Seldom has the Virginia athletic program had a year to match the national championships put up by men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse teams over a seven-week span, but that wasn’t the only 2018-19 story for UVa fans to savor.
As the Roanoke Times’ annual ranking of Virginia athletic programs would suggest, the transformation of UVa’s football team was a major storyline.
In the previous six years, the football programs coached by Mike London and Bronco Mendenhall had failed to crack the top 10 in the Roanoke Times’ yearly rankings and had been as low as 19th in 2013 and 18th in 2016, Bronco Mendenhall’s first season as head coach.
They were 10th in 2017-18, when Mendenhall took the Cavaliers to a bowl game, only to suffer a 49-7 thrashing by Navy in the Military Bowl.
In the 2018-2019 rankings, football was seventh and seems to be headed in the right direction after being picked to win the ACC’s Coastal Division this season.
Overall, Virginia was eighth in competition for the Learfield Directors’ Cup, which recognizes the overall showing of an athletic department. The Cavaliers had been 19th in 2017 and 18th in 2018 after finishing in the top eight in six of the eight previous years.
Virginia has more than 20 athletic programs, but several of those teams — swimming and diving, for one — have the same head coach and count as one program for these rating purposes:
1. MEN’S BASKETBALL: Won the NCAA championship and finished 35-3, shoving aside the stigma of a first-round loss in 2018. Lost three underclassmen to the NBA but almost certain to make the preseason Top 25. (2018 ranking: 1).
2. MEN’S LACROSSE: Won its sixth NCAA championship and finished 17-3 to complete a turnaround after failing to make the field in three of the previous seven seasons. (2018 ranking: 9)
3. MEN’S TENNIS: Ranked as high as No. 3 in the country. Had the ACC player of the year, freshman of the year and coach of the year and finished 24-5. Lost to Wake Forest in ACC final and NCAA quarterfinal. (2018 ranking: 7)
4. WOMEN’S SOCCER: Virginia has been ranked ninth this year after going to the final 16 of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Only one team can top UVa’s current streak of 25 straight NCAA appearances. Top three scorers Alexa Spaanstra, Meghan McCool and Rebecca Jarrett are back. (2018 ranking: 8)
5. SWIMMING: The Virginia men finished third in the ACC championships after the women had taken second one week earlier. At the NCAA championships, the men were 10th and the women were sixth. UVa has the No. 3 men’s recruiting class and landed the nation’s No. 1 women’s recruit, Katie Douglass. (2018 ranking: 4)
6. FOOTBALL: The Cavaliers are coming off their first winning season in seven years and enter the opening game as a preseason pick to win the ACC’s Coastal Division. UVa also is coming off consecutive bowl appearances for the first time since 2004-05 and features a dynamic quarterback in Bryce Perkins. (2018 ranking: 10).
7. MEN’S SOCCER: Ranked as high as sixth in 2018. Made the NCAA field for the 38th year in a row. Finished 10-4-3 after losing to Notre Dame on a last-second goal in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. (2018 ranking: 5)
8. ROWING: Won its 10th straight ACC championship and finished 10th in NCAA championships (2018 ranking: 2)
9. WOMEN’S LACROSSE: Seeded sixth in NCAA Tournament and lost to No. 3 North Carolina in the quarterfinals 14-7. Ranked as high as No. 5 and finished 13-7, with six losses to top-10 teams. (2018 ranking: 11)
10. BASEBALL: Finished 32-24, including 14-16 in ACC play, and failed to make the NCAA field for the second year in a row after 14 straight appearances under coach Brian O’Connor. The baseball program was No. 2 in these rankings in 2014 and 2015 while making back-to-back College World Series finals, winning it all in ’15. (2018 ranking: 6).
11. WOMEN’S GOLF: Finished fourth out of 12 teams at ACC championships and 14th in NCAA championships under new coach Ria Scott, moving up from 22nd in 2018. (2018 ranking: 13)
12. MEN’S GOLF: Finished second in ACC championships. Made NCAA field and finished seventh out of 13 teams in Stanford Regional. Facilities improvement in the works. (2018 ranking: 14)
13. TRACK AND FIELD: Men’s team finished 18th in the NCAA outdoor championships, and women’s team had best NCAA outdoor meet since 2011 (2018 ranking: 18)
14. FIELD HOCKEY: Team was ranked 11th in the country going into this season. Cavaliers have made the NCAA field 11 times in 13 seasons under coach Michele Madison. Her first losing season, 9-10, was last season, although Cavs still made the NCAA field. Program won ACC championship in 2016 and regular-season championship in 2017. (2018 ranking: 3)
15. WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: A 12-19 record in Tina Thompson’s first season as head coach followed a 19-win season in 2018, when former coach Joanne Boyle took the Cavaliers to the NCAA Tournament. UVa used seven players in each of its ACC Tournament games, including a victory over Boston College, and only three of them return, led by Nos. 1 and 2 scorers Jocelyn Willoughby and Dominique Toussaint. Recruits show promise. (2018 ranking: 12)
16. WOMEN’S TENNIS: Team finished 18-9 and was ranked as high as 14th in the country but didn’t get past the first round of the NCAA championships in singles or doubles (2018 ranking: 15)
17. CROSS COUNTRY: The UVa men and women were chosen for fourth place and ninth place in the preseason ACC poll . The men finished fifth in the ACC championships last year while the women were ninth. The men were ranked 23rd nationally in this year’s preseason poll. (2018 ranking: 17)
18. WRESTLING: Finished 23rd at the NCAA championships thanks to junior Jack Mueller getting a runner-up finish at 125 pounds. (2018 ranking: 16)
19. VOLLEYBALL: Finished 8-20 overall and 4-14 in the ACC under third-year head coach Aaron Smith. Two new assistants and an operations director have joined the program since June. (2018 ranking: 19)
20. SOFTBALL: Finished 22-31 overall and 8-16 in the ACC but recruiting should improve with new stadium. Team had 10-game improvement over 12-41 season in 2018. (2018 ranking: 20)