12 Days of WVi Christmas: recapping the best of 2019

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Alek Manoah has been recognized as the unanimous Big 12 Pitcher of the Year

West Virginia athletics has had quite the 2019. Between new coaches, new program heights, great highs and disappointing lows, these last 12 months have been quite memorable for Mountaineer fans everywhere.

Let’s take a look back at the best memories from the past year:

12. Best Virginia at TBT

Mountaineer hoops alumni teamed up over the summer to compete in The Basketball Tournament, a competition featuring 64 teams from all over the country. Featuring former stars like Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, Juwan Staten, John Flowers and more, the squad aptly named themselves “Best Virginia” and made it to the second round in their debut.

11. Men’s hoops makes a run in the Big 12 Tournament

2018-2019 may have been the most disappointing season for West Virginia hoops since Bob Huggins returned to his alma mater, but the silver linings definitely became apparent towards the end of the campaign.

The Mountaineers made a run in the Big 12 Tournament, upsetting future national runner-up Texas Tech among others, while several new faces like Emmitt Matthews and Jermaine Haley would make their names known to fans with their breakout performances.

10. Coach Brown is introduced

A new era of West Virginia football began at the beginning of the calendar year when Neal Brown was named the 35th head football coach at WVU. Fans across the Mountain State were excited when the accomplished Group of Five coach arrived in Morgantown and was introduced to the Mountaineer faithful with his family.

9. Baseball’s record-breaking game against George Washington

West Virginia baseball was taken to new heights in the 2019 season, with both the program and players marking new milestones throughout the campaign.

One game in particular towards the end of the season especially left a mark on the team’s record books, the Mountaineers’ May 16 win over George Washington. Alek Manoah and Darius Hill etched their names in Mountaineer history when they each broke some records, respectively including the single-season strikeout record and the career doubles record.

8. Women’s soccer makes NCAA Sweet 16

Nikki Izzo-Brown’s squads have typically been known as one of the fiercest in the nation, let alone the Big 12 conference. This year was different, though — with several stars from years past having graduated, the Mountaineers had to rely on several new faces to step up and compete in the difficult regular season. Pair that with some season-ending injuries to key players like Lauren Segalla and Julianne Vallerand, and the Mountaineers had an uphill battle.

They buckled down towards the end and earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament, and made an underdog run to the Sweet 16 — giving the team solid ground to build on for 2020.

7. Golf makes NCAA Regional

West Virginia golf is one of the “new kids on the block,” having only been on campus since the 2015-16 season. For such a young program, this past season was a major success as the Mountaineers not only hosted the Big 12 Tournament at the Greenbrier, but they also qualified for an NCAA Regional.

6. Rifle hosts NCAA Championship

The always-dominant West Virginia rifle team had “home range advantage” when they hosted the 2019 NCAA Rifle Championship at the WVU Coliseum for the first time ever. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers didn’t take the crown, but second place isn’t too shabby — especially when it’s earned in front of the home fans.

5. Neal Brown’s first win

The first one always seems like it’s the hardest.

Neal Brown’s Mountaineers opened up their season against James Madison at home. The Dukes are an FCS competitor, but one of the toughest — and that showed on the field on Aug. 31.

West Virginia took a hard-fought 20-14 win over the Dukes, marking the first victory for Neal Brown at West Virginia.

4. WVU hoops wins the Cancun Challenge

After the aforementioned disappointing last season for Bob Huggins and his squad, it was good for them to head to Cancun and fight to bring home a trophy — even if it was in November.

The Mountaineers had several new players, like Deuce McBride, make their names known to the nation as they eventually won the Cancun Challenge.

3. Men’s soccer wins the MAC

A disappointing 2019 meant the Mountaineers would have an uphill battle if they wanted to make the NCAA Tournament. Having not won a single game in MAC regular season play, the Mountaineers had just one option to make the big dance: win the conference tournament.

They accomplished that feat, and even took their first round victory before falling to Marshall in the second round.

2. Football’s season-ending win over TCU

The roller coaster 2019 season resulted in the Mountaineers’ early elimination from bowl eligibility, which is never how any coach, player or fan wants a season to go.

Still, the Mountaineers had football to play, and they made it count with one of the most exciting victories of 2019, a 20-17 thriller at TCU.

1. Baseball’s 2019 run

What else is there to say about WVU baseball in 2019? Eight MLB draft picks, Big 12 runners up, several records broken, and a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Regional.

The Mountaineers had a banner year on the diamond, with Randy Mazey and his band of Mountaineers taking the program to new heights.

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