By: Joey Raymond
Headline Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics
For the first time in Virginia Tech women’s basketball history, they are hosting the NCAA tournament. The excitement in Blacksburg is palpable. With the community’s love and dedication, tickets sold out in just 2 hours. The Hokies come into Friday’s game with a 27-4 record. Boasting an 11-game winning streak to help clinch an ACC Championship. The Chattanooga Mocs have won 3 straight, with a 20-12 record. The Mocs are also Southern Conference champions. The Hokies are the number one seed and The Mocs are the sixteenth seed.
One of the main storylines to follow is former Virginia Tech assistant coach Shawn Poppie with his return to Blacksburg for the first time since leaving Virginia Tech, Shawn Poppie was Kenny Brooks’ assistant for 6 years, serving with Brooks at Virginia tech. They led the team to a 124-68 record. Shawn Poppie has led an impressive first year at Chattanooga, winning a conference championship in his first year. There is a lot of emotion in Cassell Coliseum tonight as these 2 teams go head-to-head.
Thousands of fans have come to Blacksburg to support their respective teams. As this game opens, the players are greeted by a monsoon of maroon and orange. Let’s go Hokies chants rain down as the Chattanooga band plays. Then, as tip-off begins and Enter Sandman is being screamed from the lungs of students in the student section, you can visibly see both teams are locked in and ready to go. A couple of turnovers for both teams early and you can tell both teams are quite amped up. The Hokies get off to a fast start with the help of a very intense crowd, scoring eight points before Chattanooga scores a much-needed three. After that, the Mocs then get settled in and score five more to bring it within one point. The first quarter ends with a score of 18 to 8 after the Hokies go on a 9-0 run.
The second quarter opens with great defense from both sides with a couple of turnovers and great defensive plays. Taylor Soule begins the scoring in the half with a fastbreak layup. The Hokies went on a massive run scoring 17 before the Mocs scored off on a foul shot. The Hokies continue their dominant performance by bringing the score to 26 to 10. The intensity continued throughout the quarter as both teams gathered a couple of fouls. Momentum swung back and forth as the quarter drew toward a close. Virginia Tech closed the half with a lead of 31 to 16.
The second half begins with showers of let’s go Hokies chants from the student section. Taylor Soule scores a couple of quick layups to get the half started, which is then responded to by a 3 from Sigrun Olafsdottir on the Mocs. Liz Kitley very quickly acquires a double-double as the third quarter continues. The defense continued to reign supreme during the quarter as the low-scoring matchup continued to 37-21. Taylor Soule went out with an apparent leg injury with only 16.1 seconds left in the quarter. This came at a time when Taylor Soule started clicking bringing her scoring total up to 10 points. The half then closes as Abbey Cornelius hits a jumper bringing the score to 42-27, Virginia Tech on top.
Georgia Amoore opens the final quarter of action with a massive couple of threes to pull the Hokies ahead even further. The Hokies go up by 20, leading 47 to 27. The Hokies put on the gas and the Mocs look tired as a timeout is called by head coach Shawn Poppie. Chattanooga looks a little more composed coming out of the timeout, but as Abbie Cornelius shoots free throws and misses both the intimidation looks to creep back in. The Hokies’ offensive onslaught continues as they continue to put up more points. They put up five more before the Mocs can score again bringing the score to 52-29. Keanna Traylor makes an incredible steal after some back and forth, pulling the Hokies even further ahead. The student section is screaming as loud as they can as the public address announcer lets them know there is only one minute left in the game. The energy is intense as they are realizing the Hokies are going to move on to the next round.
The game comes to a close as the final score is 58-33. The Hokies move on and Chattanooga goes home. Let’s not diminish what was a great season by the Mocs though. In Shawn Poppie’s first year, they played great and made an NCAA tournament. I have a feeling they’ll be back in this tournament very soon. They just ran into the buzz saw that is Virginia Tech women’s basketball. As for the Hokies, they’ll play again on Sunday here in Blacksburg against the winner of game two.