When I was at The University, all I could think about was how I could hardly wait until I got a real job so I didn’t have to take exams. Eleven years into my chosen profession, I call that into question. Nevertheless, today marks day 1 of spring exams and the biannual athletics break for Virginia sports. Some teams are on a serious roll right now and others, well, hope to jump straight to summer to start rebuilding. As my longing to give out grades continue, let’s catch up with the Spring sports as they set to finish off the year.
Men’s Tennis (24-0, 10-0 ACC); Grade: A+
I have a huge thorn in my side about this one, but it’s not at all directed at UVa. Virginia has done everything asked this season. Win the ITA Indoors for a 5th time in 6 years while defeating #1 USC, check. Go on the road to Top 20 competition, check. Run the table in the ACC racking up over 100 straight conference victories, check. Be the #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, NOT CHECK! Somehow, someway, UCLA at 24-1, whose only loss was to USC in the ITA semis got the top seed. Granted, in the long run of things, it won’t matter too much, but that is a slap in the face from the NCAA, who might be on a power trip to separate themselves from the ITA. Bad blood aside, the draw sets up for UVa nicely: home against Fairleigh Dickenson and Minny/VCU, #15 Florida, #7 Tennessee, #3 Georgia, and UCLA/USC on the other side of the bracket. If any team has the mojo working for them this year, it is the tennis team seeking out their first NCAA title.
Baseball (39-8, 17-7 ACC); Grade: A
Yes, Virginia fans have become accustom to UVa Baseball preforming well. Probably not even well, but excellent. But there wasn’t many people in the country that would have thought that Brian O’Connor would have put together a team that has a legitimate shot at the College World Series for the 3rd time in 5 years. The swelling of 2nd years taking over for graduating and MLB draftees has been tremendous and they are mixing up their small ball mentality with some power as well. Pitching was the real question coming in, and while the weekend starters of Waddell, Silverstein, and Howard all have ERAs above 3, the middle and late relief pitchers have been stellar. We talk about Kyle Crockett and his 0.93 ERA, 47 Ks to only 3 BBs, but Austin Young has been super clutch recently, dropping his ERA to 0.96 while fanning 29. Rooking David Rosenberger (aka Rookie of the Year’s ‘Gardenhoser’) also supports an ERA below 1 and Whit Mayberry has been consistent as ever. Virginia is currently 5-7th in the nation and well in the national seed (Top 8 teams in the country) talk. They must first get through series with Duke and #1 UNC, before hitting the ACC tournament, where no less than 5 other Top 25 teams will play in. Navigate that with minor damage and the Hoos will be at home presumably til Omaha.
Women’s Golf; Grade: A
Virginia Women’s Golf is as strong as ever, and with 2 4th place NCAA finishes the last 2 seasons, it speaks well as to their staying power. Brittany Altomare became the first UVa player to win the ACC Women’s Golf Individual title, and the Hoos finished 3rd in the ACC. Incidentally, that 3rd place finish was higher than the previous 2 years. Just saying. They are 12th in the nation and seeded 5th in next weekend’s NCAA East Regionals, which should give them a strong shot at making the Finals yet again.
Rowing; Grade: B+
Rowing is coming off another National Championship, which already puts expectations high. Now they had a little setback last month in the San Diego Crew Classic and dropped out of the top spot to 4th. Despite that outcome, they have charged back in the Clemson and UVa Invitationals and will host the ACC Championships at home before setting off to Indy for the NCAAs.
Men’s Golf; Grade: B
The Hoos lost a lot of fire power from their team a year ago that finished 2nd in the ACC, saw Ben Rusch win the conference individual championship, the first Wahoo since 1955, and Ben Kohles burst onto the PGA scene. This year the team is comprised of only 1 4th year, 1 3rd year, and the rest 2nd and 1st years. They finished 6th in the ACC this year, which should be enough to have their named called on May 6th for regional play.
Women’s Tennis (17-9, 9-2 ACC); Grade: B
Another solid season for the Women, who are trying to go to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for a record 3rd year in a row. While they have been playing better in conference this year, they really beefed up their non-conference slate as well, which shows a more humbling overall record. They made it to the ACC Semis before dropping a 4-3 decision to Florida State, but still remained very high in the national rankings. They will be seeded 14th in the upcoming NCAAs and will be at home for the first two rounds against Fairleigh Dickenson and W&M/Texas.
Women’s Lacrosse (9-9, 1-4 ACC); Grade: B-
It is difficult to knock on the Women’s Lacrosse team too much. They are in the hardest conference in the NCAA and play one of the toughest non-conference slate out there. Surviving and still be at .500 is a feat upon itself. Still, with 3 of their first 4 losses coming by a single goal, the Hoos would really like a few do overs in there. It will be a close call come NCAA tournament time, but it looks like with their 9-9 record and Top RPI ranking, they should get an at large bid, but we won’t know until May 5th.
Softball (21-27, 4-17 ACC); Grade: C-
The Hoos are at a serious crossroads this season. Another less than stellar season, finishing 7th in the 8-team ACC, has caused a few murmurs around The Park as to whether it might be time to switch things up. Virginia’s ace pitcher Melanie Mitchell is graduation and only one Cavalier, Marcy Bowdren, has hit over .300 this season. It is hard pressed to see them move past the Semifinals in the conference tourney, which means that for a 3rd straight year, Virginia will not make the NCAAs. It will be a long offseason for the Hoos again.
Men’s Lacrosse (7-8, 0-3 ACC); Grade: D
This was, by far, the most surprising season in over a decade for the Men’s Lacrosse team. Many viewed the 2012 season as the rebuilding year coming of a National Championship, but things only went south from there. After an overtime win at home to then-unranked Drexel, that should have tipped most off that this was going to be a long year. Their record looked strong against some weaker opponents to start the year, but as soon as their “murderers’ row” stretch came around, they could not keep up with anyone. They finished 6-7 after the regular season and had a real chance to make the NCAA if they could knock off Maryland and UNC in the ACCs. Well the Maryland win happened, but #1 UNC was too much. The Hoos will not be making the lax tourney for the first time since 2004 and a ton of question still swill around Charlottesville as to the direction of this team. They are going to be young for a couple of years, which begs the question will Starsia survive this transitional period?