Long stick midfielder Carter Smith chases down a Central Michigan attackman during WVU’s 14-12 loss on Apr. 6, 2018.

Long stick midfielder Carter Smith chases down a Central Michigan attackman during WVU’s 14-12 loss on Apr. 6, 2018.

After naming University High School head coach Brian Houk as the top man, the Mountaineers have clinched back-to-back Big 12 Classic titles and now has their first appearance in the Under Armour MCLA Coaches Poll in seven years.

“The Big 12 Classic is a great event to start the year with quality non-conference competition and a chance to build some buzz around lacrosse at the Power 5 schools,” Houk said. “The West Coast teams have a similar Pac-12 shootout to start the year as well.”

While the Mountaineers (3-0) have now won the Big 12 Classic two years running, they did not sweep the tournament in 2018. After losing to Oklahoma, 15-6, in the final game, Houk and company took home the trophy via tiebreaker.

A trophy is a trophy, but Houk and his team didn’t want to leave anything to chance this season. West Virginia went to Texas looking to prove that the best Big 12 team in the country resides in Morgantown.” We were hungry to go back out and prove that we are the best lacrosse team among the Big 12 schools,” Houk said. “Our players came out with energy and focus and took care of business all three days, which is very challenging to do for three games in a row, so I must commend our athletes for their teamwork, composure and mental toughness.”

WVU avenged that loss to Oklahoma right away, opening with them in the Big 12 Classic this season. The Sooners came in as the de facto favorite, being the only participating team in the classic to receive votes in the MCLA Coaches Poll.

A hot offensive first half led the Mountaineers to a 10-2 halftime lead over OU, and all they had to do was cruise to finish the game with the win. The Sooners took seven shots in the fourth quarter, only finding the back of the net on one of them. Attackman Jake Klein led WVU with three goals and goalie Evan Measures made 11 saves in the 13-8 win.

“[The] game against OU was very cold and windy, but we practice in that weather all the time so I knew we were built to succeed in that situation,” Houk said.

Blowout wins over Baylor and Oklahoma State led to West Virginia taking home the undisputed champions of the Big 12 Classic. The three-win weekend also gave the Mountaineers six votes in the MCLA Coaches Poll, their first such honor since 2012.

“We’re thrilled with the poll votes, and we’re exactly where we want to be at this point in the year, but our work is far from done,” Houk said. “[It’s a] long season ahead and we must continue to improve if we want to succeed in the [conference].”

Houk and WVU will now head to Blacksburg, Virginia, to take on Southeastern Lacrosse Conference rival and No. 7 Virginia Tech on Friday.

A win over the Hokies would almost certainly propel the Mountaineers into the national rankings for the first time in program history. Virginia Tech beat WVU 20-4 in Knoxville last season.

Following the Black Diamond rivalry, West Virginia will stay in Blacksburg and play NC State. The Mountaineers are 0-3 all-time against the Wolfpack.