With another Virginia sports year in the books, it’s time to take a final look back at one of the most successful Cavalier years ever. UVa finished fourth in the Director’s Cup, the men’s basketball team experienced a resurgence, and several teams made Final Four runs. Simply put, it was good to be a Wahoo in 2013-2014.
Here are the top moments from the year in a surely to be debated top 25 order.
In one of the most shocking results of the year, the UVa softball team knocked off then-No. 9 FSU, a club that went on to the Women’s College World Series. A walk-off home run by senior Marcy Bowdren decided the outcome after the Hoos rallied from an 8-2 deficit. Virginia won just eight games all season so to defeat a top 10 team and the eventual ACC Champion in a game that USA Softball National Player of the Year Lacey Waldrop started has to be considered one of the league’s biggest upsets this year.
The Virginia field hockey spent the year ranked in the top 10, but didn’t crack the top 25 on this list – that shows you want kind of year it was for the Hoos. The team’s double overtime win against Boston College in a No. 5 vs. No. 6 showdown provided some drama in the fall as the Cavaliers prevailed 1-0 in Charlottesville.
A team on the rise, the UVa volleyball squad’s big moment last fall came in late October. The Cavaliers snapped a nine-match losing streak to Virginia Tech with a victory in Blacksburg and that jumpstarted a four-match winning streak in ACC play.
Junior diver JB Kolod etched his name in to the UVa record books with the highest NCAA finish in school history in March. He became the first Cavalier diver to qualify for a championship final at the national meet before finishing seventh in the 3-meter diving event. He’s also the first Wahoo to earn multiple All-America honors.
Freshman Filip Mihaljevic immediately made an impact at Virginia, earning the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Men’s Freshman of the Year honor this spring. Mihaljevic became the first Virginia male athlete to compete in two individual events at the same NCAA Outdoor Championship, qualifying in the shot put and discus. He earned All-American recognition in both with top eight finishes, which included a school record throw in the shot put.
Both Virginia cross country teams posted their highest NCAA finish in years with strong runs in November. The Cavalier women snared a top 10 spot with a ninth place finish that represented the program’s best in 12 years. The men, meanwhile, came home 13th at the NCAA meet for that team’s best finish in six years.
That’s not a bad six pack at all, which says a lot about the upcoming 25. Go Hoos go!
The Top 25
25. A Pair of ACC Titles
While the team performance wasn’t what UVa had hoped for (third place), a pair of wrestlers brought home ACC titles. Sophomore Blaise Butler clamed the title at 157 pounds, while junior Nick Sulzer prevailed at 165 pounds. Sulzer followed that up with a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships, becoming just the second Cavalier ever with multiple All-American seasons. He’ll have a chance to match three-time All-American Chris Henrich next season.
24. Two-Time MVP
For the first time in Virginia history, Jordan Lavender earned the MVP award at the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championship . She won the 400-meter title with a time of 52.75 seconds. Lavender also took second in the 200-meter event with a time of 23.96, just .02 off her own school record time.
During the outdoor season, she earned the MVP honor again by defending her 2013 400-meter title in a time of 52.48, the second fastest time in school history. She also finished second in the 200 at the outdoor meet. Lavender is the first Cavalier woman to win the same event indoors and outdoors in the same year since Kelly Bodiford in the shot put in 1991.
23. Consistency Continues
The UVa women’s golf program has a relatively short history, but in 11 years on the scene it has been consistent. The Cavaliers finished second at the ACC Championships this spring to Duke (winners in 19 of 26 conference title events) and then backed that up with a trip to the NCAA Championships. Virginia has advanced out of the regional stage seven times in 11 years. The Hoos shot the program’s lowest ever NCAA regional round at 5-under par in the opening round of the qualifying stage.
22. Bye Bye BYU
A passing thunderstorm delayed the Virginia football team’s opener with BYU for two hours, but the Hoos made it worth the wait when they pulled out a 19-16 win with rain still falling in the second half. David Watford hit Darius Jennings for an 11-yard touchdown pass when the precipitation was at its heaviest. Still, the Cavaliers trailed in the final five minutes before Anthony Harris snared an interception that set up the game-winning run from Kevin Parks. Harris went on to post eight INTs, the most in the nation and the most since Ronde Barber led the ACC in 1994. Unfortunately, the rest of the season unraveled and the Wahoos won just once more.
21. Back-To-Back Upsets
The Virginia women’s basketball team won 14 games this season, but a pair of back-to-back upsets were among the highlights of the year. The first of the two victories was a mild upset as the Hoos defeated then-No. 17 Florida State in Charlottesville. Faith Randolph poured in 26 points as UVa took the 85-68 win. Just four days later, the Wahoos were at it again and this time it was a huge surprise. The Cavaliers shocked then-No. 6 Maryland, 86-72. The Terps went on to win 28 games and earned a Final Four berth, but Kelsey Wolfe’s 24 points propelled the Hoos past Maryland in the final ACC meeting between the two schools.
20. Nifty 50
In a matchup of top 10 teams and an at-large NCAA Tournament berth possibly on the line for the men’s lacrosse team, No. 8 Virginia defeated No. 6 North Carolina, 13-11. Senior Mark Cockerton carried the load in the victory with four goals and three assists. It marked the Cavaliers’ 50th all-time over the Tar Heels, the most all time against any opponent. It also stopped a four-game losing streak to UNC and, as mentioned above, probably tipped the selection scales in Virginia’s favor for the NCAA Tournament.
19. McCarthy’s Third Straight
With so many teams and individuals excelling at Virginia, it is hard to crack the top 20 even when you’ve been to three straight NCAA Championships like golfer Denny McCarthy. For the second straight time, McCarthy had to play his way into the final event as an individual. After doing that in the regional round, he made the most of the opportunity in Kansas by finishing sixth, the second highest finish ever for an individual Cavalier. McCarthy also took home second place in the ACC Championships.
18. Perfect Preserved
The UVa women’s soccer team spent most of the 2013 season ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Hoos, in fact, ended the regular season undefeated. To reach that perfect mark, however, they had to survive a top 5 meeting with then-No. 3 Florida State in a showdown of undefeated teams. Fittingly for such a high quality battle, the game went to overtime before Virginia prevailed 1-0. A school record 3,894 fans flocked to Klockner Stadium to see Annie Steinlage’s game-winning goal in the 91st minute. Prior to that goal, Makenzy Doniak hit the post and UVa owned 13-1 shot advantage. The victory gave the Wahoos their first ever regular season ACC Championship.
17. PK Glory
Not to be outdone in the drama category, the men’s soccer team posted a thrilling victory against a high caliber opponent too when the Hoos took down Notre Dame in penalty kicks at the ACC Tournament. The Fighting Irish went on to win the National Championship, but they couldn’t hold off a furious rally from the Cavaliers in the conference tournament. The Hoos trailed 3-1 in the second half, but Riggs Lennon and Marcus Salandy-Defour scored two goals in two minutes to force overtime. When the contest arrived at penalty kicks, UVa made its final four attempts while keeper Calle Brown turned away back-to-back Irish offerings.
This contest was so interesting that it sparked an offseason blog post recently from Oliver Gage, who works with the UVa team on performance analysis.
16. Fourteen Time Champs
As successful as teams around Grounds are each year, one of the most consistent performers is the women’s rowing team. The Cavaliers brought home their fifth straight ACC Championship this spring and their 14th title in 15 conference regattas. They did it in dominating fashion too. UVa swept all four races and all the major honors with the Varsity Eight (crew of the year), Georgia Ratcliff (freshman of the year), and Kevin Sauer (coach of the year) all grabbing awards. The Varsity Eight won its race by six full seconds. The Cavaliers went on to finish fifth in the NCAA Championships as well.
15. Lucky Seven
Speaking of consistency, the women’s swimming and diving team kept its streak going despite a head coaching change. The Hoos won their seventh straight ACC title, which set a new conference record in the process. No team had won seven in a row previously. The Hoos took home the crown by more than 200 points with Courtney Bartholomew among the fast times on the sheet. She set a new ACC record in the 200-meter backstroke in a time of 1:52.37. Virginia has won 12 titles overall.
14. Eight Straight
The men’s tennis team kept its streak going as well this spring. UVa won its eighth straight ACC Championship with a 4-0 win against North Carolina. The Cavaliers have won 10 of the past 11 ACC titles. This season marked the third time during those 10 championship runs that the Hoos won the final match 4-0. Senior Alex Domijan claimed MVP honors for the Wahoos; he won 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 singles in the final round.
13. A Late Run
The Virginia women’s lacrosse team got hot at the right time and made an unexpected run to the Final Four as a result. The Wahoos defeated UNC 10-9 in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals to earn a spot for the final weekend of competition. Casey Bocklet had two goals and three assists in that contest against the Tar Heels. UVa finished 12-9 on the season with a 3-4 ACC record that included a 14-10 loss to Carolina earlier in the year, but back-to-back wins clinched a Final Four spot for the team.
12. Cup Surge
Men’s soccer was another team that made a late season run to the Final Four. UVa defeated UConn 2-1 in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals to earn its spot in the College Cup. Ryan Zinkhan and Jordan Allen scored the two goals in the victory. That represented the 11th trip to the College Cup for the program. After starting the season with three losses in the first month, Virginia rattled off an 11-match unbeaten string with seven wins and four ties. That eventually helped the squad to an overall record of 13-6-5, which included an appearance in the ACC Tournament title contest and three wins in the NCAA Tournament.
11. Another NCAA Run
April always brings taxes and it seems like May always brings an NCAA Tournament run from the men’s tennis team. With a 4-0 win against Baylor, the Hoos made their fifth straight trip to the Final Four. While nemesis Southern Cal ended the season at 27-3 for the Cavaliers, it was another outstanding year for Brian Boland’s bunch. UVa picked up some off-the-court recognition too. Senior Alex Domijan won the ITA/Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award and associate head coach Andres Pedroso was named the ITA Assistant Coach of the Year. Plus, Mitchell Frank was named the ACC Men’s Tennis Scholar Athlete of the Year.
10. No Hitter
With spots No. 11-15 earning either ACC titles or Final Four trips, you had to do something big to get into the top 10! Look no further than Nathan Kirby’s performance on April 5 to find something big. Kirby threw a no-hitter for the baseball team at Pitt that day as he struck out 18 batters. Those 18 strikeouts came up just one short of the ACC and school record (Harry Thomas had 19 for UVa back in 1974 to tie two other for the conference mark). Kirby went on to a 9-3 record and earned ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year recognition.
9. Sustained Brilliance
Simply put, Morgan Brian was masterful. As a result, Brian was named the Women’s Player of the Year by Soccer America and TopDrawerSoccer.com and she won the Hermann Trophy, the most prestigious individual honor in collegiate soccer. She is the first national player of the year in program history. You’d be hard-pressed to find any arguments for all the recognition. Brian posted 16 goals and 14 assists for the Cavaliers this season and scored her first international goal against Mexico on Sept. 3 with the US National Team.
8. Undefeated Regular Season, College Cup
With Morgan Brian setting the tone and the likes of Makenzy Doniak, Emily Sonnett, and others bringing it game after game after game, the women’s soccer team put together one of the most special seasons in school history. The Cavaliers finished 19-0 in the regular season with a 2-0 win against in-state rival Virginia Tech as the clincher. After a disappointing loss in the ACC Tournament, the team showed its resolve with a run to the College Cup in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers defeated Michigan 2-1 to reach the Final Four. Brian, Doniak, and Sonnett are among the headliners back in action this fall at Virginia, but repeating the regular season magic of 2014 will be a tall order.
7. First ACC Title
While several teams on this list extended ACC Championship streaks, the women’s tennis team climbed the mountain for the first time to jump into the top 10. The Cavaliers shared the regular season crown, but captured their first tournament title with a 4-2 win against Duke. That set a new school record for wins. The total eventually grew to a 24-6 record and the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals appearance when UVa defeated Baylor 4-1.
Assistant coach Troy Porco was named the ITA Assistant Coach of the Year, while ACC Championship Most Valuable Player honors went to Danielle Collins. Collins was also All-ACC with Julia Elbaba, Stephanie Nauta , and freshman Rachel Pierson. But none of that was even the biggest accomplishment of the season for Collins …
6. National Champion
So how did Danielle Collins top her ACC success? By winning the NCAA Singles Championship! Collins became the first Cavalier women’s player to ever win the national title when she ripped through the brackets at the University of Georgia in May. Collins defeated five top 30 players en route to the title, including No. 2 Robin Anderson of UCLA, No. 7 Hayley Carter of North Carolina, and No. 24 Lynn Chi of Cal in the title match. She dropped just one set along the way in a truly dominating performance.
5. Good Bye Maryland!
The top five is populated by the biggest highlights of the Virginia sports year. Things begin with an end.
The Virginia baseball team faced Maryland in the NCAA Tournament Super Regional round with a trip to the College World Series on the line. It marked the final meeting between the two schools in any sport as ACC foes. In other words, there was a lot on the line in terms of historical significance and a lot on the line in terms of this single season’s success. The Cavaliers fell behind in the best-of-three series when the Terps won game one, 5-4. But they didn’t panic. Virginia won the next two games: 7-3 in game two and a leave-no-doubt 11-2 romp in game three.
That victory left a lot of happy Hoos who didn’t want to hear from Maryland fans forever about how the school won on its way out the ACC door. More importantly for the baseball program, however, it marked the third appearance in the College World Series in the last six years. The best – and eventually the hardest moment too – was yet to come.
4. The All Sports Record
With two spots already in the top 25 countdown, the men’s tennis team cracked the top five thanks to its continued conference dominance. In fact, the Cavaliers’ 2014 season helped the program reach unprecedented levels in the history of the ACC.
When UVa defeated Wake Forest 7-0 on April 13 – Thomas Jefferson’s birthday! – that set a new ACC record for consecutive victories against conference competition. It marked Virginia’s 117th straight win against the ACC, which broke the record previously held by the Duke women’s tennis team. UVa hasn’t lost an ACC match since the ACC Tournament final in 2006 (4-3 to Duke). The record now stands at 122 straight wins.
“It is something that is hard to believe in terms of the consistency that this program has had recently,” said coach Brian Boland. “We have so much respect for the Atlantic Coast Conference and there are a lot of really good teams in this league. We are humbled and honored to reach this milestone. I can’t say enough positive things about the former and current players who have been a part of this run and how their dedication and passion for this program has allowed us to accomplish this feat.”
3. The CWS Final Series
After earning a spot in Omaha, the baseball team didn’t rest on its laurels. The Cavaliers opened with a 2-1 walk-off win against Ole Miss when Mike Papi drilled a two-out double to right center field. The excitement continued with a 3-2 win against TCU in 15 innings, which tied the CWS record for the longest game by innings played. Daniel Pinero delivered the walk-off drama this time with a sacrifice fly. UVa advanced to its first ever final series with a 4-1 win against Ole Miss.
The thrilling ride lasted until a winner-take-all game three against Vanderbilt. On college baseball’s biggest stage, Vandy escaped with a 3-2 win to take the title. Still, Virginia’s baseball program took the next step and proved that a National Championship is possible for Brian O’Connor’s Hoos.
“Unfortunately in sports, somebody’s going to come out on the wrong end, and we came out on the wrong end tonight,” O’Connor said. “But I can tell you, I’m so proud of every member of this team, of every coach. We had a special season, and it’s unfortunate how it ended, but we played a great ball game and the competition was good. The University of Virginia baseball program will be back here in Omaha at some point, and maybe the next time we can win it all.”
2. The Real Orange
After a ho-hum non-conference season ended with a lopsided loss at Tennessee, it took Virginia fans a while to truly believe in Tony Bennett’s crew. By the time March 1 rolled around, however, the belief had reached a fever pitch. So when Syracuse walked into the John Paul Jones Arena that afternoon, Cavalier fans weren’t just hopeful, they were downright confident. Just ask anyone in the building that day what it felt like before tipoff, during the see-saw first 25 minutes, and for the final 15 glorious minutes. There was no doubt for Hoo fans who the best orange team was and who was the best team in the ACC. None.
The team, of course, had to back that up. And the Wahoos did that in convincing fashion! In what already had been coined a ‘Cavalanche’ by that point in the season, UVa suffocated Syracuse late en route to a 75-56 win. Justin Anderson and London Perrantes hit some key second-half 3-pointers and Malcolm Brogdon owned the zone with a career-best 19 points. Senior Thomas Rogers put an exclamation point on the big day by nailing a 3-pointer with 25 seconds to go that sent the bench into hysterics and the building into a frenzy. It was just a truly amazing experience for Virginia fans.
The win gave Virginia its first outright ACC Regular Season Championship since 1981.
“One of the main reasons why I came, and I know Akil [Mitchell] came here, is that we wanted to be the foundation for Coach Bennett’s program, turning this thing around and getting it back to what it used to be. For us to go out this way, with the ACC [regular-season title], is unreal. I can’t even describe the feeling,” senior Joe Harris said.
The Hoos weren’t done, though.
1. Spirit Of ’76
After winning the regular season title by at least two games over the rest of the field, the Cavaliers wanted to sweep the hardware in Greensboro. Little did they know, they’d basically have homecourt advantage in North Carolina as Hoo fans traveled in droves to support the effort. By the time the title game rolled around against Greensboro darling Duke, however, the tables figured to turn … only they didn’t. Virginia fans drowned out the Blue Devils while the team frustrated Duke on the floor. In the end, UVa checked the last team off the list 72-63 – Duke was the only ACC team that the Wahoos didn’t defeat en route to the regular season title.
The contributions, as they had been all season, were widespread. Much like the Syracuse game, Malcolm Brogdon turned in a virtuoso performance with a new career high of 23 points. Anthony Gill paraded to the free throw line and scored 12 points. Joe Harris took home tournament MVP honors with 15 points that included a dagger 3-pointer in the final two minutes. And Akil Mitchell hounded Jabari Parker, eventually the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft, all day long on defense.
By the time confetti fell all around the Greensboro Coliseum, reality sunk in that the impossible had just happened. After all, some Hoo fans wondered if Virginia would ever win another ACC Tournament Championship after the 1976 Miracle in Landover. Even the Ralph Sampson years didn’t bring that ultimate prize. Yet, this group swept the hardware and beat vaunted Duke to do it.
While the team earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, made a Sweet Sixteen run to Madison Square Garden, and celebrated in front of another heavy Hoo crowd in Raleigh along the way, this was the defining moment of the Cavalier sports year. The joy was palpable. All around the building, Wahoos stayed and soaked it all in. They’re still talking about it now months later. And they will for years to come. That’s an easy No. 1.