Mountaineer Athletics Achieving Great Success Under Baker’s Leadership Khabritak

Mountaineer Athletics Achieving Great Success Under Baker’s Leadership Khabritak 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It's probably fitting that West Virginia was wearing camouflage uniforms Sunday night when the Mountaineers defeated Grand Canyon 10-6 to qualify for their first-ever NCAA Super Regional.
That's because Wren Baker's Mountaineer athletic department has quietly put together one of the most successful sports seasons in school history.
In fact, you must go back to 2007-08 when WVU placed 30th in U.S. Sports Academy Director's Cup rankings to find a season similar to what is happening today.
That season, all but two teams finished with winning records. Football barely missed out on playing in the national championship game before recovering to rout third-ranked Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.
Men's basketball posted a 26-11 mark and advanced to the NCAA Tournament "Sweet 16" while women's basketball won 25 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Women's soccer won 18 matches, earned a Big East title, reached the Women's College Cup quarterfinals before falling to USC, and ended the year with an RPI of seven. 
Women's cross country also won the Big East and placed ninth at the NCAA Women's Cross Country Championships behind the strong running of All-Americans Marie-Louise Asselin and Keri Bland. 
The outstanding cross country performance carried over into the indoor and outdoor track seasons when the distance medley relay placed fourth at indoor nationals and true freshman Chelsea Carrier won the 60-meter hurdles at the 2008 ECAC Outdoor Championships. Bland also got the Mountaineers points at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships by placing in the 1,500 to earn All-America honors.
Wrestling qualified seven athletes to nationals and had two individual EWL champions, while gymnastics won its sixth conference championship and made its 30th NCAA Regional appearance under the late Linda Burdette-Good.
Ed Pastilong's athletic department that year produced 12 first-team All-Americans, 28 conference event championships and 33 all-conference performers.
When this year's final chapter is written later this month, it could be just as impressive.
 wren baker
WVU Director of Athletics Wren Baker, pictured here with Tony Caridi, speaking at a Mountaineer Athletic Club event earlier this spring (WVU Athletics Communications photo).

The story begins last October when Dan Stratford's men's soccer team routed then-top-ranked Marshall 5-2 to jump to No. 2 in the national rankings and continued its strong play into early December when the Mountaineers reached the semifinals of the Men's College Cup before falling to eventual national champion Clemson 1-0.
WVU ended the year third in the country behind Clemson and national runner-up Notre Dame.
Football achieved nine victories in a season for the first time since 2016 and defeated North Carolina 30-10 in the Duke's Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. 
Coach Neal Brown's Mountaineers snuck into the postseason Top 25 in the USA Today coaches' poll for the first time since 2018 and hope to carry the strong momentum gained from last season into this fall's Big Noon home opener against Penn State that will be televised nationally on FOX.
FOX's studio crew will also be in town that afternoon to help kick off the college football season.
Women's basketball's resurgence has continued under first-year coach Mark Kellogg, who got the Mountaineers into the national rankings with an early season victory over Penn State and continued its winning ways in Big 12 play.
West Virginia defeated Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and had national runner-up Iowa on the ropes on its home floor until misfortune intervened. A sympathetic and appreciative national media watching the game on ESPN rewarded the Mountaineers for their gutsy performance by voting them 24th in the final media poll.
Wrestling assembled one of its strongest campaigns in recent years and its best since coach Tim Flynn took over the once-struggling program in 2018. WVU reached as high as No. 17 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) dual meet rankings and placed 17th at the NCAA Championships with 31.5 team points.
That was WVU's best finish there since 2004 and was the most points earned at the meet since 2005. True freshman Ty Watters placed fourth at 149 pounds and senior Peyton Hall finished seventh at 165 pounds to earn All-America honors for the Mountaineers.
Coach Jon Hammond's rifle team came up a couple points short in its quest of securing its 20th national championship in early March. Senior Mary Tucker was named Most Outstanding Performer at the NCAA Championships after winning the smallbore national title, and teammate Gavin Barnick won air rifle to give WVU titles in both disciplines for the first time since 2017.
However, TCU edged West Virginia by three points to claim its fourth NCAA title.
Women's tennis qualified for postseason play for the first time in school history and achieved the most Big 12 wins since joining the conference in 2012. Coach Miha Lisac's Mountaineers earned an invitation to compete in the UTR Sports NIT Championships where they defeated Pacific in the opening match before falling to Tulsa in the semifinals.
WVU concluded its season with a 15-13 overall record for its most victories since 2008 when it was still competing in the Big East.
Men's golf got on a roll at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas, and parlayed its fifth-place finish at the Big 12 Championships into its second NCAA Regional appearance since the resumption of the sport in 2016.
Despite being a 10-seed, coach Sean Covich's Mountaineers navigated the difficult conditions at the Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe, California, to place third in the field and earn their first NCAA Championship appearance since 1947 when the Mountaineers placed last in the 39-team tournament.
WVU finished 28th at this year's NCAA Championships at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California, giving WVU its first top-30 finish in program history. Four of the five players in the Mountaineers' starting lineup return next season.
Not to be outdone, Randy Mazey's farewell to coaching is turning into one of the feel-good stories in college baseball.
His Mountaineer team overcame numerous injuries early in the season, including star player JJ Wetherholt's month-long absence in March, but rallied in April and May to post a school-record 19 Big 12 wins and qualify for its fourth NCAA Tournament regional since 2017 and its 15th overall.
The Mountaineers began postseason play in Tucson, Arizona, with a hard-fought 4-1 victory over 22nd-ranked Dallas Baptist and then outlasted WAC representative Grand Canyon the following night to advance to just the school's second regional championship since 1982 when the field then was only 36 teams. Mazey's Mountaineers also fought through the elimination round before falling at Wake Forest in 2017.
The Mountaineers again knocked off Grand Canyon 10-6 to capture the regional title on Sunday night and advance to its first-ever NCAA Tournament Super Regional.
Firsts have been a common occurrence under Mazey, who snapped WVU's 21-year NCAA Tournament drought in 2017, got them into the coaches' poll for the first time ever that season and then had a team good enough to host a regional for the first time in 64 years in 2019.
Later this month, Mazey will become the first coach in school history to have two first rounders when Wetherholt has his named called in the Major League Draft.
Women's track is also still competing and will have one participant at this weekend's NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships when Mikenna Vanderheyden performs in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. This past winter, coach Sean Cleary's star runner Ceili McCabe added another All-America certificate to her trophy case by placing sixth in the mile at indoor nationals.
Nikki Izzo-Brown's highly successful women's soccer program was an uncharacteristic 7-8-4 last year but has annually ranked among the top programs in the country since earning its first NCAA Tournament bid in 2000, while women's gymnastics, another annual NCAA regional participant under coach Jason Butts, is hoping for better health in 2025. Untimely injuries completely decimated Butts' squad last season.
Rowing is yet another WVU sport that has experienced annual consistency under veteran coach Jimmy King.
For some of the struggling teams this year, new leadership is on the way. 
Baker pulled off a stunner when he pried Jen Greeny away from Washington State to coach the WVU volleyball team, and then in late March, added one of college basketball's top young strategists in Drake's Darian DeVries as the school's 23rd men's basketball coach.
DeVries has won more than 20 games every season he coached at Drake, including NCAA Tournament trips in 2021, 2023 and 2024, while Greeny's Cougars finished last season ranked 11th in the country after qualifying for its eighth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Most recently, Baker hired Brent MacDonald in the hopes of pairing his six Big East championships at Xavier with Mylan Park's state-of-the-art, 50-meter pool to attract some of the best swimmers in the country and return Mountaineer swimming and diving to calmer waters.
MacDonald was tabbed West Virginia University's sixth swimming and diving coach late last month.

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