Exciting fall has Tech athletics ready for successful spring

BLACKSBURG – Strong performances on the field, on the court, on the mat and in the classroom and community headlined a banner fall for the varsity programs within the Virginia Tech Athletics Department.

In fact, those teams have set the tone for what department administrators hope will be an outstanding spring, as the spring sports get ready to start in the next few weeks.

The fall ended with the football squad rallying from a 24-point deficit to knock off Arkansas in the Belk Bowl and with the men’s basketball team stunning then-No. 5 Duke at Virginia Tech Carilion Court. The success of those two programs in the fall, along with the rise of the women’s basketball team, led to all three being ranked at the same time for the first time in school history.

The football and men’s soccer teams led the way with postseason appearances. Behind the play of 13 players who earned All-ACC recognition, Tech’s football program went 10-4 and finished the season ranked No. 16 in The Associated Press’ national poll. The men’s soccer team went 13-5-4, made the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2007 and finished the year ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA poll. Tech advanced to the Elite Eight after winning three matches, including a road upset of No. 7 Indiana in overtime.

The cross country teams and the women’s soccer team also had strong performances. The women’s cross country team finished a program-best third at the ACC meet, while the men ended up fourth. Katie Kennedy, Andrew Gaiser, Daniel Jaskowak, and Brent Musselman earned All-Southeast Region honors for the first time in their careers. In women’s soccer, the Hokies – led by first-team All-ACC performer and career goal leader Murielle Tiernan – went 11-5-3 and just missed an NCAA bid.

The wrestling team continues to excel – as its No. 5 national ranking attests – and so, too, do the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams. The Hokies have five wrestlers currently ranked in the top five of their respective weight classes. At 13-1, Tech is the team to beat in the ACC. The women’s swimming and diving team is ranked No. 23, while the men check in at No. 25.

Both basketball teams are in position to make the NCAA Tournament thanks to great falls. The women’s team, currently ranked No. 19 at 16-3, went 13-0 in non-conference action in the fall, while the men’s team is 15-4 and receiving votes in The Associated Press poll.

The department hopes to continue the success of its teams in the playing venues and has made a commitment to enhancing facilities. Announced early in the fall, the department broke ground on an $18 million renovation of English Field at Union Park – the Hokies’ baseball home – while also breaking ground on an $18 million project that calls for the renovation of Rector Field House and the building of a softball hitting facility.

In addition, the athletics department received generous donations from Garnett Smith and Steve Johnson to enhance areas in golf and football, respectively. Smith’s donation helped fund the installation of two golf simulators on the bottom floor of Cassell Coliseum, along with the construction of a putting area, coaches offices and a conference room. Johnson, a former Tech player, gave $1 million for the renovation of position meeting rooms and the team meeting room in the Merryman Center. That project is slated to start later this year.

On the academic front, 300 of the Hokies’ 551 student-athletes achieved a 3.0 grade-point average or better during the recent fall semester, with 26 of them earning a 4.0. Currently, 289 student-athletes maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or better, with nine maintaining a cumulative 4.0. Fourteen teams earned a 3.0 or better this fall, and 15 maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better.

In the community, Virginia Tech’s student-athletes completed 2,092 hours worth of community service in a five-month span starting at the beginning of August. Tech’s football program led the way by participating in four projects this fall, including two at the Belk Bowl.

Community-service projects throughout the fall ranged from reading to children at local elementary schools to working fall festivals at local schools to working at the Montgomery Country Christmas Store to volunteering as a marshal at the Color Me Rad run that raises money for Special Olympics. The Tech women’s soccer team helped with the flood relief efforts in West Virginia, the softball and men’s basketball teams made visits to Carilion Children’s, a pediatric care services unit of Carilion Clinic, and numerous student-athletes worked at United Way events throughout the community and with Micah’s Backpacks.

Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock talks often about continued momentum, and he wants Tech fans to be a part of that. He and the Hokie Club launched the “Drive for 25” late in the fall, with the goal being to increase membership into the Hokie Club to 25,000 members. That would make the club the largest fundraising organization in the ACC, and all monies would go toward paying student-athlete scholarships. For more information, please see www.drivefor25.com.

The athletics department is prepared for a big spring. ACC championship events are on the horizon for wrestling, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s and women’s basketball. Also, Tech’s track teams could contend for ACC titles, and the baseball, softball, lacrosse, golf and tennis teams crank up soon.

Hopefully, the excitement is just starting.

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