Story by Wayne Epps Jr.
JMU loves its sports. A wealth of resources, time and energy go into putting the school’s 17 varsity programs in positions to succeed. Over the years, that effort has translated into tangible results. From a football upset in the early 1980s to a conference championship for men’s basketball two years ago, here are 10 of the biggest moments in JMU sports history.
Football’s win over the University of Virginia — 1982
Ten years after the start of the program, and a year after a 3-8 season, JMU football traveled to Charlottesville and beat the University of Virginia 21-17 on Sept. 18, 1982. The Dukes had just moved up to Division I-AA in 1980. And in their first-ever matchup against the Cavaliers, in 1979, U.Va. beat the Dukes 69-9. In its first two seasons in I-AA, JMU had a 7-14 combined record. But the win over U.Va. came in the middle of a four-game win streak in 1982. It helped put the Dukes on track for an 8-3 season, their first winning record in Division I-AA. JMU has a 1-2 all-time record against U.Va. after losing 21-14 back in Charlottesville in 1983. That was the last matchup between the two schools.
Baseball becomes the first Virginia team to make the College World Series — 1983
The Dukes topped the University of Delaware 6-5 on May 29, 1983 in the NCAA Eastern Regional to become the first Virginia team to make the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. A late selection to the NCAA tournament, JMU went 4-0 in regionals. The Dukes defeated the University of South Carolina, William & Mary and The Citadel before beating Delaware. In the College World Series, JMU was eliminated after losses to the University of Texas at Austin and Stanford University, finishing the season 37-13 overall.
Women’s basketball wins its fourth-straight CAA championship — 1989
After a 23-3 overall record in the regular season (12-0 in the CAA) JMU traveled to William & Mary in Williamsburg for the 1989 CAA tournament. Winners of the previous three CAA championships, the Dukes kept it going, beating the University of Richmond on March 11, 1989 for a fourth-straight title. Moving on to the NCAA tournament four days later, JMU defeated Providence College in the first round before losing to Ohio State University in the second round.
Women’s basketball upsets of Penn State in the NCAA tournament — 1991
Playing at Penn State, the nation’s top-ranked team, in the second round of the 1991 NCAA tournament, JMU overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to beat the Nittany Lions 73-71 on March 16, 1991. It’s one of the biggest upsets in NCAA women’s basketball tournament history. Penn State came into the game 29-1 overall, and the Dukes’ win snapped an 18-game win streak. In the Sweet 16 five days later, JMU lost 57-55 to Clemson University and finished the season 26-5 overall.
Field hockey wins the national championship — 1994
On Nov. 20, 1994, JMU field hockey beat the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Boston for the school’s first national championship in a team sport. In a defensive battle, the Dukes and top-ranked Tar Heels ended regulation tied 1-1. Even after two 15-minutue overtime periods, the score remained the same, sending the game into a penalty stroke shootout. It was then that the Dukes prevailed, outshooting UNC Chapel Hill 4-2 and securing the championship in head coach Christy Morgan’s third year. Morgan coached the Dukes from 1991 to 2000 before returning to the same position in 2014.
Women’s lacrosse advances to the NCAA tournament Final Four — 2000
Despite losing to Loyola University Maryland in the CAA tournament, JMU finished the regular season with a win at Duke University a little over a week later and received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Making its fourth NCAA tournament appearance in a row, JMU beat the University of Virginia in the quarterfinals on May 14, 2000 to reach the Final Four of the 12-team tournament. The Dukes lost to Princeton University in the Final Four, but it’s still JMU’s best finish in the tournament.
Football wins the national championship — 2004
Playing in Chattanooga, Tennessee, JMU topped the University of Montana 31-21 to win the Division I-AA national championship on Dec. 17, 2004. JMU traveled to and beat Lehigh University in the first round of the playoffs, Furman University in the second round and the College of William & Mary in the semifinals to secure a spot in the title game. Led by redshirt sophomore running back Maurice Fenner’s 164 yards rushing and two touchdowns, JMU out-rushed Montana by 270 yards en route to the win.
Football tops Virginia Tech — 2010
The Dukes traveled to play No.13-ranked Virginia Tech on Sept. 11, 2010, and, after holding the Hokies to just a field goal in the second half, pulled off a 21-16 upset. Virginia Tech had a 13-7 halftime lead and extended it to 16-7 after the field goal early in the third quarter. But redshirt senior quarterback Drew Dudzik rushed for a touchdown later in the third quarter, and another in the fourth quarter to push the Dukes past the Hokies.
Men’s soccer upsets UNC Chapel Hill — 2012
On Sept. 11, 2012, No.1-ranked UNC Chapel Hill traveled to Harrisonburg with a 4-0 record. But a JMU penalty kick in the first half was all that was needed to upset the defending national champion Tar Heels, as the Dukes won 1-0. The win was also the 14th of a school-record 15-game home unbeaten streak.
JMU men’s basketball wins the CAA championship — 2013
Seeded No. 3 in the CAA tournament, JMU strung together wins over the College of William & Mary, the University of Delaware and, finally top seed Northeastern University to win its first CAA title and NCAA tournament bid since 1994 on March 11, 2013 in Richmond. Redshirt senior guard A.J. Davis led the way with 26 points against Northeastern, and averaged 20 points over the three games in the tournament. In the NCAA tournament, the Dukes beat Long Island University Brooklyn in the First Four before losing to Indiana University in the second round.