What A Year It Was
By Greg Hunter
Before we move on to the 2017-18 athletic year, I wanted to take a final look back on the year that was.
It certainly was a memorable year for the Mountaineer athletic department. Trying to narrow the year that was down to the top 10 stories was not an easy task, and I’m sure my list won’t match everyone else’s. Still, here are my top 10 stories for WVU’s 2016-17 athletic year.
1 – Ginny Thrasher wins Olympic gold in Rio. The WVU freshman became just the fifth Mountaineer athlete all time to win a gold medal in the Olympics, and the first to do so as an active student. Thrasher swept the two NCAA individual titles as a freshman in the spring of 2016 and followed that up by capturing the 10-meter air rifle competition in the Rio Olympics in August.
2 – Besides winning its fifth straight Big 12 regular season title, the Mountaineer women’s soccer team, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the season, made a run all the way to the College Cup championship game. The fun stopped there with a 3-1 loss to USC, but West Virginia still finished No. 2 in the country with a 23-2-2 record.
3 – Dana Holgorsen’s expiring contract was a huge story throughout much of the 2016 football season. But when WVU posted a 10-2 regular season, the Mountaineer head coach was rewarded with a five-year, $18.6 million extension.
4 – For the fourth time in Bob Huggins’ 10 seasons as West Virginia’s men’s basketball coach, the Mountaineers made an NCAA Tournament run to the Sweet 16. WVU’s Dance ended in San Jose, when Gonzaga overcame a late West Virginia lead to score a 61-58 victory en route to the Zags’ sprint to the NCAA title game.
5 – West Virginia’s rifle team has made NCAA championships so commonplace that the fifth straight by Jon Hammond’s squad, and 19th overall in program history, earned it just fifth place on this list.
6 – Renovations here, there and everywhere. Both the WVU Coliseum and Mountaineer Field featured major facelifts. Much of the work was finished last year but some is still ongoing.
7 – For just the ninth time in West Virginia football history, the Mountaineers reached double digits in terms of victories. WVU finished with a 10-3 record and a Russell Athletic Bowl berth.
8 – For the first since 2010, someone other than Baylor captured the Big 12 women’s basketball tournament title. Mike Carey’s Mountaineers trounced the top-seeded Bears, 77-66, in the championship game in OKC.
9 – West Virginia’s baseball program ended a 21-year NCAA Tournament drought. Overcoming injuries along the way, Randy Mazey’s club finished with a 36-26 record and earned the program’s first-ever at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.
10 – Led by junior guard Jevon Carter, college basketball’s national defensive player of the year, West Virginia’s men’s basketball team took down two No. 1 rated squads this season, thrashing Baylor 89-68 on Jan. 10 and then doing the same to Kansas, 85-69, two weeks later.
I’d be interested to see your list. Go to our forums and give me your top 10.
This story was part of the recent issue of the Blue & Gold News. You can purchase a subscription to the Blue & Gold News magazine and the website, BlueGoldNews.com, at https://bluegoldnews.com/membership-account/membership-levels/