2019 is the year of the Hoos

Relive the highlights as the most successful year in Virginia sports history wraps up

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Coach Bronco Mendenhall is one of several coaches who have engineered program turnarounds for Virginia sports this decade.

Celina Hu | Cavalier Daily

With multiple national championships and significant success across multiple sports, 2019 has been a year to remember for Cavalier fans. Here are the highlights so far.

Men’s lacrosse comes up clutch

The Virginia men’s lacrosse team won this year’s national title against Yale, defeating the defending champions 13-9. It was a nail-biting season — the Cavaliers clinched a spot in the championship only after winning both their semifinal and quarterfinal games in overtime, on top of many thrilling regular season wins in overtime.

Besides overtime wins, Virginia had multiple comeback victories, many coming down to the final minute. That includes the Cavaliers’ ACC semifinal win over North Carolina, in which they scored a late goal to advance to the ACC final. Virginia won that game in dominant fashion over Notre Dame.

It was the Cavaliers’ first ACC title since 2010 and their first national championship since 2011. Coach Lars Tiffany has engineered a turnaround of the lacrosse program since being hired before the 2017 season, and the team’s success in 2019 showed that.

Soccer programs see success

Both men’s and women’s soccer programs were ranked No. 1 simultaneously for multiple weeks this season.

The women’s soccer team went undefeated during the regular season this year. Standout players include junior goalkeeper Laurel Ivory, who went over 700 minutes this season without conceding a goal — Ivory is also fourth all-time in shutouts — and freshman forward Diana Ordoñez, who finished the season with 15 goals and four assists.

The men’s program has had a similarly successful year. Virginia lost only one game and conceded just five goals in the regular season.

The Cavaliers have continued their success in the postseason. Most recently, the team beat Clemson 3-1 to secure the 2019 ACC Championship and the No. 1 seed Cavaliers are now headed to the NCAA quarterfinals.

The men’s squad will face No. 5 SMU to compete for a spot in the semifinal — the College Cup — Dec. 6.

Coach Tony Bennett drives turnaround for men’s basketball program

Coach Tony Bennett engineered a comeback story for the ages in 2019.

In 2018, fans were stunned by a heartbreaking loss to No. 16 seed UMBC during the first round of the NCAA tournament.

A year later, Virginia overcame all odds to defeat No. 3 Texas Tech 85-77, clinching the program’s first national championship. Following the season, three players — Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome — were selected in the NBA draft.

The win brought things full circle for Bennett, who extended his contract through the 2025-2026 season and was named to Fortune Magazine’s list of the World’s Greatest Leaders. The icon also declined a pay raise and instead pledged $500,000 to a career-development program for current and past members of the men’s basketball program.

Football program sees massive improvement

The 2019 football season has been so enjoyable because Virginia fans have been waiting a long time to witness this success — the program has certainly come a long way.

After a rough first year for Mendenhall — in 2016, Virginia finished last in the ACC with a 2-10, 1-7 ACC record — the football team has constantly improved ever since.

In 2017 and 2018, Mendenhall’s squad made significant steps forward, qualifying for a bowl game in 2017 and winning one in 2018. However, Virginia remained unable to break the losing streak against Virginia Tech.

That all came to an end in 2019. In the most unforgettable moment this season, the Cavaliers (9-3, 6-2 ACC) broke Virginia Tech’s 15-year winning streak by defeating the Hokies (8-4, 5-3 ACC) 39-30, securing their first Coastal Division title.

Besides the recent win against the Hokies, there have been many other memorable moments. From students rushing the field after beating Florida State by a score of 31-24 to pounding Duke over parents weekend, Virginia football has certainly come a long way under Mendenhall.

The team will head to Charlotte, N.C., to play No. 3 Clemson for the ACC Championship Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

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