Using upset victories at 141, 149 and 174 pounds, the Virginia Tech wrestling team sent seniors Dennis Gustafson and Jared Haught out in grand style, knocking off No. 25 North Carolina 21-9 in an ACC dual held at Carilion Clinic Court on Saturday night. With the win, the No. 9 Hokies moved to 13-2 overall, 3-0 in the ACC. At 141, Brent Moore used a late escape to beat No. 16 A.C. Headlee 3-2, while Ryan Blees pulled off the stunner of No. 6 Troy Heilmann at 149, winning 3-1 in sudden victory. Hunter Bolen won at 174, registering a 14-6 major decision of No. 13 Ethan Ramos. Gustafson and Haught each won at 133 and 197, respectively, as Tech won seven of 10 weight classes. The Hokies hit the mat again Sunday when they travel to Charlottesville to take on Virginia in a Commonwealth Clash battle. The match starts at 1 p.m.
Redshirt junior • 149 pounds • Bismarck, North Dakota
Blees scored a 3-1 upset victory over sixth-ranked Troy Heilmann of North Carolina in Virginia Tech’s 21-9 win over North Carolina on Saturday night at Carilion Clinic Court. With the score tied at 1 heading into sudden victory, Blees got in deep on a single leg, stood up and used a leg sweep to take down Heilmann. The loss was only Heilmann’s fourth of the season. Blees has won 13 of his past 14 matches since dropping to 149 pounds in early January. Heilmann is the highest ranked opponent that Blees has beaten in his time at Virginia Tech.
The Virginia tech women’s tennis team lost the doubles point and fell behind 1-0, but the Hokies roared back in singles action, knocking off Missouri 4-2 in a non-conference match Saturday at the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center. The Hokies moved to 3-0 with the victory. In singles play, Natalie Novotna, ranked No. 25 nationally, started the comeback with a 6-2, 6-1 blowout of Marta Oliveira, and Elena Cerezo-Codina followed with a 7-5, 6-2 win at the No. 3 spot. Katherine Butler added a win for the Hokies, and then Caroline Daxhelet clinched it with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (5) win out of the No. 2 spot. Tech returns to the court Saturday with a non-conference match at Marshall that starts at 4 p.m.
Jason Kros, Alex Ribeiro and Carlo Donato all recorded two singles wins, as the Virginia Tech men’s tennis team rolled to two home wins over the weekend, knocking off Eastern Kentucky and James Madison both by scores of 7-0. Tech, which moved to 5-1 overall on the season with the victories, jumped out quickly in both by winning the doubles point. In singles action, Kros knocked off EKU’s Parth Aggarwal 6-0, 6-1 while at the No. 2 spot in the lineup, and he beat JMU’s Paul Mendoza 6-2, 6-4 while at the No. 1 spot. Ribeiro won two matches in straight sets as well, and Donato gave the Hokies strong performance at the No. 4 spot, beating EKU’s Carlos Dodero 6-3, 6-2 and JMU’s Pierre Kohler 6-0, 6-2. The Hokies return to action Saturday when they take on St. Bonaventure and Davidson in a doubleheader at the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center.
Thanks to 20 points from Taylor Emery and 18 points off the bench from Chanette Hicks, the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team picked up its first ACC road win of the season, knocking off Syracuse 73-64 in at ACC game at the Carrier Dome. With the win, Tech moved to 15-8 overall, 4-6 in ACC play heading into its final bye week of the season. The Hokies pulled away in the second half, outscoring Syracuse by six in the third quarter and three in the second. Regan Magarity added 12 points and 10 rebounds for her 26th career double-double, and Kendyl Brooks finished with 10 points. The Hokies return to action tonight when they face North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The game tips at 7 p.m.
Sara Freix and Jack Joyce won their first collegiate titles to headline the track and field accomplishments this past weekend, as various student-athletes competed in three different meets – the Akron Invitational in Akron, Ohio; the Rod McCravy Invitational in Lexington, Kentucky; and the Camel City Invitational in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Freix and Joyce both won the 3,000-meter run at the Camel City Invitational, with Freix winning the women’s race in a time of 9:34.64, which marked the sixth-fastest time in school history. Joyce won in a time of 8:14.88. Also at the Camel City Invitational, Rachel Pocratsky was third in the 800, and Katie Kennedy ran the second-fastest mile (4:39.97) in school history, coming in fifth. In Ohio, Deakin Volz came in third in the pole vault with a top vault of 5.35 meters (17 feet, 6.5 inches), and Pavla Kuklova, competing in the weight throw for the first time, finished second with a top toss of 17.99 meters (59 feet, 0.25), which was the sixth-best in school history. The sprinters competed in Kentucky, and Jared Bane came in third in the 200, while Caitlan Tate was third in the 60-meter dash. The two teams split up again this weekend, as various student-athletes will compete in the Music City Challenge in Nashville, Tennessee; the Tiger Paw Invitational in Clemson, South Carolina and the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Klaudia Nazieblo played a large role in a record-setting weekend and both Abigail Andrusin and Alex McMurry each won two events, as the Virginia Tech men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams competed in the 2018 Technotational held Friday through Sunday at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. Nazieblo set a pool record in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 52.63 seconds and was part of the 200 medley relay team, along with Joelle Vereb, Maggie Gruber and Adriana Grabski, that won with a program-record time of 1:37.96. Andrusin won both the 100 and 200 freestyle events, and McMurry led the Tech men with wins in the 100 and 200 backstroke events. Other individual winners on the men’s side included Chris Outlaw (50 freestyle), Lasse Pittioni (100 breaststroke) and Norbert Szabo (200 free), while on the women’s side, Heather Sigmon (100 back) and Molly Sheffield (200 butterfly) won, and both Danielle Griggs and Kayla Purcell tied for the top spot in the 100 butterfly. The Hokies now gear up for the ACC Swimming and Diving Championships, with the women’s team and the divers for both teams competing Feb. 14-17 in Greensboro, North Carolina. The men’s team then competes in Greensboro on Feb. 21-24.
Seniors Tristan McGinley, Emma Harden and Meagh Graham all return to headline the 2018 Virginia Tech lacrosse team and figure to play prominent roles when the Hokies open their season Saturday with a home game against Southern California at the Indoor Practice Facility on Tech’s campus. Tech is coming off a terrific 2016 season in which it tied a program record with 11 wins and set school record for goals and points.
McGinley, an attack and one of eight seniors, ranked second on the team last season with 50 goals, while Harden, also an attack, scored 38 goals. Sophomore Taylor Caskey returns after leading the Hokies with 18 assists to go with 19 goals, and Graham anchors things from her goalkeeper spot, coming off a season in which she allowed 9.64 goals per game – a school record. Tech was ranked for nine consecutive weeks in 2017, rising to as high as No. 12, and the Hokies go into this season wanting more. Tech plays four of its first five games at home, starting with the battle with USC. The game starts at noon.
Led by outfielders Breanna Davenport and Emma Strouth, the Virginia Tech softball team continues preparations for the 2018 season opener, which is set for this Friday as part of the Sand Dollar Classic held over the weekend in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The Hokies return most of their starting lineup from 2017, a group that suffered an injury-plagued year, but expectations are high. Davenport, a second-team All-ACC choice last season, headlines the returners, as she finished third on the team last season with a .333 batting average, and she was second on the team with eight homers and 29 RBI. Strouth hit .338, with seven homers and 34 RBI. Carrie Eberle returns to the circle after landing a spot on the ACC’s all-freshman squad last season following her 9-11 record, with a 3.42 ERA, but freshmen Jordan Dail and Keely Rochard figure to see significant time in the circle as well. Tech plays two games Friday to open the campaign, starting with a 2 p.m. tilt with Florida A&M and a 5 p.m. battle with Lamar. The Hokies’ home opener will be Feb. 28 against Radford.
Virginia Tech softball player Ashley Kowalski is one of five seniors on the softball team, and she contributes mostly as a backup outfielder and pinch runner. The young woman, who was born in China and lives in Stanhope, New Jersey, serves in the Corps of Cadets, while also pursuing a degree in criminology. She answered the following questions so fans could get to know her as more than just a talented student-athlete.
Q: What would be your dream vacation?
AK: My dream vacation would be to Australia. I have always wanted to travel outside of the U.S., and I think Australia is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Q: What’s your favorite place to eat?
AK: My favorite place to eat is probably any Hibachi restaurant. I love Japanese cuisine.
Q: What is your favorite city that you've visited?
AK: My favorite city that I have visited is probably Honolulu, Hawaii. We went for a team trip to Hawaii, and I loved the sites and culture that Hawaii had to offer.
Q: If you could play another sport, what would it be?
AK: The sport I wish I could play is football. I would play that because being in that stadium with all the fans is immense.
Q: Why did you choose Virginia Tech?
AK: I picked Virginia Tech because of the academics in conjunction with that I was accepted to be a cadet in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets as an Army ROTC cadet.
Q: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
AK: If I could live anywhere, I would live in the Caribbean. The weather is generally beautiful, and the views are pristine. It would be like being on vacation 24-7.
Q: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be?
AK: I would love to trade places with Derek Jeter, a former baseball star [with the New York Yankees]. I would love to live his life for the day as one of the top athletes in the world.
Q: What type of music are you listening to these days?
AK: I listen to mainly hip-hop, country and whatever is on the radio that is among the top hits. It also depends on my mood.
Q: What is the talent you’d most like to have?
AK: One talent I wish I had was the ability to solve a problem within 10 seconds, no matter what it is.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a Virginia Tech athlete?
AK: The best thing about being an athlete here is that I get to be a student-athlete and cadet. Nowhere else would I be able to be wrapped up in one like this. I get the best of many worlds – the world’s best military college and academic and athletic college.
Virginia Tech’s annual Baseball Night in Blacksburg returned in 2018 – after a year’s hiatus – with a home run Saturday night, as many in attendance for the first time got to meet and hear in person from Hokies head coach John Szefc and were entertained by the anecdotes of Major League Baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian. A silent auction featured such items as lunch for two with former football coach Frank Beamer and the same with Coach Szefc; signed MLB jerseys of former Tech players Chad Pinder, Joe Mantiply and Ben Rowen; and a signed Mark Zagunis bat, among other items. Szefc recognized the baseball alumni in the crowd, talked about his first semester in Blacksburg, introduced the 2018 team and spoke about the progress of English Field at Union Park. Kurkjian, the guest speaker, said that he thought everyone in attendance could agree that baseball is the best game because it’s the hardest to play in the world. He continued the rest of the evening telling stories about why it is, the major leaguers he’s met along the way and his career in the profession. The 2018 season begins in just 11 days, as the Hokies head to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a four-game tournament, while their home opener is scheduled for Feb. 27 against Radford.
Virginia Tech point guard Justin Robinson continues to produce at a prolific rate, as he extended his streak of scoring in double figures to 10 straight games during the Hokies’ two contests over the past week. Robinson scored 10 points and dished out 12 assists in Tech’s 85-80 overtime win at Boston College last Wednesday, tying the school’s single-game record for assists. Robinson added a team-best 22 points in the Hokies’ 84-75 loss to Miami on Saturday. For the season, he is averaging 12.8 points and 5.7 assists per game. Tech fell to 16-7 overall, 5-5 in ACC play with the loss to Miami, and the Hokies will look to get back in the win column tonight when they take on NC State in a 9 p.m. affair at Carilion Clinic Court.
On Monday evening, 77 Virginia Tech sport student-athletes and support area students (managers and trainers) were recognized at a Letter Jacket Legacy Ceremony held at Lane Stadium. The Virginia Tech Department of Athletics sponsored the event in conjunction with the Virginia Tech Monogram Club, a membership organization that seeks to honor, connect and recognize former and current letterwinners and their commitment to Virginia Tech Athletics. This new tradition has allowed first-year letterwinners to see firsthand the value that the department places on their commitment to athletics and also enhances their experience as member of the Virginia Tech Athletics community. During the ceremony, letterwinners were presented with their letter jackets and acknowledged by their head coaches, with numerous members of the department administration in attendance.