Though many University students have been able to go home and relax over break, several athletes have been grinding throughout the winter. The Cavalier Daily Sports staff takes a look at how winter sports have performed as the season continues.
Record: 16-0, 4-0 ACC
After the sudden end to its NCAA tournament last season, Virginia men’s basketball faced a wall of critics and doubters. Instead of regressing, however, the Cavaliers are once again national contenders, boasting an undefeated record and an offense and defense both ranked in the top 10 nationally (per KenPom). Junior guard Kyle Guy has become an explosive offensive threat, averaging around 15.3 points per game on 47.2% shooting — both career highs. Guy has been especially lethal as of late, including a 30-point barrage against Marshall (10-6, 3-0 C-USA) and 21 points against No. 11 Florida State (13-4, 1-3 ACC). In addition to Guy, junior forward Braxton Key has been critical to the Cavaliers’ success. Following the departures of starters Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins, the transfer from Alabama combines versatile defending and scoring to add much-needed depth to the Virginia roster. Key’s 20-point effort against Florida State demonstrated what he can do when given the opportunity. After navigating non-conference play and the beginning of their ACC schedule successfully, the Cavaliers are set for a dynamic road duel at No. 1 Duke (14-2, 3-1 ACC).
Record: 7-10, 1-3 ACC
Virginia women’s basketball has struggled in the first half of the season thus far, but is making progress. The Cavaliers ended 2018 with a 6-7 record against non-conference opponents. In the new year, Virginia began the two-month stretch of ACC play with two consecutive losses to Florida State and Clemson. They are beginning to turn things around, however, picking up a critical win against rivals Virginia Tech, coming back from a 19-point second half deficit. Most recently, they lost to No. 8 N.C. State, but put up a good fight. Despite key injuries to players like junior center Felicia Aiyeotan, the consistent play from the two junior guards, Jocelyn Willoughby and Dominique Toussaint, provide hope for the remainder of the season. Willoughby leads the team in rebounds and is third in the ACC and eighth in the nation in three-point shooting, with a 48.4 field goal percentage. She consistently scores in double figures and has generated two twenty-point performances in the last seven games. Toussaint has scored in double figures in four of the last five games and leads the team in assists. With the toughest portion of the Cavalier’s schedule ahead, other players must step up in order to string together a few wins. Next up, the Cavaliers are set to travel Thursday to face No. 4 Louisville (15-1, 3-1 ACC), one of the nation’s best teams.
Record: 9-6, 0-0 ACC
Virginia wrestling ended 2018 on a positive note, winning three of four at the South Beach Duals competition in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. With a pair of convincing wins sandwiching Virginia’s lone victory of the season over a ranked opponent, the Cavaliers hope to carry this momentum into 2019, especially with conference play right around the corner. While Virginia features several nationally-ranked wrestlers, two who have been and will continue to be important are redshirt sophomore Jay Aiello and junior Jack Mueller. Aiello — the seventh-ranked wrestler at 197 pounds — has posted a 13-4 record this year and has been one of the Cavaliers’ best wrestlers this season. While Aiello has had a fantastic year so far, no Virginia wrestler can match Mueller’s impressive undefeated record. Since coming off of a redshirt in December, Mueller has posted five bonus-point wins in five duals. As the fifth-ranked wrestler in the country at 125 pounds, Mueller gives the Cavaliers another powerhouse to lean on as they move forward with their season. Unfortunately for Virginia, the road ahead is anything but easy, as the Cavaliers are set to face at least five opponents who are currently ranked before the end of the regular season. Virginia will need every bit of effort from Aiello, Mueller and company to successfully navigate the rigorous schedule.
Men’s squash/women’s squash
Record: 5-4 (Men); 6-5 (Women)
No. 13 Virginia men’s squash have started off the year strong, posting statement wins against No. 9 Princeton (3-3), and No. 16 Cornell (1-3). This winning record is in part due to the efforts by freshman Patrick McElroy who, after winning a bronze medal with Team USA at the Junior Pan American Games in 2017, has stepped into a crucial No. 1 role for the team. McElroy and the Cavaliers hope to continue this success against No. 21 Williams College (4-5) in Annapolis on Jan. 19.
No. 11 Virginia women’s squash, through hallmark wins against then-No. 8 Cornell (1-2) and No. 32 Georgetown (6-4), entered the new year in dominant fashion. After graduating co-captain and number one Carey Danforth last year, Canadian freshman Emma Jinks has filled Danforth’s shoes with individual wins against Cornell and then-No. 9 Drexel. The Virginia women aim to carry this momentum into their next match, against No. 13 Williams College (4-6), also in Annapolis on Jan. 19.