Denver athletes and coaches continued to deliver sports excellence along with heartbreak during 2021. Below, we recap some of the most memorable events of the year. A year that will be remembered for COVID-19 and its subsequent impact on nearly every sport.
- Denver’s nation-leading offense triggers Denver hockey’s 10-4 start in their quest for an NCAA Tournament berth at the Loveland Regional and hopefully, a 9th national title run in 2022.
- Denver men’s soccer wins the Summit League Tournament in two shootouts and defeats Grand Canyon, 1-0, in first-round NCAA Tournament action.
- Legendary Denver leader and friend to Denver athletics, Joy Burns, grants DU a substantial monetary endowment.
- DU acquires the 724 acre J. C. Kennedy mountain campus near Feather Lakes for remote, experiential learning.
- Denver Athletics jumpstarts their Athletic Hall of Fame event highlighted with the induction of former head coach George Gwozdecky.
- DU wins the Learfield Directors Cup for the 12th time as the athletic department is recognized as the best non-football program in the country.
- Denver men’s lacrosse wins the BIG EAST regular-season title before falling to the Georgetown Hoyas in the conference tournament and falling just short in a frantic comeback bid against Loyola in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
- Denver women’s lacrosse stuns undefeated Stanford in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 15-13.
- In a COVID-19 abbreviated season, men’s soccer has to withdraw from the NCAA Tournament due to the spread of the virus.
- Jeff Wulbrun is hired as DU’s new men’s head basketball coach, charged with turning around the moribund program.
- Denver volleyball wraps up the regular-season title against UMKC, 3-0, and earns their 7th conference title in 8 seasons.
- DU gymnastics shocks the gymnastics world as the Pioneers defeat the #1 Oklahoma Sooners at the BIG XII Tournament behind NCAA Woman of the Year nominee Lynzee Brown.
- Denver Skiing finishes 3rd at the NCAA’s and shortly thereafter head coach Andy LeRoy leaves DU for his alma mater CU. LeRoy left 6 national championships in his wake.
- Amelia Smart wins the NCAA slalom title in her final season. This win made the highly decorated Smart a three-time NCAA individual National Champion in slalom (2) and giant slalom (1) along with being a five-time All-Americans (4 in slalom, 1 in giant slalom).
- Denver hockey falls short of 20 wins in the COVID-shortened 2020-2021 season and misses the NCAA tournament. Maybe we chalk this up to a COVID year.
2 thoughts on “Top DU Sports Stories of 2021”
As season ticket holders in almost all DU sports my wife Katie and I love our players and our coaches. Living a block from Ritchie Center helps!
Generally speaking, 2021 will be remembered by many as a year of intense frustration and many playoff chokes for Pioneer fans, who were used to seeing far better Pioneer outcomes.
— Hockey’s underachieving, losing 10-13 season without an NCAA Tourney berth, that ended with DU pleading for NCAA inclusion with a losing record…
–Men’s Basketball hitting total rock bottom of the NCAA at #342 RPI, and our fellow alumnus, Rodney Billups ending his DU coaching career in shame and embarrassment
— Gymnastics sputtering out of the NCAAs in 10th place after upsetting top-ranked Oklahoma in the the Big 12 meet, with star Lynzee Brown finishing seventh on floor, tied for ninth on bars, and tied for 10th on beam at NCAA Nationals – not the performance the team was expecting after being top 4 in 2019….
– Skiing finished third at the NCAAs, blowing another great alpine year with another horrendous Nordic performance that ended with the coaches leaving the program…
— The men’s swimming seasons completely imploded into shameful defections of its best athletes after Covid suspensions …It was the worst DU swimming performance in decades.
— Women’s volleyball crashing out of the 2021 Summit League tournament quarterfinals to a #6 seeded SDSU team they had crushed twice in the regular season
–Men’s Lacrosse, after being awarded a home game (top 8) in the NCAA tourney, blew a perfect second half face-off performance by TD Ierlan, allowing an unseeded Loyola to score 14 total goals on the Pios to knock them out. DU coughed-up 17 turnovers, had 90 seconds of late man-up that did not produce a decent shot let alone a goal, and took an undisciplined penalty in the final five minutes that produced the game-winner for Loyola…
— DU Women’s Soccer, picked to win the 2021 Summit League, flamed out of the Summit Finals on their HOME Field to South Dakota State, 4-2.
–DU Tennis and Golf, who usually dominate, lost all 4 of their head coaches in the same year (men’s and women’s) likely due to budget shortfalls
Denver often took it on the chin when it mattered in 2021, with finishes that were mostly below expectations.
We hope to see better performances in 2022.