After a historic run to the College World Series in 2009, the UVA baseball team wasted little time this season rising to No. 1 in the rankings, joining men’s tennis, rowing and men’s lacrosse atop NCAA rankings for a period this spring. It’s believed to be the first time in school history that so many programs have been ranked No. 1 simultaneously. These teams are part of an elite group among Cavalier sports, as only 11 athletic programs have officially garnered No. 1 rankings in sports polls.
Here’s a look at some glory years:
Men’s lacrosse: Though the current program under coach Dom Starsia has been a perennial powerhouse, with NCAA national titles in 1972, 1999, 2003 and 2006 (the team also won two USILA titles), its first appearance atop the rankings was in 1973. In 2006, the team was ranked No. 1 for nine weeks and went 17-0 en route to the NCAA championship.
Men’s basketball: The Cavaliers reached the top of the rankings in the 1980-81 season and defeated Wake Forest 83-73 at University Hall in their first home game as the No. 1 team. Ralph Sampson led the team to 23 straight wins and a Final Four appearance that season. The team also received No. 1 votes by the Associated Press at various points during the following two seasons.
Men’s soccer: Currently the reigning national champ, the men’s soccer team received its first No. 1 ranking in 1985, then went on to win its first NCAA crown in 1989. Led by three-time All-American Claudio Reyna and head coach Bruce Arena, the Cavaliers proceeded to dominate the collegiate scene with national titles in 1991 through 1994.
Women’s basketball: One of three UVA teams to top national polls in 1990-91, the women’s basketball squad entered the ’91 season ranked No. 1 and stayed there for 14 weeks. In 1992, the team made it to its third straight Final Four but lost in the semifinal.
Football: Under coach George Welsh, the Cavaliers climbed to No. 1 in October 1990 and crushed Wake Forest 49-14 in its first game atop the rankings. The team stayed No. 1 briefly but lost to No. 16 Georgia Tech 41-38. The season ended dramatically in the USF&G Sugar Bowl when Tennessee prevailed 23-22 on a 1-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left.
Women’s lacrosse: In 1991, All-Americans Jenny Slingluff and Robyn Nye led UVA to the program’s first No. 1 ranking as well as an 8-6 win over No. 2 Maryland to claim the national title. The Cavaliers repeated as national champs in 1993, and current coach Julie Myers led the Cavaliers to a third title in 2004.
Women’s soccer: Though the current program has been ranked in the top 10 in each of the last eight seasons and won the ACC title in 2004, the women achieved their first No. 1 national ranking under coach Lauren Gregg in 1990, when the team started with 16 straight wins.
Field hockey: The program achieved its first No. 1 ranking in September 1996—and repeated the following two seasons—under coach Missi Sanders. With the nation’s stingiest defense, the 1998 Cavalier squad advanced to the NCAA semifinals, and Peggy Boutilier, captain of both the field hockey and women’s lacrosse teams, was named NCAA Woman of the Year.
Men’s tennis: The one-two punch of Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey catapulted the men’s program into the preseason No. 1 spot in 2006, and the Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 campaigns. Devvarman won NCAA singles titles in 2007 and 2008.
Rowing: While it’s believed that the rowing program first achieved a No. 1 ranking in the 1990 or 1991 seasons, records are not available to confirm that. In early April of this year, however, the program officially earned a No. 1 ranking from the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association. Kevin Sauer, who has been coach of the varsity program since its inception, has led the Cavaliers to nine straight ACC championships from 2000 to 2008.