Welcome to "In Review," a series where we look at the previous month's best and favorite images taken by the photography team at West Virginia University.
December is a different kind of month for the University. The end of the fall semester culminates with December Commencement by packing the Coliseum — which continues to fill as the basketball schedules ramp up. Fall athletics programs finish out their seasons and campus empties for the holiday break.
This particular December also provided a chance to photograph West Virginia athletics history as the men's soccer team clinched its first trip to the College Cup. I covered the Mountaineers home tournament win which punched their ticket to Louisville, Ky., before packing the camera gear and heading to the College Cup with the team.
That win over Loyola Marymount is linked above, as is our full coverage of commencement. But, now, let's look back at highlights from the graduation ceremonies before we take the trip to Louisville and then return to Morgantown to see the rest of what December had to offer.
Boyz II Mountaineers
The first day consisted of traveling to Louisville, checking in to the hotel, hitting the training ground to loosen up the travel legs, and trading in soccer shirts to wear matching black ties before attending a banquet with the rest of the remaining teams. "Boyz II Mountaineers" was what Nick Farrell, the team's television play-by-play voice, came up with when I joked about them being West Virginia's new favorite boy band as they walked through the Marriott lobby.
Day two was a training day followed by a trip to Lynn Family Stadium where the Mountaineers would take on Clemson in the semifinals the next day. The day was certainly highlighted by the stadium walkthrough and media obligations, especially as players and coach Dan Stratford chatted with the game's broadcast team.
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the trip to Louisville ended with an extremely physical, 1-0, NCAA semifinal loss to eventual champion Clemson. Two wins from the University's first NCAA team championship was as close as the team would get this season, but it was nonetheless a historic run for a historic WVU squad.
Athletics at Home
Back home in Morgantown, the basketball season really hit its stride during December as the non-conference schedules led Mountaineer fans into the holiday break. The men took their new look to a literal meaning as they brought back the black uniforms to face Pitt in the Backyard Brawl, and the women continued their new look under Mark Kellogg to maintain their run of dominant defense — staying undefeated through December.
Our assignments around campus in December ranged from documenting a colorful photo call during a dress rehearsal for The Misanthrope to the remembrance ceremony beneath the mast of the U.S.S. West Virginia on Pearl Harbor Day. And, of course, life around campus as students prepared for finals and the winter break.
Around the State
A benefit to an athletics-dominated month is having time to document life around Morgantown, as seen above, but also to get out of town and explore views around the state. Again, David Malecki packed his gear into the state vehicle dubbed "the Photo Van" and ventured out — this time to historic Harpers Ferry.
These photo stories will run each month with a look at the previous 28 to 31 days' work. The format may evolve with each month, but the goal will always be to connect alumni, students and fans of West Virginia with what is happening on, and around, campus through our photography staff's lenses.
We'll see you later this week with a look back at 2023 as a whole, and in early February with January's images.