The fall semester is about to begin and so are the athletic seasons for many Mountaineer teams. The West Virginia football, volleyball, and soccer teams will start their seasons this month and there are some big matchups on the schedules. Let’s take a look at the top five games of August!
5. Volleyball at Delaware (August 30)
The West Virginia volleyball team had a rough season, finishing with an 11-19 record. WVU also finished last in the Big 12 with a 2-14 conference record. Head coach Reed Sunahara is hoping to get the Mountaineers back on track this season. WVU will have a chance to get the season off to a good start when the team travels to Newark, Delaware, for the Delaware Classic. WVU will face the host team Delaware to start the season. The Blue Hens also struggled last year, only winning nine games. Along with UD, the Mountaineers will also play against Coppin State and Binghamton at the Delaware Classic. Hopefully WVU will get a few wins at this event and start the season on the right foot.
4. #11 Women’s Soccer vs Duquesne (August 23)
The West Virginia women’s soccer team is back to continue chasing a national championship. The Mountaineers are looking to bounce back after suffering an upset loss to Wake Forest in the second round of the national tournament last year. WVU is starting at #11 in the national rankings and is the highest ranked team in the Big 12. The Mountaineers will open their season against Duquesne, which finished 6-9-2 last year. A solid win in this game for WVU could help start momentum for the season and the Mountaineers’ next matchup, which may be more difficult.
3. #23 Men’s Soccer (Exhibition) vs #16 Virginia Tech (August 16)
The West Virginia men’s soccer team is back and ready to build off of its Mid-American Conference regular season championship last season. The Mountaineers finished last season with a loss in the second round of the national tournament. The team returns many players with experience, including seniors Pascal Derwaritsch and Andres Muriel Albino, who each had six of WVU’s 41 goals last year. The Mountaineers are also bringing back All-MAC Second Team goalkeeper Steven Tekesky, who had 86 saves last season.
Although this match is an exhibition, it will be a good measuring stick for Marlon LeBlanc and the Mountaineers to see how well they can compete with other nationally ranked teams. Virginia Tech is also coming off of a successful season, where the Hokies reached the third round of the national tournament. A win in this exhibition could help give the Mountaineers confidence, and possibly move them up in the national rankings, as the regular season begins.
2. #11 Women’s Soccer vs #3 Stanford (August 25)
The WVU women’s soccer team will be tested early in the second match of the season against #3 Stanford. Stanford is coming off of a very successful year, with an appearance in the national semifinals. The loss in the national semifinals was the only loss that the Cardinal had last season.
WVU will be led by senior goalkeeper Rylee Foster and sophomore defender Jordan Brewster. Foster, a four year starter, had 12 shutouts last season. Brewster is looking to build off of her two goals and four assists in her first year at WVU. If the Mountaineers can come away with a win in this match, it could propel them into the top ten. This matchup between WVU and Stanford will be at a neutral site, hosted by Penn State.
1. Football vs (FCS #2) James Madison (August 31)
There is no question what the biggest game of the month will be. This game is probably one of the most highly anticipated games of the 2019-20 athletic year for WVU athletics because it will mark the beginning of the Neal Brown era. There is a lot of uncertainty surround Brown and his Mountaineer team, but that uncertainty also translates to anticipation and excitement, and Mountaineer fans have been waiting for months to see how the team will look in Brown’s first game as head coach.
James Madison will not be a cupcake FCS opponent. The Dukes are ranked second in the FCS preseason rankings and also have a first-year head coach, Curt Cignetti. JMU is returning 19 out of 22 starters, including quarterback Ben DiNucci, but the Dukes have faced multiple injuries this summer. The Mountaineers lost many keys players to the NFL Draft and graduation, and there is still uncertainty at the quarterback position, but WVU is returning many talented running backs and a solid offensive line. WVU handled JMU, 42-12, in the last game between the two in 2012. If the Mountaineers can come away with a convincing win in this game with JMU, it would be a good way to start this 2019 season and the Neal Brown era.
August should be an exciting month for WVU athletics, with the beginning of the Neal Brown era in football, and the men’s and women’s soccer teams starting their seasons in the top 25. Hopefully these Mountaineer teams can come out of August with wins, so the excitement surrounding their seasons will continue.