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2023 Sports Stories of the Year (No. 20-11)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The following are the top sports stories in WVU, Marshall, Division II and High School Sports for 2023. This is the first in a two-part series. Part two will be released Monday.

#20 – Charleston Catholic wins fifth consecutive Class AA/A Girls Soccer State Championship

Charleston Catholic captured a fifth straight Class AA-A championship with a 1-0 win over Philip Barbour. Photo by Teran Malone

The state’s longest-running high school sports dynasty continued for another year on November 4. The Charleston Catholic girls soccer team defeated Philip Barbour 1-0 in the Class AA/A state championship game, giving the Irish their fifth consecutive title. Mia Lough tallied the lone goal of the match in the 58th minute.

#19 – Fourth class added to football and other WVSSAC sports

Teams meet for the coin toss in the A championship game on Saturday. Photo by William Wotring

#18 – Larry Harrison fired from WVU men’s basketball coaching staff

WVU associate head coach Larry Harrison (Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports)

Somewhat lost in the events of the summer months regarding Bob Huggins was the dismissal of Huggins’ most tenured assistant coach midseason. 16-year assistant coach Larry Harrison was relieved of his duties on January 12. Harrison also worked for Huggins for eight seasons at Cincinnati.

“I want to thank Larry for his years of service to Mountaineer basketball, and I wish him well in his future endeavors,” Huggins said in a university release.

DerMarr Johnson replaced Harrison on Huggins’ staff and Johnson was retained by Josh Eilert when he was named interim head coach.

#17 – Randy Mazey’s “Last Dance”, Steve Sabins to take over WVU baseball program

West Virginia manager Randy Mazey looks on. (Photo by Teran Malone)

Coaching transitions are rarely as smooth as this. On July 17, Randy Mazey announced that the 2024 season would be his last as the head coach of the WVU baseball team. His longtime top assistant, Steve Sabins is slated to assume leadership of the program in 2025.

Mazey will transition into a Senior Advisor role for the 2025 and 2026 seasons. Sabins has agreed to a five-year contract through the 2029 season.

Mazey, 57, has helped the Mountaineers reach new heights over his 11 seasons in Morgantown. WVU is 336-250 during that time with NCAA Regional appearances in 2017, 2019 and 2023. The 2017 appearance marked the program’s first in a regional in 21 years. When WVU reached that stage again two years later, it marked the Mountaineers first time hosting a regional since 1955.

In 2023, Mazey helped lead the Mountaineers a 40-20 record and a share of the Big 12 championship. The 40 victories tied the 1994 team for the single-season school record.

#16 – Wahama completes rare state softball three-peat

Wahama defeated St. Marys 3-1 in the Class A state championship game (Photo by Eddie Ferrari)

For just the third time in the history of the WVSSAC Class A State Softball Tournament, a school completed a three-peat. The White Falcons of Wahama defeated St. Marys, 3-1 in the championship round to cap an undefeated postseason with a third consecutive state title.

Wheeling Central Catholic (’95-’01) and Buffalo (’11-’15) are the only other schools to claim at least three consecutive Class A crowns.

#15 – Kim Caldwell leads Glenville State to Final Four, named head coach at Marshall

Glenville State head coach Kim Stephens cuts down the net after defeating Charleston in the MEC final (Photo by Robert Ovies Sports Photography)

After raising a Division II National Championship banner in Glenville State’s Waco Center and returning to the Final Four a year later, Kim (Stephens) Caldwell was named head coach at Marshall University on March 27.

Caldwell build GSU into a national power. The Parkersburg South High School graduate finished with a 191-24 career record at Glenville. After winning a national championship in 2022, Glenville was 33-3 this past season and qualified for a national semifinal before being eliminated by No. 1 Ashland. The Pioneers won 68 of 72 games over the last two seasons.

#14 – Williamstown completes first-ever state title defense

Williamstown’s head coach Chris Beck reacts in the A championship game on Saturday. Photo by William Wotring.

Williamstown head coach Chris Beck dubbed his senior class in 2023 as the best class in program history. That group closed their high school gridiron careers with 19 consecutive victories and back-to-back Class A state titles. WHS defeated Greenbrier West, 42-12 in the WVSSAC State Championship game.

The Yellowjackets claimed consecutive state titles for the first time in program history.

#13 – West Liberty advances to National Championship Game

West Liberty’s Ben Sarson (24) drives to the net during the championship game of the 2023 NCAA Division II Men’s basketball tournament

Facing their former head coach in Clarksburg native Jim Crutchfield, West Liberty fell one win short of a Division II national championship. The Hilltoppers were defeated by Nova Southeastern, 111-101. West Liberty completed the season with a record of 33-4.

“I want to congratulate Coach Crutchfield and Nova Southeastern,” said WLU head coach Ben Howlett. “I am happy for him. I played and worked for him. He deserves this national title. I am super-disappointed we lost the game. These guys are good people. That is what is important to me is that they are good people. They are the total package.

“I am proud of our team. They have nothing to be ashamed of.”

#12 – Cabell Midland and Wahama fight through several elimination games to win state baseball titles

Cabell Midland won its second Class AAA championship by holding off Hedgesville, 11-8. Photo by Eddie Ferrari

The path to a state baseball championship was far from a straight line for Wahama and Cabell Midland. The White Falcons won five consecutive elimination games (three in sectionals and two in regionals) en route to the state tournament. Wahama later defeated Tyler Consolidated, 10-0 to win the Class A state title.

Playing in a very competitive sectional, Cabell Midland lost their postseason opener to Huntington, 6-4 in 10 innings. The Knights won four consecutive elimination games to advance on. Midland closed the season on an 8-game win streak, culminating in an 11-8 win over Hedgesville in the Class AAA championship.

#11 – Herd That advances to TBT semifinals

Herd That won the West Virginia Regional with a 73-64 victory over Sideline Cancer. Photo by Teran Malone

Four wins in Wheeling propelled the Marshall alumni basketball team Herd That into the semifinal round of The Basketball Tournament. Herd That won the West Virginia regional and the national quarterfinal game against Sideline Cancer, 73-64 before progressing to the semifinals in Philadelphia.

Herd That fell to Team Heartfire, 73-68 in the semifinals. Their previous top finish came in 2020 when Herd That made it to the quarterfinal round in the 32-team tournament.