COLUMN: With so much abuzz in WVU sports, there’s no blue Monday this week | Tuesday News


MORGANTOWN — As Monday dawned and the West Virginia University campus came to life, it did so with a new bounce in its step, with smiles replacing those normal blank stares that come after a weekend in a college town.

This wasn’t the “Blue Monday” Fats Domino sang about in the mid-1950s, which began with these two lines:

“Blue Monday, how I hate Blue Monday

Got to word like a slave all day”

That was not this Monday, which was more a Mamas and the Papas Monday:

“Monday, Monday, so good to me

Monday mornin’, it was all I hoped it would be”

This was a Monday where West Virginia had themselves a bowl date against North Carolina in Charlotte’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

It was Monday where Neal Brown had assurances that he would continue into next year to try and complete the revival of the football program that was underway, ending with an 8-4 record in the regular season.

It was a Monday where WVU’s men’s soccer team was venturing where no other Mountaineer men’s soccer team had fared to go, to the College Cup, which is the Final Four of the NCAA soccer championships.

The women’s basketball team was coming off a 90-50 victory over St. Bonaventure to take its record to 7-0 and was about to play Penn State at the Coliseum that evening.

There’s something about winning, exciting sports teams that reaches far beyond the doors of the Coliseum or Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium or Mountaineer Field and invigorates the entire community.

It drives the attitude of a city, be it as large as New York City, in morning for the Mets, the Yankees, the Giants, the Jets and the Knicks, or a small Morgantown and, even smaller, Fairmont, where Fairmont Senior rules as Class AA state football champion and basks in the spotlight of the No. 1 play on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Perhaps it is the run being made by the soccer team that is exhilarating because it is one of those rags to riches stories. Certainly, until now, the nation didn’t have much of an idea that WVU played men’s soccer, which operated not only in the shadow of the football program, as well as men’s basketball and women’s basketball and soccer.

But a former player, Dan Stratford, had bridged the Atlantic Ocean, took on the challenge and vowed at the beginning of his run that his program could go all the way to the top. Three years later they stand on the threshold.

“It’s really, really special,” he said after beating Loyola-Maryland, 3-1, in the quarterfinal, overcoming an early goal that could have led to the end of the dream. “I said it when I first got the job — and I meant it when I said it — I think we can win a national championship here.”

Bold as that statement is, he really believed it.

“I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think we had the platform and foundation to win a national championship,” he added.

That prediction, perhaps, was why he was so emotional when the game was over and they were heading to Louisville.

“I had to have a moment and let myself enjoy what we’ve achieved and where we are as a program right now and it’s everything,” Stratford said. “I’ve sent the better part of 20 years here in West Virginia now, which is wild. I never got to play in a game like that, so this is the next best thing.”

He understood that the coach is only part of it and that this was his players’ moment as well.

“I have the second-best job in the world,” he said. “I get to coach and they get to play. We will enjoy this now but by no means are we done. I took this job with the belief that we could win a national championship.”

The women’s basketball program has been in disarray for a while. It’s a tough, tough league, the Big 12, and the program was in a transitionary phase that had to end.

Mark Kellogg was the third coach in three years, following the venerable Mike Carey and Dawn Plitzuweit, who had a solid first season before stunning everyone by taking the job at Minnesota.

Kellogg, as interim men’s coach Josh Eilert had to do with the men’s team after Bob Huggins’ exile, had to rebuild his roster, install his program and prove themselves.

The start allowed them a chance to bask in the spotlight of victory yet, at the same time, wade into the murky waters of the realization that it is only the beginning and the traffic gets heavier around the rush hour that is the Big 12 season.

“I think we’ve made a statement of being this whole new team again after last year, but we’ve still got more to do” star player JJ Quinerly said. “We’ve got a lot of good teams that we’re still trying to beat, so we’ve got more work to do.

“We’ve still got a lot to prove.”

There is a lot to prove … for the football team, for the men’s soccer team, for the women’s basketball team.

But there’s plenty of time.

After all, it’s only Monday. Even the Mamas and the Papas understood what that meant when they sang:

Oh Monday mornin’, Monday morning’ couldn’t guarantee

That Monday evenin’ you would still be here with me.

Follow @bhertzel on X (formerly Twitter)

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