Virginia Athletics Notes: Youth, Repeat Team Success Among Women’s Sports Highlights

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The Virginia women’s soccer team won the ACC Regular Season title. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

Another year has flown by and the athletic season has officially come to a close for Virginia athletics. The 2021-2022 school year will likely be remembered as the return to (relatively) normal after COVID-19 disrupted three semesters of athletic competitions.

The women in the UVA athletic department continued their various quests for ACC and NCAA championships. The rowing and swimming and diving teams led the way as both finished on top at the ACC Championships, while the swimming and diving team collected its second straight NCAA title in dominant fashion. The rowing team ultimately finished ninth in the NCAA.

Other women’s sports highlights included the golf team qualifying for its first NCAA Championship since 2019, softball jumping six spots in the ACC compared to the 2021 season, soccer claiming the regular season conference title, and tennis and field hockey finishing as ACC runner-ups. Soccer also claimed runner-up honors in the ACC Tournament.

First Year? No Problem.

One takeaway from this past year is that the class of 2025 is going to rewrite the record books before those athletes leave grounds in three years.

Rachel Clark was named the ACC Freshman of the Year and an honorable mention All-American in women’s lacrosse. Sarah Coon started every game for the Hoos in softball and was included on the ACC All-Freshman team. Margot Appleton and Mia Barnett led the cross country team and were half of the All-American and school-record-breaking distance medley relay for indoor track. For squash, Meagan Best was named Rookie of the Year for the Mid Atlantic Squash Conference. Amanda Sambach earned honorable mention All-American status in women’s golf.

No freshmen were quite as dominant as swimmer Gretchen Walsh, who won the 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA Championship with a Virginia record time of 49.05. She also finished second in the 50 free and 100 backstroke at NCAAs. Reilly Tiltmann, also a freshman swimmer, joined Walsh on the 400-yard freestyle relay which the Hoos won with an American Record effort. Tiltmann finished fifth in both the 100 and 200 backstroke at the national meet too. Emma Weyant, Olympian and freshman, swam on the second-place 800-yard freestyle relay alongside Tiltmann. Weyant finished second in the 500 freestyle and fourth in the 400IM at NCAAs too.

Virginia Swimming & Diving Dominates Again

It is hard to believe that the swimming and diving team won its very first NCAA women’s national title in 2021. One year and four Olympians later, the Hoos have quickly established themselves as the team to beat.

Led by junior Kate Douglass and sophomore Alex Walsh, the Cavaliers topped the podium in seven individual races, won five relays, and broke four American records. It would take an entirely separate article to detail every accomplishment of these women from this past year, but it is worth acknowledging the other NCAA scorers who have yet to be mentioned: Maddie Donohoe (junior), Ella Nelson (junior), Anna Keating (sophomore), Alexis Wenger (senior), Abby Harter (sophomore), and Lexi Cuomo (junior). Check out a recap of the NCAA title repeat here.

As you may notice, nearly every scorer from the 2022 team has eligibility remaining. The future continues to shine bright for the swimming Cavaliers.

Upperclassmen Rule The Fall

The women’s soccer team started the school year off with a bang by bringing home the ACC Regular Season title. Diana Ordoñez, Alexa Spaanstra, Laurel Ivory, Haley Hopkins, and Taryn Torres provided upper-class leadership on the field while Lia Godfrey and Samar Guidry shined as sophomores. This team battled through adversity including injuries to key players; however, they fought hard the entire season which came to an unfortunate end in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. While several key players will be missing from the team next fall, including Ordoñez who was drafted to play professionally, the Hoos will have the necessary pieces to make a late run again this fall.

Field hockey, which also made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, was lifted by First Team All-American Amber Ezechiels and Third Team All-American Rachel Robinson. They helped the team make an unexpected run in the ACC Tournament, which garnered them runner-up honors after falling to UNC in the championship game. With the return of Adele Iacobucci, Danielle Husar, and many others, the team will look to continue the momentum that the upperclassmen have helped to build.

Individuals Shine In Spring

Many Cavaliers experienced individual success in their sports this past spring while fighting for team titles.

The outdoor track season wrapped up this month in Eugene, Oregon where four Hoos competed for NCAA titles. The best performance on the women’s side came from sophomore Maria Deaviz, who finished fourth in the shot put. Deaviz’s performance makes her the first woman in UVA history to garner First Team All-American status in the event. On the tennis court, sophomore Emma Navarro’s quest for a second straight NCAA title fell short, but she was named the ACC Player of the Year and ended her season with a stunning record of 26-2 in singles matches. The women’s golf team was led by senior Beth Lillie, who finished ninth at the NCAA Championship. This accomplishment makes Lillie the only Cavalier to finish in the top 10 twice in her career at UVA.

Basketball, Volleyball Search For Rhythm

The women’s basketball team finished the season with a record of 5-22, while volleyball went 8-20. These two programs have struggled for a while, but coaching changes may provide an opportunity for rapid improvement.

Shannon Wells, the volleyball coach, was hired last spring so this fall will be her second season with the team. This past season, the Hoos started with a record of 8-4 before losing 16 straight to close the season. It is not rare for teams to struggle the first year under a new coaching staff, but hopefully, as Wells brings in her own recruits and builds cohesion in the team, we will see more wins late in the season from the Wahoos.

Basketball, on the other hand, is gearing up for its first season under new Virginia coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton, who previously coached Missouri State. As a Virginia native and former assistant coach at ODU and VCU, Agugua-Hamilton will hopefully be able to draw some of the best in-state recruits year after year. The Hoos ended their conference play with just two wins in the 2021-2022 season. Fans will be looking for a big jump with the help of the new coaching staff as well as some exciting transfers.

Looking Forward At Virginia

The 2021-2022 year saw extreme highs in the form of national titles and All-American performances as well as some disappointing losses and early tournament exits. With the promise that comes with new coaching staffs as well as the many incredible performances from the freshman class, the 2022-2023 seasons have us all excited and ready for more memories cheering on the women of UVA athletics.

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