Few, if any, college athletics departments had a calendar year like Virginia did in 2019.
The Cavaliers won two national championships and played for a third. Even programs that didn’t contend for national championships had highlights, including the football team’s win over Virginia Tech.
It was a special year for Virginia athletics, which is why many fans dubbed the year as the year of the Wahoos.
As we look back on 2019, let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember the 10 best achievements and moments from Virginia’s 2019 year.
10. Vin Lananna joins cross country program
One of the most decorated track and field and cross country coaches in the United States, Lananna became a legend on the West Coast. Virginia director of athletics Carla Williams convinced Lananna to come back to the East Coast, and he joined UVa as the director of track and field and cross country in September. He’s an underrated hire during Williams’ tenure.
9. Men’s and women’s swimming finish in top 10 at nationals
It was a special season for the UVa swimming and diving teams, with the men’s squad finishing 10th at nationals, the team’s best finish since 2011. The women’s team finished sixth, giving the program its third-best finish in program history.
8. Men’s tennis makes it to NCAA quarterfinals
It wasn’t quite the end to the season that the Cavaliers wanted, but the men’s tennis program is one of the school’s most consistent. The 2019 season ended with a loss in the NCAA quarterfinals to Wake Forest, but a 24-5 final record is nothing to scoff at.
7. Men’s and women’s soccer reach No. 1
Both men’s and women’s soccer started their 2019 seasons strong, which resulted in the programs simultaneously spending time at No. 1 during the fall. Women’s soccer’s season ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a shocking upset to Washington State, while the men’s team reached the national championship game before falling to Georgetown in penalty kicks.
6. Field hockey qualifies for the Final Four
The Virginia field hockey team beat Maryland 1-0 in overtime of the NCAA quarterfinals in front of an engaged home crowd. Annie McDonough scored the game-winning goal for the Wahoos. The win secured Virginia’s spot in the Final Four for the first time since 2010.
5. Men’s soccer makes NCAA finals
The Cavaliers put together one of the best seasons in program history, despite falling one game short of winning the national title. Virginia finished the season with a 21-2-1 record, earning the third-most wins in program history and the most under current head coach George Gelnovatch. Earning an ACC championship and the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament were two major highlights.
4. Men’s basketball beats Purdue in Elite Eight
Arguably the most thrilling NCAA Tournament game last season, Virginia beat Purdue 80-75 in overtime of the Elite Eight. A Ty Jerome missed free throw was tapped out by Mamadi Diakite and gathered by Kihei Clark. The freshman guard got the ball near halfcourt, turned and found Diakite open for a floater at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. UVa controlled the overtime period and won the game to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1984.
3. Men’s lacrosse wins national title
A magical run for the Virginia men’s lacrosse team ended with a 13-9 victory over Yale in the national championship game. Matt Moore, who became the first Cavalier with 40 goals and 40 assists in a season, led the team with four goals in the championship game. The NCAA Tournament run required a pair of dramatic overtime victories before the Cavaliers beat the Bulldogs by four to win the whole thing.
2. Football beats Virginia Tech
After 15 years of losing to the Hokies, 2019 became the year Virginia finally broke the streak. Behind a phenomenal effort from Bryce Perkins and a few timely defensive plays, the Cavaliers beat Virginia Tech 39-30 in front of an energetic home crowd. The win also clinched the ACC Coastal Division and a spot in the conference title game. Eventually, Virginia went on to earn an Orange Bowl appearance, the first in program history. Without the win over the Hokies, the Cavaliers certainly weren’t making a bowl appearance in Miami.
1. Men’s basketball wins national title
No surprise at the top of the list, as Tony Bennett’s team’s journey to a national title was unlike any champion in recent memory. The Cavaliers fell to 16th-seeded UMBC a year prior, and they turned that loss into one of the better sports redemption stories. Virginia needed late-game heroics in its final three games to win it all, and the Wahoos delivered each time. An 85-77 overtime win over Texas Tech clinched the championship for the Cavaliers.