For the past several years when our fall and winter sports had not been up to par, the spring athletic teams have been looked upon to provide the magic and spark that UVa fans look for. More importantly, they are looked upon to provide wins and National Championships. First things first, we have some posturing to do, and this week saw some teams take care of business.
Monkey Off The Back
UNC. Maryland. Chokies. Rivals are abundant throughout the Mid-Atlantic and the ACC for UVa in a variety of sports. But 4 years ago, no one would have guessed that a team from the west coast would be our mortal enemy. That is just the case with the USC Trojans. Virginia Men’s Tennis have won 4 ITA National Indoor Championships, the de facto Winter National Title, but they ran into a Trojan buzz saw in the NCAA Championships, largely in part to USC. Last year, the Hoos were blanked from both big tourneys and the LA Gladiators pushed them out of the finals for a second straight year. Virginia knew if they are going to win another championship, they would have to figure out the Trojans. On Monday, February 18th, 2013, they slayed the giant. #1 Virginia’s 4-2 win over #2 USC was a huge step towards that national title. The Hoos won the double’s point from the 2nd and 3rd teams, then got wins from Domijan at 2, Jenkins at 1, and finally Frank at 3 to put the nail in the coffin. Next up for Virginia is the outdoor non-conference slate against Oklahoma next week before heading to Texas for 3 with Baylor, Texas A&M, and Texas.
The Dominance Continues
After Day 1, it wasn’t going to be if they would win, but by how much. With UNC reloading, the Virginia Women’s Swimming and Diving team used their balanced dominance to lap the field en route to their 6th straight ACC Championship. The Hoos finished with 832, while VT finished second at 536, followed by UNC with 508. The interesting thing about this Cavalier team is that there is only one 4th year on the scoring teams, US Gold Medalist Lauren Perdue. Next up for Virginia are the NCAA Championships. While they are not the favorites going in, they are certainly poised for another Top 10 finish this year.
It was the first chance to see the weekend starters at home for the Baseball team, and boy did we learn a lot. The name you need to know is Brandon Waddell, and it was evident after his Friday start why Oak has him throwing in both Game 1s this season. Waddell got his first win of the season with 6 shutout innings, 1 walk, and 15 strikeouts in Virginia’s 15-0 win. Yes, fifteen strikeouts, 1-5. He is not the dominating power pitchers as some of the 1st years are, but he has nasty breaking and change-up pitches that fool hitters. Offensively, the Hoos were clicking, scoring runs in each of the first 6 innings, including a 7 run 4th that pushed the score to 11-0. Game 2 saw a great pitching duel between seniors Scott Silverstein and Kyle Shaw as they both went 5 innings pitching shut out ball, before the Hoos broke the tie in the 6th off of a Kenny Towns triple. Downes came up in the 8th and launched a 3 run homer to extend the lead and Whit Mayberry took it from there, picking up the save in a 5-0 Hoos victory. Game 3 was a lot more interesting. Nick Howard pitched 4 scoreless innings, but saw runners on the bases pretty much all day. Virginia took a 4-0 lead, but then Nathan Kirby came in and allowed 3 runs on 3 hits to make the score 4-3. Virginia worked magic out of the bullpen with Austin Young and Josh Sborz coming into jams and pitching out of them leaving 4 Rockets on the base paths. Reed Gragnani and Nate Irving pushed runs across in the 8th to give the insurance runs the Hoos needed and Virginia prevailed 6-3. Next up for Virginia is George Washington on Tuesday who have not won this season yet and were just swept by USC Upstate this weekend. Next weekend is the famous 3-team, 4-game round robin mini-tourney with Harvard and Bucknell.
The Game Before The Game
The only way the Duke basketball game was going to matter for the Hoos was if they could take care of Georgia Tech at home on Sunday. Let’s face it, if Virginia dropped that game, they were going to start hanging the NIT banners in John Paul Jones arena. But Virginia did what they do best, using defense to force turnovers and pulled away from the Yellow Jackets 82-54. It wasn’t the best 3-point performance from the Hoos, only shooting 6-for-19 (31.6%) with Harris going donut for 5. But Harris did score 15 with Mitchell scoring 18 on an 8-for-9 shooting day. Evans and Anderson pushed in 10 and 11, respectively, while Barnette was money off the bench with 9 points on 3 3’s. But the welcome back party was rolling along for Mike Tobey, as he saw his first action since the last GT game. He went 3-for-7 with 7 points including a 3 pointer that ripped the roof off of JPJ. Now Virginia prepares for a Duke team trying to keep pace in the ACC. A loss would not sink UVa’s chances to make the tourney, but a win would end all doubt they belong in this year, especially in a season that does not have a clear-cut top team.
New Leader Emerges
Steele Stanwick was everything for the Hoos last season. But with his departure, there was no official successor on the Men’s Lacrosse team. Enter Mark Cockerton. The 3rd year showed that his 7 goals against VMI in an 18-4 UVa victory wasn’t a fluke, Cockerton put 5 past the Stony Brook as #6 Virginia defeated the Seawolves 13-7. Virginia sure did have their chances to make it a blowout as they took 55 shots on goal to only 16 for Stony Brook. And while the attack is shooting, the middies are causing havoc. Stony Brook committed 24 turnovers, with 9 coming from bad clearing plays, the same ones that absolutely doomed VMI on Tuesday. The defense was iffy to start the game, but turned it on in the second half, only allowing 2 goals on 4 shots after the break. Virginia is now 3-0 and will get The Mount on Tuesday and at Syracuse on Friday. The Hoos have a good shot at 5-0 as The Mount is 2-1, but lost to Maryland 23-6 and Syracuse lost at home to Albany in 2OT last week before scraping by Army 6-5.
Around the Hook
Both the Men’s and Women’s Track teams finished 7th in the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships. Each team will send a handful to the NCAA’s, but are looking forward to the outdoor season in the spring.
Softball went 2-3 in the Palm Springs Tournament in Cali over the weekend, defeating San Diego State and Colorado State and losing to the 3 PAC12 teams Washington, Oregon, and Stanford. Next up is the Winthrop Tournament before heading home for a nice long homestand.
Hoo of the Week
This one was a pure 50/50 toss up. But, ‘two Hoos enter, one Hoo leaves’. While, Brandon Waddell had an impressive performance on Friday against Toledo, it was Alex Domijan taking the ITA Most Outstanding Player award, leading the Hoos with wins over 3 Top 15 players and helping Virginia lock up their 5th National Title in 6 years. Virginia will look to continue domination on the court with the upcoming outdoor season, but rest assured that Virginia and USC will lock horns again.