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Five teams to watch

women's team, two coaches, volleyball

WRITTEN BY JOHN ANTONIK
PHOTOGRAPHS WVU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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We know you follow Mountaineer football and basketball. So we wanted to give you five West Virginia University sports teams to keep an eye on.

volleyball team posed, with coaches


VOLLEYBALL 

It took Reed Sunahara, a native of Hilo, Hawaii, six long years to develop a WVU volleyball team good enough to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in 2021. The Mountaineers, with little volleyball history and tradition, struggled mightily in the Big 12 Conference until Coach Sunahara’s arrival in 2015. Then, in 2017, he led WVU to six Big 12 victories and a berth in the Women’s National Invitational, where the Mountaineers reached the semifinals. 


Three years later, in 2020–21, during a campaign that was divided into fall and spring seasons because of COVID-19, the Mountaineers won eight Big 12 matches to set up West Virginia’s historic season in 2021. WVU produced 19 victories, including an 8-8 record in Big 12 play, to earn our first-ever NCAA Tournament bid since the program’s inception in 1974. 


Last year saw Sunahara get his 400th career victory against 23rd-ranked Michigan and register program firsts by winning at Iowa State and sweeping the season series against Oklahoma.


soccer player kicks ball


MEN’S SOCCER 

Second-year Coach Dan Stratford led West Virginia to a historic season in 2021. The Mountaineers advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight for the first time in 40 years and finished ranked No. 8 in the United Soccer Coaches’ Poll — the highest finish in program history. Defender Bjarne Thiesen was named third team All- America, the team’s first since 2018, and West Virginia finished among the nation’s top 25 in overall attendance last season. 


Men’s college soccer has really taken off in this part of the country with rivals Pitt, Penn State and Marshall also boasting nationally ranked teams. In Stratford, WVU has one of the bright, young coaches in the game today, and he has the Mountaineers positioned for future success in a wide-open sport that has no true powerhouse programs. 


women running track


AND CROSS COUNTRY 

Three years ago, veteran coach Sean Cleary returned to his Canadian roots to discover one of the top distance runners in the country in junior Ceili (pronounced Kay- Lee) McCabe from Vancouver, British Columbia. 


McCabe blew up during the 2021 cross country season when she won the Big 12 and Mid-Atlantic Regional races, which served as a prelude to her program-best third place finish at the 2021 Cross Country Nationals held last Thanksgiving. That performance helped West Virginia to a 21st-place team finish in the event, and she began the indoor season in December with a record-setting effort in the women’s 3,000-meter race at the Sharon Colyera-Danville invitation-only race held in Boston. 


McCabe’s goal is to become a national champion this year and then qualify for the World Track and Field Championships to be held in Eugene, Ore., July 15–24. 


man with golf club hits ball


MEN’S GOLF 

Greensburg, Pa., senior golfer Mark Goetz became WVU’s first-ever individual NCAA Regional qualifier in 2021, finishing second in that event by shooting 8-under par in Noblesville, Ind. Last summer, Goetz won the 121st U.S. Golf Association Amateur at historic Oakmont Country Club, outside of Pittsburgh, to earn a No. 1 overall seed in the 2021 U.S. Amateur Match Play Championships. 


When Goetz arrived on campus as a freshman in 2017, his world amateur ranking was in the low 4,000s. Five years later, he is the No. 139 ranked amateur in the world and is considered one of the top golfers in the collegiate ranks. In the not-too-distant future, look for Goetz showing up on your TV playing in PGA Tour events. 


man pitches baseball


BASEBALL 

Veteran coach Randy Mazey continues to stack nationally ranked recruiting classes on top of each other. His most recent 15-player haul for 2023 is ranked 34th nationally by the college baseball website Perfect Game — the fifth-straight year Mazey has signed a top-35 class. 


The headliner in this year’s incoming group is Parkersburg South first baseman Grant Hussey, a five-star prospect who pulled his name out of the Major League Draft to play for the Mountaineers. Hussey is probably the most acclaimed in-state recruit to sign with WVU since eventual No. 1 draft pick Chris Enochs came to Morgantown from Oak Glen High in 1995. 

Since Mazey took over the Mountaineer program in 2013, West Virginia baseball has become nationally relevant. WVU’s breakout season occurred in 2019 when it won 38 games, hosted an NCAA Tournament regional for the first time in nearly 65 years and finished the season ranked 20th in the final USA Today coaches’ poll. 


Last year, Mazey’s Mountaineers upset second-ranked Texas in the Big 12 Tournament for his 37th victory against Top 25 teams during his time at WVU. Prior to 2013, West Virginia played just 12 games against nationally ranked teams during a six-year span from 2007-12, winning once.