If you're in the mood to torture yourself, reading this post is highly recommended. What follows is the top 10 most heartbreaking UVA sporting events of the 2011-2012 year. Putting this list together was far too easy for my liking. Don't worry, I'll be posting a list of my top 10 best sporting events for later this week; still, I figured it'd be best to get the bad out of the way first.
The following events were compiled based on purely subjective criteria. Under consideration were the importance of the game, the manner in which we lost, degree to which fans (and I) follow the sport, where the game was played (home losses hurt more), and extremely subjective factors such as my mood that day.
How would you rank these terrible, terrible moments of the 2011-2012 year?
If Elizabeth Brightwell had correctly signed her scorecard after the first round, the team would have earned an unexpected national championship. Instead, her score was disqualified and the team settled for it's second straight 4th place finish.
After plenty of buildup, including an Andy Katz upset pick and national ESPN television coverage, the Hoos showed up at Cameron Indoor ready to play in front of thousands of fake-rowdy fake-Duke fans. Though Virginia had a halftime lead, Duke decided to play defense in the second half, building what seemed like an insurmountable 9 point lead with under five minutes to play. Then the Hoos shut Duke's powerful offense down and crawled back, getting a last possession down 3 and a chance to tie. However, Mike Scott's open three-pointer was off the mark, as was Jontel Evans's desperation attempt.
I wasn't sure whether to include this, as I felt pretty good after the game about the team's tremendous effort (as well as some great moments, such as thunderous dunks by Paul Jesperson and Assane Sene). But it hurts to come so close to a HUGE win just to come up short, as we would find out numerous times last basketball season.
After squandering an early lead, the Hoos marched down the field for a touchdown and two-point conversion to cut the USM lead to 27-24. With momentum on Virginia's side, the Hoos gave the Golden Eagles prime field position after sending the kickoff out of bounds, then allowed their opponent to convert a 3rd and 23 (!!!) on the way to a field goal. UVA's last possession ended on a failed fourth down at midfield.
Questionable coaching decisions abounded, as UVA lost a game that many feared could eventually cost the team a bowl bid.
Undefeated #1 Virginia vs. undefeated #1 Johns Hopkins at Klockner Stadium - how could it be better than that? Answer: if we didn't lose in overtime. UVA got off to a fast start, but came out of halftime looking lackluster, losing its lead but forcing overtime. With just 5 seconds left in the period, Hopkins found the net for a game-winning golden goal. The refs missed a key call late in OT that could have changed the outcome.
Wrestling doesn't tend to get much coverage or many fans, but the Virginia - Virginia Tech match, held the day after the rivalry football game, was moved to John Paul Jones Arena and attracted a large crowd. You could read about the details in the game story linked above, but the match came down to the final bout. UVA's Ethan Hayes pulled off a late escape to force overtime, where his opponent would eventually prevail, sending the loudest wrestling crowd in Virginia history (I think) home disappointed.
Virginia tennis can't quite seem to turn its recent perennial top-three rankings and deep postseason runs into national championships. For the second straight year, UVA made it to the NCAA Championship match and fell just short against USC. After winning the doubles point, Virginia's momentum was killed by a long rain delay that moved singles matches indoors, where host UGA had just four courts. The Hoos fell behind 3-2 after the first "round" of singles matches, forcing Justin Shane and Julen Uriguen into must-win situations. Each went up a break in their respective third sets, but Shane had his service broken and lost in a tiebreak, handing the title to the Trojans
Well, this is a bit too fresh in our minds. Sunday morning, the Hoos were 1-0 in the Charlottesville regional and playing some good baseball. Hours later, the season was over after losses to Appalachian State and Oklahoma In each game, Virginia's opponent jumped to a big lead. Then, UVA slowly crawled back , chipping away at their opponent's lead. In the ninth inning, the Hoos had a chance to to push into extra innings, moving the tying run into scoring position. And both times, Virginia came up just short.
The games followed an all-too-familiar Wahoo pattern:
1. Fall behind early, devastating fans
2. Mount comeback, giving fans hope
3. Come up just short, devastating fans
UVA came in ranked 15th in the nation. The Hokies were 0-4 in the ACC. This was a bad time to shoot 1 of 14 from behind the arc and 14 of 22 from the free throw line. A rowdy crowd expecting a blow-out couldn't quite push the ice-cold Hoos to victory.
Personal anecdote: I was flying back to Cville the day of this game; my flight was delayed, and I was told there was a strong chance I wouldn't make it on the plane at all because of weight-restrictions (insert joke). I spent hours waiting and worrying that I'd miss the big game, finally arriving just in time. Then I was treated to that performance. It was a bad day.
A four-game Wahoo winning streak turned this game into the de-facto ACC Championship play-in game for the Coastal Division. The stands were packed hours before the game, and fans were ready to bring it. Needless to say, this didn't go well. The Hokies were the ones that came to play, and players and fans alike were quickly demoralized. Ouch.
Part sadness and part anger, as the refs and Public Enemy #1 John Henson handed this game to the Tar Heels. What stands out here is all of the opportunities the Hoos passed up. The chance to beat a top-10 team, the chance to seal up an NCAA bid, the chance to win a rivalry game at home, the chance to rush the court.
UNC took an early lead, then UVA fought back, leading by as many as 6 points at 37-31. After that, the flop parade began. Mike Scott, who had his worst game of the season, picked up his 4th foul and UNC evened the score, as the game went back and forth to the finish. Scott missed a go-ahead 3-pointer, and Sammy Zeglinski and Jontel Evans each missed desperation shots to tie the game.
The loss was just the start of a rough week....
This game will be burned into my mind forever as the most heartbreaking sporting event I have ever followed. After a tough loss just days earlier to UNC, players and fans alike were excited to take out their anger on Florida State. A win would lock up an NCAA Tournament bid and be the team's first real "signature" ACC victory. Importantly, it was Senior Night at JPJ, which held special meaning for players and for 4th-year students alike.
The game started off poorly, as UVA went into halftime trailing big, and the Noles took an 11 point lead early in the second half. However, the Hoos went on a 15-2 run to take a lead just minutes later. UVA slowly added to its margin, aided by an inexplicable technical foul on Bernard James for kicking Joe Harris. With an 11 point lead and just 4:30 to play, UVA appeared tournament-bound. Unfortunately, this turn of events seemed to light a spark under Florida State, who would score 16 of the game's final 18 points, including a well-contested game-winning 3-pointer by Ian Miller with just .8 seconds left.
I have no idea how that lead vanished or how Miller's shot found the basket (I believe I went into a period of shock for the next 10 minutes), but its taking place at the conclusion of my final game as a student makes it unforgettable.
Well, that's that, the 10 worst games of the last academic year. Let's commemorate these terrible moments here, but also never speak of them again. Please.