2014 in Review: Top 5 Moments in Virginia Sports

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1. Men’s basketball nets the ACC Tournament title, earn NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed

After falling to Duke 69-65 two months before at Cameron Indoor Arena in Durham, North Carolina, Virginia avenged its early ACC loss in spectacular fashion. The top-seeded Cavaliers, behind a 23-point effort from Malcolm Brogdon and 15 points from Tournament MVP Joe Harris, downed the Blue Devils, 72-63, to end a 38-year title drought. Brogdon gave Virginia a 66-60 lead with just more than a minute remaining, and sank six free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

During their return trip to Charlottesville following the victory, the Cavaliers were awarded the No. 1 seed in the East region of the NCAA Tournament, where the team would eventually advance to Madison Square Garden and its first Sweet 16 since 1995.

2. Men’s soccer wins 2014 NCAA championship in penalty kicks

Dec. 14, for the seventh time in program history, the Virginia men’s soccer team closed its season with a national championship trophy. After an up-and down regular season and despite winning just two of their last six games heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Cavaliers powered through the playoffs on the back of their defense, allowing only two goals in the four matches leading up to the title contest.

The defense stepped up once more in the final, holding the high-powered UCLA offense scoreless in a match that ultimately saw Virginia prevail in penalty kicks by a margin of 4-2. Sophomore forward Riggs Lennon—who netted the winning penalty kick in a 5-4 shootout victory against Georgetown in the Elite Eight—once again struck the winning goal, while senior goalkeeper Calle Brown was named the College Cup’s Most Valuable Defensive Player after shutting out both of Virginia’s final two opponents.

3. Nathan Kirby strikes out 18, throws perfect game

Then-sophomore southpaw Nathan Kirby delivered a masterful start on the first Friday night in April, firing an 18-strikeout no-hitter at Charles Cost Field in 53-win Virginia’s series-opening win against ACC-newcomer Pittsburgh.

In possession of a fastball coach Brian O’Connor called “overpowering”—and a curveball the former Creighton Bluejay dubbed “devastating”—the Midlothian, Virginia native turned in the fifth Cavalier no-hitter in the past 50 years, and first since right-hander Will Roberts’ 10-strikeout perfect game against George Washington on March 29, 2011.

Pittsburgh had just two base-runners all evening as Kirby finished just one strikeout short of the ACC single-game record established by Virginia’s Harry Thomas in 1974. Kirby—the ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year and a First-Team All-American—fanned 10 consecutive batters between the second and fifth innings.

4. Football quells Hurricanes on Senior Night, 30-13

The ‘Canes had won three of their previous four—the only loss coming in nail-biting fashion to undefeated Florida State—coming into the nighttime showdown at Scott Stadium. Conversely, Virginia was in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

Despite those trends, the Cavaliers came out swinging and were the superior football team from whistle to whistle. Fittingly, Virginia got significant contributions from several of its 34 seniors who were playing their final game in Charlottesville. Senior running back Khalek Shepherd was the star of the evening, rushing for a career-high 97 yards and one touchdown, as well as pacing the Cavalier offense to a 30-13 victory.

While the win was just the team’s fifth of the year, it still prompted the Cavalier faithful to storm the field for the second time in three years at Miami’s expense.

5. Danielle Collins wins 2014 NCAA women’s tennis singles title

Danielle Collins made her mark on history this past Memorial Day, defeating California’s Lynn Chi 6-2, 7-5 in the NCAA singles final to become the first-ever Cavalier women’s tennis player to win the singles title. Prior to the season, no Virginia player had ever advanced to the singles quarterfinals.

Entering the tournament ranked No. 32, Collins defeated five higher-ranked players in six matches. Her run included victories against players ranked at No. 18, No. 2, No. 7, No. 27, and finally No. 24 with Chi.

The singles championship capped off arguably the best year in Virginia women’s tennis history. The Cavaliers won their first-ever ACC Championship and posted a program-best 21-5 record heading into the NCAA Tournament. Earning a No. 3 seed—another high mark for the program—Virginia advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to No. 11 Stanford.

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