Review of the year of the Cardinals 2021: Four MEC championships / Several milestones in the spotlight 2021
Wheeling, W. Va. – The past few seasons have been filled with trials and tribulations for everyone, and it was no different here at Wheeling University. Coaches, student-athletes and administration have taken on many challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to allow our teams to compete safely day in and day out. Despite all the hardships, there have been several highlights throughout the 2021 season as Wheeling continues to advance and uphold the college’s life, leadership and service mission with and among others. All 19 varsity sports were in action last season, full of championships, milestones and memorable moments galore.
However, the year did not start off with as much glitter and glamor as we have seen in recent times, with MEC and its member institutions trying to find a way for its student-athletes to compete safely. After many meetings and new rules in place, it was determined that all 19 sports would undergo their seasons in the spring and while many would be shortened schedules, it would be a chance for student-athletes to compete and represent their university. on the ground and courtyard.
The spring season officially kicked off on January 7, 2021 with a men’s and women’s basketball doubles program against Alderson Broaddus. This game day would kick off one of the busiest springs in athletics history, with each team facing off in their season. Some programs were on the verge of starting a rebuild, but others were in the process of starting and competing for the MEC playoffs. In total, four different teams competed in the MEC playoffs, with men’s basketball, women’s basketball, volleyball and baseball all competing in their respective tournaments. Meanwhile, the track and field program was one of the best programs in the country and was again on its way to an MEC championship, an award they had won for each of the previous three years on the women’s side.
Those are the two teams that started playing in 2021 that would kick off MEC’s playoffs. Men’s basketball finished the year 6-12 overall and 5-11 in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) game and placed fifth seed in the North Division. They started their run by knocking out No. 4 seed Alderson Broaddus 97-91 and advanced to the quarter-finals at the WesBanco Arena. Sadly, their race would end there as they fell to No. 1 seed in the South, University of Charleston. The women’s basketball team took second place in the South Division and started their tournament with a 77-72 victory over Concord to advance to the semi-final. Unfortunately, they also met the University of Charleston and will fall 71-55, ending their season.
During the basketball season, former Cardinal Lilly Ritz became the 28th cardinal in program history to score 1,000 points. She accomplished the feat during Senior Night against West Liberty and represented the first highlight of the 2021 calendar year. With athletics now booming, it was time for the next MEC playoffs as the team wheel volleyball player was heading to the MEC tournament. They finished the regular season 11-2, 8-2 in conference and were the second seed in tournament field.
It wouldn’t be an easy tournament for the Cardinals as they had to pass through rival West Liberty and host West Virginia State before they played in the championship game. They ran their business, beating the Hilltoppers and Yellow Jackets by the same score of 3-1, and secured a date with the squad that beat their 219-game conference winning streak in the regular season. at Fairmont State. Wheeling would get the revenge they were looking for, taking a 3-0 victory and claiming the eighth consecutive MEC title for the program.
While many teams faced delayed seasons, the Wheeling Baseball team were looking to get back to normal after their 2020 season hiatus after just 13 games. The Cardinals would return with a 41-game schedule in 2021 and host the best season in program history. After being selected third in the MEC preseason poll, the Cardinals broke the single-season winning record, with 27-14, and won the MEC North Division, 22-9 in conference. They won their first trip to the MEC playoffs since joining the conference in 2014. Sadly, they fell in their opener 15-1 against Concord, and followed that up with a 6- loss. 3 against West Virginia State to end their season.
As the schedule turned in May, the Wheeling University track team intended to end the wild spring season on a high note at the MEC Championships. The women would win the second MEC Championship of 2021, as they won their third consecutive title, while former cardinal Liz Flemming and head coach Patrick stanton were recognized as field athlete of the year and coach of the year, respectively. The men also had a strong performance, and after entering Day 3 in fifth place they rallied to finish second in the event.
With the end of the spring season and athletics returning to normal, the Cardinals were well prepared for what the future would bring them. In total, they had 48 All-MEC winners, 12 first team, 13 second team and 22 honorable mentions, three MEC championships and seven individual MEC champions in track and field. However, the winds of change were blowing as Wheeling was ready to invite new faces into the Cardinal family to help propel athletics into the future.
The Cardinals started the summer by welcoming Duquesne’s former deputy Matt schmidt as the new head coach of women’s basketball on July 8, 2021. Carrie hanna, who had spent the previous 19 years with the athletics department in various capacities, was appointed the new athletic director a few weeks later. To round out the summer hiring group, new head coach of women’s football Theo Egbele and director of sports information Zack zeigler. With a new team in place, Wheeling entered the fall 2021 season looking to regain a sense of normalcy on the pitch.
Wheeling’s nine fall sports were able to compete in their normal seasons, the year starting September 2 with football, women’s soccer and volleyball in action. The regular season was full of highlights, including women’s football’s first-ever victory over Notre Dame, men’s football’s six-goal performance in their opener, and football’s first-ever shutout against West Virginia Wesleyan in the mid-season. October. However, the first team to step onto the national stage was the Wheeling women’s golf team at the 2021 MEC Championships.
After appearing in four events leading up to the Championship tournament, the Cardinals entered with confidence on their side. The whole year they had fought with the University of Charleston, but had not succeeded. This time around, they took the lead with a three-stroke lead in the field with a score of 337 on day one. As the tournament unfolded, Wheeling kept adding to their success, building a six-stroke lead on day two and securing up to a 16-stroke lead before it was all said and done. . Junior Emily Holzopfel won the event and Wheeling won the third MEC Championship title in program history.
During the fall season, the team that took the biggest step forward was the soccer team, which in their third competitive season set the program’s new record with five wins finishing 5 -6 on his 11-game schedule. The success was fueled heavily by MEC’s ground run leader Sy Alli IV, who became the first 1,000 yard runner in the program’s history. One of the most memorable moments of the season came on Homecoming when Wheeling faced rivals West Liberty University and claimed a 26-20 overtime victory thanks to Alli.
In late fall, Wheeling Volleyball was once again at the heart of MEC’s playoff race and entered the tournament as a No.2 seed, going 29-6 and 15- 1 in the MEC match. They reached the MEC Championship game again and were once again faced with the team that beat them in the regular season in the state of West Virginia. It was a battle all night, but the Cardinals won their ninth consecutive MEC Championship with a 3-1 victory over the Yellow Jackets. They then prepared to host the 2021 NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Volleyball Tournament and entered that tournament as the No.1 seed. They reached the championship game but ended up losing 3-0 to Gannon University, ending another successful season.
With the fall sports over, the winter season was already in full swing with wrestling, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and the indoor track in action. The wrestling program was in its first full season since 2019 and got off to good starts from Julius Hobbs and Brennon Reid, who have won nine and eight wins respectively in their first five events of the season. Track and field hosted an event in early December and provided the first defining moment of winter when Jabez Reeves broke the school record in the 60-meter Dash, running the event in 6.86 seconds.
Each basketball team provided their own defining moments in the first half of their season, with the women’s basketball team recording the first big moment. With just seconds on the clock against West Virginia Wesleyan, Freshman Shamia Strayhorn hit a shot from nearly halfway to give the Cardinals a 52-51 victory over the Bobcats. The last highlight of 2021 came in the final men’s game of 2021. Senior Jordan Reid entered the game against the Ohio Dominican with just eight points to score 1,000 for his career and he netted 13 to become the 47th 1000 point scorer in program history. .
For Wheeling, 2021 has been a great year full of growth and programs preparing for success for the years to come. It’s unclear what lies ahead for 2022, but Wheeling seeks continued success on and off the pitch.