Brighter times on the horizon for WVU athletics
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 00:01
For West Virginia sports, this just isn’t the year for success. With the exception of having the top-ranked rifle team in the country, the Mountaineers have struggled this season.
We all know about the struggles of the WVU football team. From a defense that just couldn’t get it going all year to the men’s basketball team just trying to find a way to shoot, this inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference has been a bitter pill to swallow.
Sure, West Virginia had a good amount of publicity for quarterback Geno Smith following a solid senior year. Receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey also got some well-deserved hype through award nominations and overall recognition for inspiring efforts in games such as Baylor and Oklahoma. But, at the end of the day, West Virginia finished 7-6 and one of its worst seasons in a decade.
The latest surge of freshman guard Eron Harris has been the talk of the men’s basketball team. Still, the team has struggled to put together consecutive wins. Right now, the Mountaineers are struggling to earn quality wins to improve their tournament hopes. For the first time under head coach Bob Huggins, West Virginia could be heading to the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament.
The women’s soccer team did continue its success with a Big 12 regular season Championship, but its NCAA first-round loss against Princeton was a letdown following the expectations set for head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and company.
The men’s soccer team struggled in its first season as a member of the Mid-American Conference under the leadership of head coach Marlon LeBlanc. West Virginia did not earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament. A highlight for the season came
after it ended with defender Eric Schoenle going No. 12 overall in the MLS Supplemental Draft, joining former Mountaineer Ray Gaddis on the Philadelphia Union.
The women’s basketball team has struggled to finish in late game situations – as four losses have been decided by a total of 12 points. The Mountaineers may also be looking in on a NCAA Tournament berth this season following some strong years under head coach Mike Carey. Carey has gotten his team into the top 10 in years past, and West Virginia is always a tough squad to defeat at the Coliseum. This year, WVU has lost four games on its home floor so far.
The wrestling team has struggled under head coach Craig Turnbull. With the change in opposition, West Virginia has some national powerhouses in the Big 12 such as Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers also faced No. 1 Penn State. However, WVU has also fallen to teams such as Rutgers, Maryland and Lock Haven. Its only win has come against Johns Hopkins.
No one said the conference change would be easy in any way shape or form. This year could be the wake-up call West Virginia needs for all we know.
WVU athletics has looked bright this season. I truly believe that each team has the ability to be very competitive, but minor errors and the inability to play for the allotted time have been setbacks.
Take the men’s basketball team, for example. Against Oklahoma State last weekend, West Virginia looked very strong for the first 10 minutes of the first half. In that time, the big guys were playing smart, the team was hustling for loose balls, guys were able to knock down shots, and West Virginia was getting rebounds. It’s the other 30 minutes that caused problems for the Mountaineers.
The women’s basketball team was the same way when it faced No. 24 Iowa State Saturday night. Led by senior center Ayana Dunning, WVU couldn’t miss in the first half. In fact, Carey’s squad shot more than 71 percent from beyond the arc in the first half. The second half was the complete opposite as the Cyclones were able to steal one at the Coliseum.
In some regard, you may just have to accept the year this has become for West Virginia and its athletics. It’s a tough transition to move into a different conference; it will take patience as difficult as that may sound.
In the meantime, take this year for what it’s worth and just realize that better times could be ahead in the near future.