Monday December 28th, 2015

From feats on the field to broken barriers on the sidelines, 2015 was a momentous year for women in sports. 

Apart from their resounding accomplishments in competition, women including Serena Williams, Becky Hammon, Jen Welter and several others had even greater cultural significance in 2015, as they represented the ascendance of females in the mainstream sporting landscape.

Relive 10 of the best moments from a groundbreaking year for women in sports.

Serena Williams is Sports Illustrated's 2015 Sportsperson of the Year

February: Royal and Ancient Club announces first female members

After 260 years of male-only acceptance into the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland, seven women were at long last admitted for honorary membership in February. The Club’s members voted by an 85% majority in September 2014 to admit its inaugural female members, including 10-time major champion Annika Sorenstam, Britain’s Princess Anne, Laura Davies and Belle Roberton, France’s Lally Segard and American golf pioneers Renee Powell and Louise Suggs.

April: Sarah Thomas becomes NFL’s first full-time female official

Sarah Thomas was hired in April as the NFL’s first full-time female official. Thomas, who in 2009 became the first woman to officiate a college bowl game, was hired by the league as a line judge for the 2015–16 season.

In October, Thomas once again appeared in the spotlight when she was praised on social media for her correct call on the goal line regarding Le’Veon Bell’s game-winning touchdown on Monday Night Football, thus stirring a national conversation about sexism in sports.

May: FIFA 16 adds women’s teams

EA Sports announced in May that female soccer players would be featured in a FIFA video game for the first time in the series’ more than 20-year history. FIFA 16, which was released in September, features the world’s best women’s national teams: USA, England, China, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Australia and Sweden. 

July: USWNT captures World Cup

Behind Carli Lloyd’s hat trick, the United States women’s national soccer team routed Japan 5–2 in July to capture its third World Cup title, and first since 1999. Lloyd won the tournament’s Golden Ball Award as its top performer, and U.S. goalie Hope Solo was given the Golden Glove Award as the World Cup’s best keeper.

Lloyd netted six goals in the U.S.’s seven World Cup matches to lead her team, while Solo allowed just three scores during the tournament, as part of an American defense that set a Women's World Cup record by holding its opponents scoreless for 540 minutes.

GALLERY: SI’s World Cup Covers

July: Serena Williams wins third Grand Slam singles title of the year at Wimbledon

Serena Williams defeated Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in July to win her sixth Wimbledon and 21st Grand Slam singles title, which currently ranks second in the Open Era behind Steffi Graf’s 22. The victory gave Williams her third Grand Slam singles title of the year.

Following her prolific 2015 campaign, Williams was named SI’s 2015 Sportsperson of the YearWith the honor, she became the 10th female recipient of the award since its inception in 1954, and the first female sole recipient since Mary Decker in ’83. 

Williams finishes 2015 ranked No. 1 in the world, which is a distinction she held for the entire season for the second straight year.

July: Becky Hammon leads Spurs to Summer League championship

Former WNBA star turned San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon made history in July when she became the first female head coach of an NBA Summer League team. Under her tutelage, the Spurs went 6–1 in Las Vegas to capture the 2015 Summer League title.

In 2014, Hammon was named the first full-time female assistant coach in the history of all four major American professional sports leagues.​

July: Arizona Cardinals hire Jen Welter as NFL’s first female coach

Prior to the 2015–16 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter as a coaching intern for the duration of training camp and the preseason, thus granting her the title of the NFL’s first female coach.

Welter, who holds a master’s degree in sports psychology and a PhD in psychology, is a former collegiate rugby and women’s professional football player. She worked with Arizona’s linebackers during her internship with the team leading up to the start of the regular season. 

October: Jessica Mendoza broadcasts postseason MLB game

Olympic softball player Jessica Mendoza became the first woman to broadcast a nationally televised postseason MLB game, when she did so for the AL wild-card matchup between the Yankees and Astros in October. Mendoza was also the first woman in the booth for an ESPN MLB broadcast, when she served as an analyst for a game between the Diamondbacks and Cardinals in August.

The four-time All-America softball player at Stanford became a mainstay on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball in September after replacing Curt Schilling in the booth during his suspension.

October: NWHL debuts

In October, the puck dropped on the National Women’s Hockey League, the first American women’s professional hockey league to pay its players. Originally formed in March, the NWHL consists of four teams for the 2015–16 season—the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters.

Prior to the NWHL’s existence, the only professional option for elite female hockey players in North America was the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which did not compensate its players. The NWHL is paying its players an average salary of $15,000 in its inaugural season.

November: Holly Holm defeats Ronda Rousey at UFC 193

In one of the most shocking losses in sports this year, Holly Holm stunned Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia to claim the women’s bantamweight title. Holm, who gave her opponent the first loss of her career, shockingly knocked Rousey out in the second round of the fight.

UFC president Dana White announced earlier this month that Holm and Rousey are projected to rematch at UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas. 

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