peter Thibeaux (men's basketball), University of San Diego's John Wathan (baseball), University of San Francisco's Steve Negoesco (men's soccer) and Santa Clara University's Dennis Awtrey (men's basketball).

Ching, a native of Haleiwa, Hawai'i, is one of the most decorated men's soccer players in Gonzaga University history, as well as the first successful player from Hawai'i in MLS and United States World Cup annals.

Ching came to the Bulldogs from Kamehameha High in Honolulu. His senior year he was the Interscholastic League of Honolulu MVP with 14 goals and 6 assists. His junior season he was a second team All-ILH selection.

Ching joined the Bulldogs for the 1996 season, and as a freshman played in 18 matches with five starts. He finished second on the team in scoring with 12 points on 3 goals and 6 assists. As a sophomore he appeared in 16 matches with 14 starts and was second on the team behind West Coast Conference Player of the Year and teammate Jeff McAllister with 10 goals and 23 points, ranking fifth in the WCC in both categories. The 10 goals were second on the all-time Gonzaga single-season list and his 23 points were third on the all-time GU list. He earned All-WCC second-team honors.

His junior season was cut short by a knee injury suffered in the season opener, then re-injured it in the next match, and received a medical redshirt year.

The injury bug continued to plague Ching in the summer of 1999 when he was kicked in the cheek and eye late in the summer while playing for the Spokane Shadow of the USL, the injury requiring surgery. But he was ready for the Bulldogs season opener and went on to start 17 of 18 matches. He scored 13 goals and had 8 assists for 34 points. The 13 goals were third on the all-time GU single-season list, the 34 points second. He scored his first goal of the season in a 2-2 tie against 11th-ranked University of Washington, got the insurance goal in a 3-1 victory over 7th-ranked Stanford University and had a pair of goals against 4th-ranked University of San Diego in 4-2 home victory. He earned All-WCC first-team honors.

His final season of 2000 Ching missed three matches with an injury but still scored 8 goals and recorded 22 points. He was named All-WCC first team and earned All-Far West Region first-team honors. Ching finished his Gonzaga career with 34 goals which still ties him third on the all-time GU list, and his 23 assists are a Gonzaga career record. Ching's 91 career points are still tied for second on the Gonzaga charts.

He is still ranked fourth (13) and seventh (10) on the single-season goals list; tied for fourth (7) and sixth (6 twice) in single-season assists, and is tied for second (33), is 8th (23) and ninth (22) on the single-season points list. His 71 shots are also a single-season record and his 168 career shots rank third.

Ching's professional career began when he was the fourth pick of the second round and the 16th pick overall by the Los Angeles Galaxy in the 2001 Major League Soccer Super Draft. He became the first Gonzaga player and the first player from his native Hawai'i selected in the MLS draft.

He played eight games for the Galaxy his rookie season, collecting one goal and one assist and made his first MLS Cup playoff appearance.

In 2002 he played for the Seattle Sounders of the USL First Division (formerly A-League) and was named to the 2002 A-League All-League Team while scoring 16 goals.

In 2003 he joined the San Jose Earthquakes and made his first Earthquakes start against Colorado, scoring his first goal in a San Jose uniform just 53 seconds into the match, but his season was cut short in August when he ruptured his right Achilles tendon and had season-ending surgery.

He returned to action in 2004 and was named to the MLS Best XI and recognized as MLS Comeback Player of the Year after being named the Earthquakes scoring champion and MVP with a career-high 12 goals and 4 assists while starting 21 of 25 appearances. He scored seven goals in 15 matches for the Earthquakes in 2005, a hamstring injury forcing him to miss 15 matches. He finished the season scoring a goal or getting an assist in six straight matches.

The Earthquakes moved to Houston and became the Dynamo for the 2006 season, and Ching responded with one of his best all-around seasons. He scored a career-high four goals in the season opener against Colorado to become the seventh player in MLS history to score four goals in a single match. His goal three weeks later was the only goal in a 1-0 win at Colorado. He was named to the U.S. World Cup team May 5 - the first Hawaiian so honored -and celebrated with a game-deciding goal the next day against FC Dallas. His impressive bicycle kick on Sept. 30 against DC was voted Goal of the Year, and the resulting 1-0 win secured a playoff spot for the Dynamo.

Ching's outstanding 2006 campaign carried over into the playoffs as he scored the series-winning goal with a header in stoppage time of the 2-0 win against Chivas USA in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals. He went on to earn MVP honors of the 2006 MLS Cup after scoring the tying goal in the 114th minute, less than one minute after New England had taken a 1-0 lead, and scoring the winning penalty kick in shootout as the Dynamo captured the title.

Injuries plagued Ching again following his 2006 MVP season, but he still managed to tie for the team lead with seven goals despite missing 10 games entirely due to injuries and national-team call-ups. He was named an MLS All-Star. He added two playoff and three international goals but sat out the MLS Cup final after straining his calf in the Western Conference final. He led Houston's comeback from a 2-0 aggregate deficit in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal against FC Dallas, setting up Stuart Holden's goal in the 67th minute and then scoring himself on a through ball in the 72nd minute to tie the series. In extra time, Ching scored from close range in the 97th minute to give Houston the lead for good.

In 2008 he established team and personal records with 13 goals in the regular season and added five assists while appearing in 25 matches. He was named winner of the Dynamo's Golden Boot award and the team's MVP award. He ranked a career-high fifth in the league in goals. The 13 goals came in an 18-match stretch.

In 2009 he won the Dynamo's Budweiser Golden Boot award for the third straight year with eight goals while adding three assists. He was once again named a MLS All-Star. He was named to MLS All-Star Game but withdrew due to fatigue. He became the seventh Dynamo player to make 100th start for the club in all competitions and assisted on Cam Weaver's game-tying goal in the 80th minute of 2-1 loss at Columbus.

In the 2009 MLS playoffs he netted a spectacular game-winning goal in the 95th minute of a 1-0 overtime win against the Seattle Sounders, swiveling to volley a shot into the left side netting for his 50th Dynamo goal in all competitions.

The 2010 season saw him shrug off injuries and the disappointment of not being named to the U.S. World Cup team to score seven goals and record 3 assists while starting 16 of 20 matches. For the fourth straight year he won the Dynamo Budweiser Golden Boot. He was also named the Dynamo's Humanitarian of the Year winner and was a finalist for league-wide MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year. His Aug. 21 bicycle kick against Chicago was named ESPNSoccernet.com MLS Goal of the Year and Dynamo Goal of the Year. He also took over as team captain following the retirement of Wade Barrett. Ching was named as a Commissioner's Pick to the MLS All-Star team for the 2010 MLS All-Star Game in Houston, and entered the match in the second half and scored with a header to cut the deficit to 2-1 in the MLS All-Star Game vs. Manchester United match-up. He netted his second career hat trick in a 4-3 win against Chicago, including a spectacular bicycle kick to give Houston a 3-1 lead and a dramatic header in the 85th minute for the match-winning goal.

Ching also has a plethora of International experience. He has 45 caps and 10 goals for the United States in international competition. In 2009 he was a regular for the U.S. national team as it qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He was set to be named to the Confederations Cup roster but missed out due to a hamstring injury, but recovered to be named to the roster for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He scored against Honduras to help the U.S. reach the Gold Cup final. In 2008 he started six matches and scored four goals and had an assist for the U.S. national team.

He was named to the U.S. roster for the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He scored goals against Trinidad and Tobago in the group stages of the Gold Cup, and started the Gold Cup championship match against Mexico at Soldier Field in Chicago. He drew a penalty kick that was converted by Landon Donovan for a match-tying goal and played all 90 minutes in the United States' 2-1 win.

He became the first Hawaiian to be named to the U.S. roster for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany but did not see any action, and in 2005 appeared in three final-round World Cup qualifiers, starting two.

Ching emerged on the national team scene in 2004 as an important forward, appearing in four matches, including three World Cup qualifiers, and scoring two goals. He made his first appearance in World Cup qualifying on Aug. 18 at Jamaica, scoring the dramatic game-tying goal in the 89th minute. He scored in the 5th minute two weeks later in his first World Cup Qualifier start Sept. 4 against El Salvador.

He made his international debut May 26, 2003, as a substitute in a friendly match against Wales at Spartan Stadium, becoming the first Hawaiian-born player to represent the United States.

The following is a look at the other seven inductees.

Sarah Noriega, Loyola Marymount University, Women's Volleyball, 1994-1997: Sarah Noriega became just the fifth volleyball player in Loyola Marymount University history to have her number retired by virtue of being an AVCA First Team All-American, a Volleyball Magazine All-American, a three-time All-West Coast Conference First Team selection and the 1997 WCC Player of the Year. She was also a three-time All-District VIII honoree and was LMU's Female Athlete of the Year for the 1997-98 school year.

Noriega was a member of three WCC Championship teams with the Lions, including their most successful season in program history in 1996, when the team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Playing opposite the setter, she led the Lions to a 26-3 overall record, a perfect 14-0 mark in conference play, and a WCC crown as a junior. She collected 496 kills and a hitting percentage of .330 that year, while also posting 49 service aces, 170 digs and 106 total blocks (23 block solos and 83 block assists).

Before returning to LMU to complete her degree in 2007, Noriega played with USA Volleyball and the U.S. National Team. Some of her highlights include being a participant at the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1995, a World Games participant and a 2000 Olympian. She still pervades the LMU career record books, ranking fifth all-time in kills (1,446), second inkill average (4.71) and third in attack percentage (.319). Noriega also still holds the NCAA record for kills in a four-set match, when she recorded 47 kills on November 7, 1997, against San Diego.

Wayne Wright, Pepperdine University, Athletic Director/Coach, 1964-1997: Wayne Wright served as the Athletic Director at Pepperdine University for 21 years (1976-1997). During his tenure, Pepperdine won seven NCAA titles in four different sports: baseball (1992), men's golf (1997), men's volleyball (1978, 1985, 1986, 1992), and men's water polo (1997). Pepperdine also won three individual NCAA titles in the sports of men's tennis (1988: singles, 1984, 1985: doubles).

While the AD at Pepperdine, the Waves won 33 conference regular-season championships (23 WCC), 41 conference tournament championships (40 WCC), and made 87 NCAA Championship appearances. Wright also started the Pepperdine Athletics Hall of Fame in 1980, instituted the "Wave Club" for the purpose of raising financial support for athletic programs, and added the sports of women's golf, women's swimming and women's soccer.

Wright served on the NCAA Council from 1991-93, helped implement an academic advising and tutorial program in 1986, raising graduation rates, and had two student-athletes as valedictorians. Before his reign, Wright was also the golf coach for four seasons and the head baseball coach for eight seasons. A three-time WCC Coach of the Year, Wright led his baseball squads to a 195-166-3 record, three WCC titles and three NCAA playoffs.

Tiffeny Milbrett, University of Portland, Women's Soccer, 1990-1992, 1994: Tiffeny Milbrett attended the University of Portland from 1990 to 1995 and left the school with various awards and NCAA records. In 1990, she was named Soccer America's Freshman Soccer Player of the Year, and in 1991, she led her team with 21 goals and six assists.

Milbrett also garnered WCC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 1992 and 1994, and was a three time NSCAA All-American as well as a three-time finalist for the Hermann Trophy and Missouri Athletic Club Award awarded to the top player in the nation. Milbrett was her university's all-time leader in goals with 103, and assists with 40. She placed second in NCAA career goals with 103, and tied for fourth in career points with 246. She was also named to Soccer America's College Team of the Decade for the 1990s.

Milbrett also had a heralded international career that saw her win both Olympic and World Cup Championships. In 1995, she was a member of the team that finished third at the World Cup in Sweden, and in 1996, was a starter for the team that won the 1996 Olympic Gold in Atlanta, scoring the game-winning goal against China in the final. In 1998, Milbrett was a member of the team that won the gold medal at the Goodwill Games, and in 1999, Milbrett became the goal leader on the USA team that won the World Cup and take home Silver in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

In 2001, Milbrett became a founding member of the New York Power in the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) where she also became the league's MVP as well as Offensive Player of the Year. In March 2009, Milbrett was selected to play with FC Gold Pride of the new Women's Professional Soccer and began play in April 2009.

Peter Thibeaux, Saint Mary's College, Men's Basketball, 1979-1983: A local player who was the first to sign a national letter of intent for first-year head coach Bill Oates in the spring of 1979, Peter Thibeaux went on to have a record-setting career on the basketball court at Saint Mary's College and remains one of the top performers in school history.

The Oakland native and Skyline High School grad lettered four years at Saint Mary's from 1980-83 and still lists among the school's best in several career statistical categories. The two-time first-team all-WCC selection scored 1,490 points in his career, which ranks sixth on the Gaels' all-time list. Thibeaux is also among the top 10 on the school's career charts for made and attempted field goals, field goal percentage, blocked shots and starts. He led the 1982 and 1983 Saint Mary's teams in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage and registered a career-high 39 points in a 1983 contest against Southern Utah.

After being drafted in the fourth round by the Golden State Warriors, Thibeaux spent the 1985 and 1986 seasons with the club, appearing in 93 games and averaging 5.0 points per game while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor.

In 1989, Thibeaux won a Continental Basketball Association (CBA) Championship with the Tulsa Fast Breakers under NBA and college coach Henry Bibby. He went on to play basketball in the European leagues, playing for Torino (Italy), Badajoz (Spain), Tours (France), and Denbosch (Holland). Thibeaux also played and coached for Kawasaki in the Japanese leagues. As Kawasaki's coach from 1993-94, the team won the Japanese championship.

John Wathan, University of San Diego, Baseball, 1968-1970: John Wathan attended the University of San Diego between 1968-70 where he played both baseball and basketball. An All-American catcher in 1970, Wathan batted .430 with 39 RBI and was named the team's Most Valuable Player. His career batting average of .347 ranks seventh all-time among USD players. He was inducted into USD's Chet and Marguerite Pagni Family Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994, and recently was named to USD's All-Decade Team for the 1960s.

Wathan was drafted out of USD as the fourth overall pick in the 1971 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals, where he spent his entire professional baseball career. Wathan played for 15 years, including 10 with the Royals from 1976 to 1985 where he played in 860 games, averaging a career .261 batting average with 21 home runs and 261 RBIs. His best season came in 1980 when he played in 126 games and had a .305 batting average.

Wathan was a member of the Royals' World Series teams in 1980 and 1985 and still owns the modern day record for stolen bases by a catcher with 36 in 1982.

After he retired, Wathan became the manager for Kansas City's AAA Omaha Royals farm club before he was named Royals manager on August 27, 1987. He managed five seasons in Kansas City, having two winning seasons in 1988 and 1989 and finishing second in the American League Western Division both times.

Wathan currently works for the Royals as a special assistant to the director of player development. He was also inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Steve Negoesco, University of San Francisco, Men's Soccer, 1947-51, 1962-2000: Steve Negoesco played soccer for the University of San Francisco from 1947-51 and served as the USF head soccer coach for 39 seasons.

As a player, Negoesco became the first All-American selected from the West Coast, in 1948. Under the direction of NSCAA Hall of Fame Coach Gus Donoghue, Negoesco helped the Dons to a co-championship in the 1950 College Soccer Bowl.

After working as a school teacher, Negoesco returned to coach at his alma mater in 1962, where he became the first Division I Coach to win 500 games and finished with 540, the second most in NCAA history. His teams made 25 NCAA tournament appearances, winning five national titles. His 1966 squad won the first ever NCAA title in school history, while his 1969 squad was the NCAA National runner-up.

From 1975 to 1980, San Francisco won four NCAA Championships (1975-76, 1978*, 1980) and posted a runner-up finish in 1977. He won 22 West Coast Conference titles, compiling 34 winning seasons and 41 NCAA Tournament wins. Negoesco's final season as San Francisco's head coach came in 2000 after 778 matches, headlined by 30 NSCAA All-American players, 27 former players that are now in the USF Hall of Fame, and seven Olympians.

He is a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF). The Dons' home field, dedicated in 1982, is named in his honor.

Dennis Awtrey, Santa Clara University, Men's Basketball, 1967-70: Dennis Awtrey spent three seasons as a rugged scorer and rebounder for three of the top winningest teams in Bronco history. Awtrey led the Broncos to NCAA appearances and finished first and second all-time in single-season scoring.

Playing in an era that did not allow freshmen to play varsity ball, Awtrey amassed 1,675 points during his three-year career to rank as Santa Clara's fifth all-time leading scorer, just 14 points behind four-year player Steve Nash.

Awtrey was named West Coast Conference Player of the Year in 1968-69 and 1969-70 and an All-American in 1970, averaging 19.9 points and a school-record 13.5 rebounds. He still ranks first all-time in scoring average (19.9 ppg), second all-time in rebounding (1,135), and fourth all-time in shooting percentage (.583) at Santa Clara. He was also selected to the Academic All-American First Team during his three seasons on the team.

A 6-10 center, Awtrey was drafted by the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers in 1970. He played in the league for 12 seasons, spending time with the 76ers, Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics, and Portland Trail Blazers. The SuperSonics won the NBA Championship in 1979.

In 2002, Awtrey was inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.