Setting the Foundation of Success
Editor's Note: The following story is part of a series highlighting the members of the 2022 Washington State Athletic Hall of Fame Class. The Hall of Fame induction will take place, Sept. 16-17, at the Washington State University campus. The induction dinner will be held Sept. 16 at Beasley Coliseum with the 2022 class also being recognized at the Washington State-Colorado State football game at Gesa Field the following day. For ticket information on the induction dinner, please click HERE
The headline of the Aug. 3, 1989, press release from the Washington State University Athletics Media Relations office was succinct:
"Soccer Newest WSU Sport"
The first sentence of the release read: "Lisa Fraser is a first at Washington State University."
The release announced Fraser as the first intercollegiate women's soccer coach at WSU.
And she had exactly one month to prepare for the season. The first game against Whitworth was scheduled for Sept. 3.
Fraser's first priority was making sure the team was prepared to face the rigors of NCAA competition.
"A lot of it was just getting them fit," Fraser said. "If your fit you can keep up with the game."
Fraser hit the ground running to establish the program and after five years at the helm, set a foundation of success that the program has built on ever since.
Nearly four decades later, Fraser returns to Pullman for induction to the Washington State Athletic Hall of Fame.
Jumping right in
Fraser, who was coming to the position from Case Western Reserve, a Division III school, leaned on players from the club program to build her team, as well as an attitude of jumping right into the challenge.
"I was so naïve coming from Division III that I think in some ways it was good; otherwise, it could feel so overwhelming," Fraser remembered. "I just came out there and did it. I look back and am amazed at times because it was a pretty big job."
A job she took on solo during that first year.
"When I started there was just me, no assistant," Fraser said. "The second year I had a graduate assistant then a full-time assistant."
In building the program, Fraser's recruiting pitch was Pullman and play.
"Immediate playing time a big one, Fraser said. "There were good players in the Spokane and Seattle area and that was something I could sell them on.
"A lot wanted to be close to home," Fraser added. "Parents can see them play. Knowing that they can be part of a program and make a difference. That's what I sold them on."
Fraser started five freshmen in the first match against Whitworth and the Cougars won, 4-1.
Many more wins would follow.
Ending the first season with a 10-6-1 mark, Fraser and the Cougars followed that season up with a 14-6 record in 1990 earning Fraser the Northwest Collegiate Soccer Conference Coach of the Year honors. In addition, the team grade point average of 3.22 was the highest among all of WSU's sports.
Milestones continued to follow for the program: The first win over Top 20 program with a triumph over Washington in 1991 and defeating No. 6 Stanford in the 1993 home opener, the program's first win over a top 10 team, which propelled the Cougars to a then program-best No. 11 ranking early in 1993 season.
The win against Stanford stands out for Fraser, especially the play of goalkeeper Natalie McDowell who had 12 saves. She was quoted in the Daily Evergreen recap that "Natalie played the best game of her life."
Over three decades later, Fraser has the same recollection.
"She had one of her best games ever," Fraser said. "Looking back the whole team had a really good game."
In all, Fraser led WSU to five-straight winning seasons, compiling a 52-31-7 overall record.
With 2022 marking the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Fraser has also witnessed how the growth of women's sports has evolved since her time at WSU.
"I was just going into high school when Title IX passed," Fraser said. "I'm being honored for all who came before me.
"For me, this honor really goes out to all the players who came and created this program," Fraser continued. "They set the standard for this program and they are the reason I feel this program has done so well. They set the bar."
Fraser built a foundation for a program that has been a perennial participant in the NCAA postseason, including a run to the College Cup in 2019.
She takes pride in the program's accomplishments throughout the year and continues to follow its successes. In fact, she and her past players made sure to witness the Cougars at the College Cup in San Jose in person.
"We had such a wonderful time, and we were so proud of them," Fraser said. "It was a really fun. We all feel very proud of this program."
And Fraser is proud to be a Cougar.
"I loved being a Cougar and loved Washington State and the feeling of a family," Fraser said. "That's what Washington State had to offer compared to big schools. It was a great family to be part of."