Putting Grades To The Mountaineer Athletic Seasons
As the 2017-18 athletic year winds down at West Virginia University, it seems like a good time to access the results for each of the Mountaineers’ 17 varsity programs.
Obviously this rating is completely subjective.
Here are my grades:
Baseball: C (29-27, 7th in the Big 12) After posting a 36-26 record last year (32-22 in the regular season) and earning its first NCAA Tournament berth in two decades, Randy Mazey’s club entered 2018 with high expectations. But injuries and inconsistency quickly tempered those hopes. The Mountaineers were good at home (15-8) but struggled on the road (10-15 overall and 3-9 in the Big 12). The Mountaineers made a little bit of noise again in the Big 12 Tournament this year, but it wasn’t enough to secure a second-straight NCAA Tourney berth. After so much excitement at the start of the season, more was expected. Injury took their toll on WVU’s hopes, but in the end, this season came up short.
Men’s basketball: A- (26-11, tied for 2nd in the Big 12) After making a run to a third straight Big 12 Tournament title game and a third NCAA’s Sweet 16 in the past five years, Bob Huggins’ club definitely deserves a high grade.
Women’s basketball: B- (25-12, 6th in the Big 12) Mike Carey’s program has set a standard where anything less than an NCAA Tournament berth is regarded as falling short. But considering the injuries WVU suffered this season, this year’s club maximized its potential.
Cross Country: C (4th of 10 teams in the Big 12 championship and 7th at the NCAA regionals) West Virginia has had success over the years in cross-country. This was a decent year but not a banner one.
Football: C (7-6, tied for 4th in the Big 12) The Mountaineers had an explosive offense that was often fun to watch, at least through the first 10 games. An injury to quarterback Will Grier early in game No. 11 cost WVU a chance to win at least one and probably two more games, which would have certainly changed the grade.
Golf: C- (9th of 10 teams in the Big 12 championships) In its third year of varsity competition since the program was revived after a 30-year hiatus, the Mountaineer golf team showed some signs of improvement. Still WVU has a long way to go before it is competitive in a league that features some of the nation’s best, like Oklahoma State and Texas.
Gymnastics: C- (4th of 4 teams at the Big 12 championships) Jason Butts’ squad performed fairly well in the regular season, but it stumbled badly in the postseason. Its score of 195.625 at the Big 12 championships and 194.4 at the NCAA regionals were the low team marks at each event and the lowest WVU had posted in a meet since early in the season.
Rifle: B+ (13-0 regular season, 2nd at the NCAA championships) Admittedly this is probably an unfair grade for a team that finished second in the NCAA championships, but WVU shot poorly at the end. Ten of its 13 regular season match scores would have topped Kentucky’s NCAA winning mark of 4717.
Rowing: D- (5th of 5 teams at the Big 12 championships) This squad struggled for most of the year. Against conference competition, it had just one winning boat in 10 events at the Big 12 duals, and then finished last at the recent Big 12 championships.
Women’s swimming: C+ (2nd of 5 teams at the Big 12 championships and 44th at the NCAAs) A good finish at the Big 12s, but a huge gap to the top to compete with Texas.
Men’s swimming: B (2nd of 3 teams at the Big 12 championships and 38th at the NCAAs) Didn’t have a great NCAA, but put together a strong Big 12 championship that pressured dominant power Texas, which has won the last 22 league titles and the past four NCAA championships.
Women’s Soccer: A- (16-4-3, 2nd in the Big 12) This wasn’t the best year Nikki Izzo-Brown’s team has enjoyed, but any squad that gets to the NCAA Sweet 16 deserves a high grade.
Men’s Socer: B- (9-6-4) Marlon LeBlanc’s squad enjoyed some good regular season wins. It was knocking on the door of an NCAA Tourney berth, but WVU just couldn’t quite kick it in.
Tennis: D+ (7-14, 9th in the Big 12) The squad did achieve its first-ever team victory over a Big 12 foe with a win against Iowa State. But WVU was not competitive in its nine other matches against Big 12 opponents, which included a quick ouster from the league tournament.
Track: D+ (9th of 10 at the Big 12 indoors and 9th of 10 in the Big 12 outdoors) There were several strong individual performances this year, but neither the indoor or outdoor seasons produced any noteworthy team results. WVU had just five individual qualifiers for this past weekend’s NCAA East Regional meet, and two of them (steeplechaser Amy Cashin and pole vaulter Madelin Gardner) will move on to the NCAA Championships, which will be held June 6-9 in Eugene, Ore.
Volleyball: B (21-13, 5th in the Big 12) For a program that had a failing grade just a couple years ago, coach Reed Sunahara has WVU volleyball on the rise. It was a solid 6-10 mark in the ultra-competitive Big 12 and then made a postseason run to the semifinals of the NVIT made this a nice building-block of a season.
Wrestling: D+ (6-7, 9th of 11 in the Big 12 championships) On the mat, this grade may be a bit harsh, but off it, what with the firing of head coach Sammie Henson, this was a very difficult year.