The more things change, the more they stay the same. That certainly held true for West Virginia University Intercollegiate Athletics during the 2009-10 academic year.
What stayed the same? Simply, it was WVU flexing its collective athletic muscles in the BIG EAST and on the national scene, yet again, in what continues to be the contemporary Golden Era.
What changed? Simply, it was just changing the calendar to another year.
Leading the way in what was yet another banner season for the department was the men’s basketball team’s school-record 31 wins, which saw the squad reach the NCAA Final Four for the second time in school history and win its first-ever BIG EAST championship. The team finished the year No. 3 in the final ESPN/USA Today poll, defeated seven ranked teams, reached the “Sweet 16” for the fifth time in the last six NCAA Tournament appearances, and coach Bob Huggins won his 670th career game in the Elite 8 victory over Kentucky.
Individually, Da’Sean Butler led the way for WVU, garnering John Wooden, Basketball Times and Associated Press All-America honors and was named the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award winner. Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones and Joe Mazzulla also garnered postseason honors.
Football posted a 9-4 record and a 5-2 BIG EAST mark, tying for second in the league. WVU posted its fifth-straight season of nine victories or more, played in its eighth-straight bowl game and sixth New Year’s Day Bowl in the decade when it played Florida State in the Gator Bowl. WVU finished No. 22/25 in the final polls, marking the fifth straight season WVU has finished in the Associated Press’ Top 25.
Quarterback Jarrett Brown became the first 2,000-yard passer since 1998, and Noel Devine rushed for 1,465 yards, marking the 13th season out of the last 14 years where a Mountaineer eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark. Ten Mountaineers earned all-BIG EAST honors, while Reed Williams, a two-time Academic All-American, was named the BIG EAST Scholar Athlete of the Year and a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete.
West Virginia is the only school in the country during the last six years to win two BCS Bowl Games in football and make four Sweet 16 appearances in men’s basketball.
Women’s basketball, also set a school record for most victories in a season (29), finished second in the BIG EAST with 13 wins and was the BIG EAST Championship runner-up for the second time in school history. WVU reached as high as No. 7 in both major polls, marking its highest ranking in school history, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s second round for the third time in the last four years. Liz Repella was named an ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA first team Academic All-American while Repella, Sarah Miles, Asya Bussie and Korinne Campbell were named all-BIG EAST. Coach Mike Carey was named BIG EAST co-Coach of the Year.
Cross Country finished sixth at the NCAA Championships, marking the third-straight Top 10 national finish for the Mountaineers. Seniors Marie-Louise Asselin, Keri Bland and Clara Grandt earned All-America and all-BIG EAST honors and the squad was named an all-academic team by the USTFCCCA by showing the ninth-highest team GPA in the country, which also marked the highest GPA of any of the Top 25 teams at nationals.
The cross country success carried over to the indoor track season as the team posted a program-best fourth-place finish at the BIG EAST Championships and school-best 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Junior Chelsea Carrier and Asselin won conference titles in the pentathlon and 5,000-meter race, respectively, while seven student-athletes were named All-Americans, headlined by Carrier, Asselin, Bland, Grandt, Kaylyn Christopher, Jessica O’Connell and April Rotilio.
Outdoor track finished 16th at the NCAA Championships, marking the highest finish in program history. Four Mountaineers garnered All-America honors led by senior Asselin’s second-place showing in the 5,000-meter race. Senior Grandt finished fourth in the 10,000-meters, while classmates Karly Hamric and Bland finished sixth and ninth, respectively, in the 1,500 meters.
Rifle, fresh off its 14th national championship in 2009, posted an 11-0 record in 2010, a third-place finish at nationals and was the GARC regular season and postseason champions. Seven shooters earned 12 National Rifle Association All-America honors, while coach Jon Hammond was named the GARC Coach of the Year.
Gymnastics qualified for its 27th regional, and the Mountaineers were hosts of the NCAA Southeast Regional, finishing fourth. On the year, WVU posted a 19-9 record and a 10-2 EAGL record. Four Mountaineers garnered all-EAGL honors headlined by junior Amy Bieski garnering five accolades, including two first-team honors.
At Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, the Mountaineer women’s soccer team qualified for its 10th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance with a 10-7-6 record, knocked off the highest-ranked opponent in school history with a 2-1 victory at No. 5 Penn State, and coach Nikki Izzo-Brown won her 200th career game in the 1-0 decision at Providence. Five Mountaineers garnered all-BIG EAST accolades, led by All-American Carolyn Blank’s all-BIG EAST first team recognition. Blank was drafted by the St. Louis Athletica of the Women’s Professional Soccer league.
The men’s soccer team advanced to the BIG EAST Tournament for the sixth-straight season with a 7-5-6 mark, while four players earned all-BIG EAST honors. WVU defeated two ranked teams in 2010, including No. 3 USF at home, marking the highest ranked opponent defeated since knocking off No. 1 Connecticut in 2007. Goalkeeper Zach Johnson and defender Eric Schoenle led the team in individual honors.
The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams had a combined 13 student-athletes garner all-BIG EAST accolades as both teams finished third at the BIG EAST Championships. Four swimmers earned honorable-mention All-America honors.
Volleyball boasted its best league finish in over a decade and posted a 17-13 overall mark. Junior Lauren Evans was named all-BIG EAST.
Women’s tennis finished the season 17-7, the most wins since 2004, and 7-3 in BIG EAST competition. The Mountaineers had a nine-match win-streak during the season and defeated BIG EAST-rival Pitt for the first time in three years. WVU was honored by the ITA as a 2009 all-academic team, and Stephanie LaFortune and Veronica Cardenas were named scholar-athletes.
Wrestling qualified three student-athletes for the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Four Mountaineers finished the season ranked in the nation’s Top 33 and three Mountaineers placed second in their respective weight classes at the EWL Championships.
Rowing placed sixth at the BIG EAST Championship with 63 points as the Varsity 4+ boat of Amanda Hirsch, Kaitlyn Brownson, Kensie Phillips, Brittany Brooks and coxswain Anastasia DuPont won a bronze medal. Senior Kimberly Benda garnered first team all-BIG EAST accolades and was named a BIG EAST Institutional Female Scholar-Athlete.
Baseball posted a 27-30 record, led by all-BIG EAST shortstop Jedd Gyorko, who finished his career as the school’s career leader in batting average (.404), doubles (73), extra base-hits (113) and is tied for the school record in home runs (35). Gyorko was selected 59th overall in the second round by the San Diego Padres in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft.
By Phil Caskey
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