October will be a huge month for West Virginia athletics. Six different Mountaineer teams will be facing ranked opponents, or opponents that were ranked at the conclusion of their last season, during this month. For those six WVU teams, there are currently over 20 games and events in October where Mountaineer teams will be facing ranked opponents, opponents that were ranked at the conclusion of their last season, or opponents who are receiving votes in national polls. With that being said, it wasn’t easy to narrow down, but here are the top five games for Mountaineer athletics in October.
Honorable Mention: Men’s Basketball Gold-Blue Debut (October 11); Rifle vs TCU
Even after last season, it’s hard not to get excited for the beginning of the WVU men’s basketball season. After going 15-21 last year, Bob Huggins is ready to get things back on track with the players that he retained and the new additions to the roster. The Mountaineers will have three seniors this season with Jermaine Haley, Chase Harler, and Logan Routt. The juniors will be two transfers, Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien. The majority of the roster is young, with five experienced sophomores and four freshmen. Returning sophomores Derek Culver, Jordan McCabe, Emmitt Matthews, Jr., and Brandon Knapper are joined by newcomer Sean McNeil. The standout freshman on the roster is Oscar Tshiebwe, who fans have been looking forward to since the thought of him and Derek Culver teaming up became a reality. Although the Gold-Blue Debut is an intrasquad scrimmage, it could give fans an idea of what the team may look like this season.
The West Virginia rifle team hosted the national championship for the first time in program history last season, but the Mountaineers finished in second to TCU. The Mountaineers will have a chance to get revenge when they host the defending national champions in the second match of the season. The national rankings for this season have not been released yet, but it is very likely that both WVU and TCU will stay towards the top of the rankings. The Mountaineers have experienced shooters returning this year, including four of the five that competed in the national championship last season. Seniors Morgan Phillips and Milica Babic will likely lead the way for WVU this year, with help from juniors David Koenders and Sarah Osborn. A win in this match against TCU would help the Mountaineers build momentum, as the season begins.
5. Volleyball at #1 Baylor (October 26)
The West Virginia volleyball season has been full of ups and downs through the first 14 matches. The Mountaineers started the year 4-0, but quickly fell to 4-4 after a couple of tournaments out west. WVU then bounced back with another four game winning streak before two losses to start Big 12 play put the Mountaineers at 8-6. WVU has relied on sophomore Kristina Jordan offensively this season. Jordan currently leads the team with 161 kills and 19 service aces. The Mountaineers have a few tough matchups this month, but the biggest will be when they travel to Waco, Texas, to take on #1 Baylor. The Lady Bears are currently undefeated and just hopped into the #1 spot this week. The Mountaineers have chance to shake things up with an upset in this match. WVU fans can stream the match on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
4. Women’s Soccer vs #18 Texas Tech (October 10)
The West Virginia women’s soccer team is currently 6-3-1 thanks to a three game winning streak. The Mountaineers desperately needed the wins after losing to three ranked opponents and falling out of the national polls with a 3-3-1 record. WVU’s schedule is about to get difficult again, as Big 12 play continues. The Mountaineers are set to face three ranked conference opponents this month, including #18 Texas Tech. TTU is 9-1-1 this season and has been moving up in the rankings with a nine game unbeaten streak. The Mountaineers have been led by freshmen this season. Defender Julianne Vallerand leads the team with five goals, and Gabby Robinson has started in all 10 games this year and leads WVU with 920 minutes played. A win in this match for the Mountaineers could help them jump back into the top 25. This game will be streamed on MountaineerTV, and WVU soccer fans should be on the lookout for matchups against Oklahoma and TCU later this month that will be nationally televised on ESPNU and FS1, respectively. There are also three women’s soccer games in October that will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
3. #23 Men’s Soccer at #20 North Carolina (October 8)
The #23 West Virginia men’s soccer team has jumped back into the top 25 after wins against Ohio State and Penn. The 6-2-1 Mountaineers are about to be tested with back-to-back matches against ranked opponents, #25 San Diego and #20 North Carolina. UNC started the season 2-2-1, but has since defeated two ranked ACC opponents to improve to 4-2-2. Senior midfielder Andres Muriel Albino has stepped up recently for WVU and he now leads the team with six goals. This week he was also named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Week, after scoring three goals in the Mountaineers’ wins over Ohio State and Penn. Freshman midfielder Luke McCormick has been helping his teammates put up points, as he leads the team with four assists this year. Junior Steven Tekesky has also been solid in the goal this season, with the help up junior defender Kevin Morris. If WVU can start October with back-to-back wins against San Diego and the UNC Tar Heels, it could help the Mountaineers continue moving up in the national rankings, as they head into MAC play. This match against UNC will be on the ACC Network.
2. Football at #6 Oklahoma (October 19)
Things have not gone well for the Mountaineers against Oklahoma, since WVU joined the conference in 2012. OU has won the last seven games between the two teams, including a heartbreaker last season. WVU is definitely in a rebuilding stage this year, but that doesn’t mean that this game isn’t a big one. The undefeated Sooners have been led by senior quarterback, and Heisman frontrunner, Jalen Hurts, who transferred to OU from Alabama.
On the other side the Mountaineers have junior quarterback Austin Kendall, who transferred to WVU from OU. The transfer dynamic will definitely make this game a little more interesting, as it will likely be the last time that Kendall plays in Norman. The Mountaineers will definitely have a tough task in front of them as they face the #6 team in the country in this game, and being on the road won’t help. If WVU can find a way to get an incredible upset win in this one, it will not only be the greatest win thus far for Neal Brown as the Mountaineers’ head coach, but it would likely be one of the greatest wins in WVU football history.
1. Football vs #11 Texas (October 5)
It’s safe to say that both sides have been waiting for this game for a long time. Will Grier and the Mountaineers left Austin with a 42-41 victory in iconic fashion last season, and the “Horns Down” hysteria has fueled the fire between these two teams and fan bases since last year. The #11 Longhorns have been led by junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger this season, and their only loss has been to #5 LSU in a shootout. Ehlinger will likely be fired up for this matchup with West Virginia. After last season’s game he tweeted, “I remember every single team/player that disrespects the rich tradition of the University of Texas by putting the Horns down. Do not think it will be forgotten in the future.” The complaints by the Longhorn players, coaches, and fans has only motivated Mountaineer fans to embrace the “Horns Down” sign and the idea of hating Texas. WVU head coach Neal Brown downplayed the “Horns Down” sign when he was asked about it earlier this week, and Brown’s implementation of discipline on the team probably means that players won’t be showing the gesture while on the field, but that will definitely not apply to the WVU fans and students. The Mountaineers are a double-digit underdog in this game, but the spread means a little less in Morgantown. The last time that WVU was a double-digit underdog at home was 2013, and the Mountaineers came away with a 30-21 win over Oklahoma State in that game. Hopefully WVU can come away with another upset win in this Homecoming game against Texas to build momentum for the rest of the tough October schedule. This game will be nationally televised on ABC.
October won’t be easy for these WVU teams, but that also means that they will have opportunities to prove themselves on the national stage. Be sure to tune in for these games, and more, to see how the Mountaineers play against some of the best teams in the country.