Q&A with WVU women’s basketball coach Mike Carey 2674

MORGANTOWN — The pounding on the podium comes from Mike Carey’s pointed fingers, as the WVU women’s basketball coach begins talking about next season.

“I told our coaches before they left: Recruiting starts right now,” Carey said, just moments after the Mountaineers’ season came to an end on March 28, in the semifinals of the WNIT. “It starts right now. Forget about this game, the season is over. We’ve got to worry about next year and we’re moving forward, without a doubt.”

Carey, who will coach his 18th year at WVU next season, promises he is looking for more players to add to a recruiting class that already ranks No. 16 in the nation, according to ESPN.

It took only two weeks for Carey to deliver on that promise, signing former McDonald’s high school all-Americans Bianca Cuevas-Moore — a starting point guard for South Carolina’s 2017 national championship team — and De’Janae Boykin, a former UConn recruit, who played the last two seasons with Penn State.

Boykin must sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. The 2019-’20 season will be her final year of eligibility.

Cuevas-Moore is expected to graduate from South Carolina this spring and will be eligible this season, which will be her final year of eligibility.

The transfers add much optimism to an upcoming season that already looks special on paper with a healthy return of star guard Tynice Martin — she sat out all of last season with a foot injury — and Michigan transfer Kysre Gondrezick, who will become eligible after sitting out last season.

But before looking ahead, we take one last look at what might have been, as we begin our question-and-answer session with Carey:

Dominionpost.com: Did you ever ask yourself the “what if” question this past season on what may have been if Martin didn’t have to sit out with the foot injury?

Mike Carey: Usually about 3 a.m. every morning, lying in bed wide awake. You know, ‘Why us?’ and that sort of thing. I never did that around the team. It only happened when I was by myself late at night.

It was tough on her. Her and I would talk all the time. She knows I stay up late, so Tynice would call me and reassure me that everything would be fine. She would always say, “Coach, we’re going to get through this.” The same thing for Kysre, it was tough for her to sit out. Now, the next time we put on a West Virginia uniform, they’ll both be dressed. They can see a little bit of daylight now, which is important.

DP: Having started out as a men’s coach, did you ever think you would be getting ready for an 18th season with the WVU women’s team?

MC: When I first got here, I remember asking who was the best women’s team in the Big East. Everyone said it was UConn, so I asked to see the tapes of the UConn game, and that was when they got beat by

72 points, at Morgantown High School. When I saw that tape, I remember telling myself that I had made a big mistake coming here.

Once we started building the program and I could see, not only getting better with our program but getting better with facilities and that type of stuff, they were going to have to fire me to get me out of here. They may still. That may still happen, but at least I tricked them for 17 years. I think you can win here. We have everything we need here to be successful at West Virginia University.

DP: How much different does the program look 17 years later?

MC: We had three assistants all in the same office. It was the craziest thing I ever saw. I had a thing over my desk that made me have to duck down to sit. If I forgot about it and stood up, I’d keep hitting my head. It was crazy in the beginning. I felt there was nowhere to go but up.

DP: Over the years, you have not shied away from sharing your disappointment in a lack of crowd support for the women’s team. The program averaged 2,228 fans for home games this season (only TCU, Kansas and Oklahoma State averaged fewer in the Big 12). What things would you like to see put in place to help boost attendance?

MC: We have loyal fans that come to every game, and I couldn’t ask anything more from them, but if you go back and look at Big 12 attendance, we are either last or next to last or third from last every year. That’s a little frustrating, because you’re in a big-time conference and everywhere you go, you’re playing in front of bigger crowds than you are at home.

I think we need to continue to think outside the box and continue to come up with things to get people in here.

I would like to try and create a minor-league-baseball-type atmosphere here, where you can watch good basketball, but also be in a minor-league atmosphere.

DP: Is attendance used against you in recruiting?

MC: We get it used against us all the time. Players will say, “Well, I heard you were last in crowds in the Big 12.” What can I say? I can’t say, “No, that’s not true.” People use that against us. That’s not saying anything negative about our fans or the people here, but it is a fact.

TDP: Is there anything that can be done to draw more WVU students to women’s games?

MC: It’s hard. I hear football and men’s basketball coaches complain sometimes that students aren’t showing up like they should. We’ve tried to make connections. Believe me, we sit down all the time and try to think outside the box. We would love to have more students. We’re always trying to think of something.

DP: What is the next step this program must take?

MC: We’ve got to go further in the NCAA tournament. The biggest knock since I’ve been here is we’ve never been past the second round of the tournament. I understand that and I hear people say that. They’re right. We’ve got to take the next step, and if we continue to take the next step, then you have opportunities to keep having great recruiting classes and you have the opportunity to take that next step.

You’ve just got to get the right players. You’ve got to get lucky. You’ve got to hit some shots at the end of games you didn’t think you were going to hit. You can’t have major injuries. You’ve got to get lucky, and Lord knows, we’re about due to get lucky.

DP: With many of the new players you have coming in and new players who will be available next season, are you ready for next season to start right now or do you enjoy the process of the offseason?

MC: I enjoy workouts and I enjoy putting in new things to see how it works. I enjoy putting in new wrinkles over the summer and seeing how it looks and how our players react to it. Then, you build on that.

This summer, I think it’s just as important to do as much on defense as we do offense. We’ve got to get back to defense. I was on our players, but I understood they were mostly playing 40 minutes a game and so they couldn’t always play our style of defense. Something had to give.

Hopefully next year, because we’ll have better numbers, nothing will have to give.

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WVU golfers set for Big 12 tournament 35

It’s crazy what just a few years can do.

Three years ago, WVU was just another start-up program, trying to make their mark in the dense, competitive world of NCAA golf. Now, the Mountaineers are wrapping up a season highlighted by a trio of team victories, and look to finish with an impact at the 22nd Big 12 Men’s Golf championships.

The 72-hole tournament will tee-off April 23, from Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., and run through April 25.

“We’re looking forward to the tournament. It’s a major championship in college golf,” WVU coach Sean Covich said. “We’re just excited to get down to Southern Hills.”

The team will enter the tournament with momentum on their side, as they are coming off a runner-up finish at the Penn State Rutherford Intercollegiate.

“We’re starting to play well, and it’s been a year of improvement. Everyone on the team has gotten better, and that’s what it’s all about,” Covich said.

He hopes his team can carry that momentum forward as they look to take on one of the upper echelon college championships.

“It’s just a great opportunity,” he said. “That’s what you come to West Virginia for, to play in the Big 12 Championship. And I think we have confidence going based on our play this year.”

Junior Max Sear, who comes off an individual runner-up finish at Penn State, will lead the Mountaineers into the tournament. Sear looks to pace his team, and is focusing on his game around the green as the key to success on the weekend.

“I’ve been focusing on putting all year,” Sear said. “The rounds I post good scores are the rounds I’m putting well, and the rounds I don’t do well I struggle on the greens. The greens should be pretty fast, so I’m focusing on that.”

Covich expects one of the major challenges to be figuring out the course once they are on location in Oklahoma. According to him, knowing the course intricately can have quite the impact on one’s play.

“That’s huge in golf, just knowing the layout of the course. We’re kind of behind the eight ball. In our practice round, we just have to pay attention to the course,” Covich said.

Sear and his teammates look forward to attacking the opportunity in front of them with gusto, and are eager for the atmosphere of a championship event.

“It’s kind of just an exciting environment,” Sear said. “Just being able to warm up next to these guys who had tremendous college career is a great opportunity. It’s just a different kind of environment; everyone takes things a little more seriously.”

Of course, there is one thing bout the tournament the squad isn’t worried about taking too seriously; their uniform selection.

“Keenan, my five year old, when we come home from tournaments he always asks what we wore, and he’s always giving suggestions,” Covich said. “I told him, if you’re good in school, and you listen to your mom, than you can pick out one of our uniforms. He actually picked out a good uniform.”

Regardless of uniform choice, the Mountaineers are ready to show their continued growth as a program on one of the highest levels in NCAA golf.

“It’s just another year to try and get better,” Covich said.

Myers, WVU survive Kansas State 135

GRANVILLE — It wasn’t the prettiest first inning for WVU pitcher BJ Myers against Kansas State on Friday, April 20, at Monongalia County Ballpark.

It may have been tough because it’s was the first first inning Myers has pitched in over a month. He moved from the rotation, to the bullpen and back to the rotation out of necessity.

Head coach Randy Mazey knows what Myers has been through isn’t easy, but it was a shaky start for the senior righty pitcher.

Myers and first baseman Marques Inman didn’t communicate on a grounder in front of first, allowing the runner to reach.

Then Myers threw the ball away on a pick-off move to allow the first run of the game to score by the Wildcats. Another run scored on a base hit to left, and Myers and the Mountaineers were down 2-0 before being able to swing the bat.

It was an unusual start for one of WVU’s top pitchers. Myers, a senior, gave up no earned runs in this last four appearances out of the bullpen prior to Friday (11 2/3 innings).

However, the problem wasn’t getting hit hard for Myers, it was walks. With a tight strike zone from home plate umpire Mike Morris, Myers struggled with command early on, walking a season-high five batters after walking just eight all season prior.

After early struggles and falling behind early, though, Myers retired 10-straight hitters in six innings on the mound, helping the WVU offense come back to take an 8-5 win.

“When they got those two runs in the third inning, I was a little frustrated because I thought I made a good pitch but the hitter put a good swing on it,” Myers said. “It definitely put a fire in me and I tried to bear down a little more after that.”

While Myers earned a no-decision, settling down and possibly getting back on a weekend rotation was crucial for the Mountaineers (18-17, 3-7 Big 12).

Making that significant of a change going for starter, to reliever, back to starter this late into a career is something Mazey appreciates Myers having the attitude to do.

“Kudos to BJ for, No. 1, buying into the change,” Mazey said. “We talk about leadership all the time, and without saying a word, that’s leadership — going out there and making an adjustment for the benefit of the team.”

Left-fielder Braden Zarbnisky scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 8th inning, scoring on a wild pitch by KSU (16-22, 2-10) pitcher Alex Belch. A batter later, right-fielder Darius Hill socked an inside fastball for a two-run home run.

“That’s Zarb — when he’s playing like that, we’re winning,” Mazey said. “Darius is another guy, with the game on the line and a one-run game, comes up big and hits a two-run homer. That’s what veteran players are supposed to do.”

WVU first baseman Marques Inman went 4-for-5 at the plate, the first four-hit game of his career.

Sophomore pitcher Sam Kessler earned the win with a scoreless 1 1/3 innings to end the game.

The series continues, at 4 p.m. today.

WVU ROUNDUP: WVU hosts Wildcats in crucial series 208

Winners of six of its last eight games, the WVU baseball team will host Kansas State (16-21, 2-10 Big 12) in a three-game series beginning at 6:30 p.m. today, at Monongalia County Ballpark.

The Mountaineers (17-17, 2-7) enter the weekend ranked No. 25 in the latest NCAA RPI after a 9-2 win over Canisius on Wednesday.

WVU has the No. 2 strength of schedule in the country and is one of five Big 12 teams in the top 38 of the RPI.

WVU is No. 2 in the Big 12 and No. 24 nationally with 60 stolen bases, while WVU and ranks third with 0.88 home runs per game. On the mound, WVU’s 1.88 strikeouts-to-walk ratio is No. 4 in the Big 12.

Individually, Braden Zarbnisky leads the league and is No. 6 nationally with an average of 1.07 walks per game. He also is second in the Big 12 and No. 20 in the NCAA with 0.59 stolen bases per game. Darius Hill is 26th nationally with 14 doubles.

The Wildcats are coming off a 4-3 win at Nebraska, which snapped a nine-game losing streak. The three-game series this weekend is part of an eight-game roadtrip for Kansas State.

Two senior right-handers will take the mound on Friday, as WVU’s B.J. Myers (0-1, 5.08 ERA) faces K-State’s Justin Heskett (2-5, 6.34).

On Saturday, it’s a pair of sophomore righties, as Kade Strowd (3-3, 4.83) goes for the Mountaineers and Caleb Littlejim (2-1, 6.55) takes the mound for the Wildcats.

Tickets for all three games are available at WVUGAME.com, by calling 1-800-WVU GAME, at the Mountaineer Ticket Office at the WVU Coliseum or on game day at Monongalia County Ballpark.

Tennis

WVU will conclude its regular season this weekend with a pair of matches against No. 13 Texas Tech, on Friday, and TCU, on Sunday.

Weather depending, both matches will take place at the Mountaineer Tennis Courts. In case of inclement weather, the matches will be moved indoors to the Summit Tennis Academy. Friday’s match will begin at 5 p.m., while Sunday’s contest is set for 11 a.m.

Free pizza and WVU Tennis posters will be available to all fans attending the match on Friday. Fans also are encouraged to stay after the match for an autograph signing with the team.

On Sunday, WVU will honor its seniors, Lyn Yuen Choo and Yvon Martinez. All fans in attendance will be able to get free bagels and WVU tennis posters. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats 10 minutes prior to the match to help recognize the seniors for their outstanding accomplishments.

“Just like anyone in the Big 12, they are tough,” fifth-year coach Miha Lisac said. “Texas Tech is one of the best teams in the Big 12 and one of the best teams in the nation, so we are always excited to have an opportunity to challenge ourselves against that level of competition.”

Choo currently sits at No. 14 in school history with 114 career wins in both singles and doubles play, and is tied for No. 15 in singles wins in her career. Despite sitting out the majority of her senior season due to a knee injury, Martinez has amassed 58 career wins.

Men’s soccer

WVU has added a spring  exhibition match against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League (USL) on Tuesday, April 24.

Kickoff at Highmark Stadium, in Pittsburgh, is set for 7:45 p.m. Admission will be free.

“This will be a fun opportunity for our team to play a professional team in a terrific setting for soccer,” WVU coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “We’ve shown progress as a team this spring, and playing the Riverhounds will be a great test. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Prior to its trip to Pittsburgh, WVU plays host to VCU, at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The match will be held at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, and admission is free.

WVU opened the spring season with a 1-0 win over Charleston and followed it with a 2-0 victory against West Virginia Wesleyan.

Rifle

Sophomore Morgan Phillips and freshman Sarah Osborn of the WVU rifle team earned a pair of podium finishes, at the 2018 National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships for Rifle and Pistol, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Col.

Phillips, a native of Salisbury, Maryland, finished first in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions with a final total of 2,333.

The two-time reigning NCAA smallbore champion shot 1,170 on the first day of competition and 1,155 on the second day, giving her a match total of 2325, 12-shots better than second place. Phillips shot a winning 453.6 in the final on April 16, earning eight additional points and bringing her final score to 2333.

Osborn, a Hampton, Virginia, native, placed second in the women’s 10m air rifle with a 1246.5 total. She finished with daily marks of 622.2 and 622.3 and placed fifth in the final on April 18 with a 183.4 mark, earning two additional points.

By virtue of their finishes, the duo has qualified for the United States Junior National Team and has earned the right to compete in their respective events at the 52nd ISSF Junior World Championship, in Changwon, Korea on Aug. 31.