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Olympic spots, NCAA titles cap eventful spring season

Paige Madden (Educ ’21), who won three individual titles at the NCAA Meet in March, was one of three current UVA swimmers to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team. ACC Photos

For a trio of UVA swimmers, winning the program’s first NCAA championship was merely a warm-up.

Last month in Omaha, Nebraska, Paige Madden (Educ ’21), Alex Walsh (Col ’24) and Kate Douglass (Col ’23) earned spots on the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team, fulfilling coach Todd DeSorbo’s goal of making UVA swimming competitive internationally.

“That’s our biggest goal,” said DeSorbo, who was selected as an assistant coach for the Olympic team “We want to be successful on the international stage.”

The Olympic berths for women’s swimming were a highlight of a busy spring season that had no shortage of electric moments: an NCAA championship in men’s lacrosse, individual NCAA titles in women’s tennis and women’s track and field, a trip to the College Cup for the women’s soccer team and an improbable run to the College World Series by the baseball team. More than a dozen alumni athletes from women’s rowing, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s track and field are also ticketed for Tokyo.

The high-stakes drama and last-second heroics across multiple sports marked a return to something resembling normal, after the 2020 spring season was cut short by COVID-19.

Madden, who won three individual titles at the NCAA championships in March, will compete in two events at the Tokyo Olympics: the 400-meter freestyle and the 4×200 freestyle relay. Walsh and Douglass, who won one individual NCAA title each, will swim in the 200 individual medley. 

Two other swimmers with UVA ties also made the team. Emma Weyant (Col ’24), who enrolled in the fall but delayed competing for the Cavaliers until 2021-22, will swim the 400 IM. Catie DeLoof, a University of Michigan graduate who trains with DeSorbo at the UVA Aquatics Center, will swim on the 4x100 freestyle relay team.

“It’s better than anything I could have wished for,” DeSorbo said.

The women’s soccer team made the spring’s first championship bid, becoming the only unseeded team to advance to the College Cup. The Cavaliers battled top-seeded Florida State University to a scoreless draw through 111 minutes but fell on penalty kicks. It was the program’s fourth appearance in the national semifinals. 

Rebecca Jarrett (Col ’22) and Lia Godfrey (Col ’24) were named to the College Cup All-Tournament team.

First-year tennis player Emma Navarro (Col ’24) won the NCAA singles championship with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over defending champion Estrela Perez-Somarriba of the University of Miami.

Navarro is the second player in program history to win the NCAA singles championship, joining Danielle Collins (Col ’16), who won in 2014 and 2016. 

The men’s lacrosse team won its second consecutive national championship in dramatic fashion, when goalkeeper Alex Rode (Educ ’21) saved a potential game-tying shot in the final seconds, preserving a 17-16 victory over University of Maryland.

The championship was the seventh for the Cavaliers. Connor Shellenberger (Col ’23), who had four goals and two assists in the championship game, was voted tournament Most Outstanding Player. 

In track and field, Michaela Meyer (Nurs ’22) became the first woman in program history to win an individual title, using a strong finishing kick to take first in the 800 meters in a school-record time of 2:00.28. She set a new ACC record of 1:58.55 two weeks later at the U.S. Olympic Trials, narrowly missing making the Olympic team by finishing in fourth place. Meyer will be an alternate on the U.S. squad.

Women’s rowing finished fifth at the NCAA championships, the program’s 17th top-five finish in 23 appearances. 

With a record of 11-14 on April 1, the baseball team seemed destined to miss the post-season. But the Cavaliers turned things around in the second half of the season and entered the NCAA tournament seeded third in a four-team regional in Columbia, South Carolina.

Facing elimination against top-seeded Old Dominion University, the Cavaliers won two in a row to advance to the Round of 16. Once again on the brink of elimination, this time against Dallas Baptist University, the Cavaliers pulled ahead on a grand slam home run by Kyle Teel (Col ’24) and advanced to the College World Series for the first time since their win in 2015.

The Cavaliers won their Series opener, over University of Tennessee, before falling to Mississippi State University, setting up an elimination game with the University of Texas. Virginia fell 6-2, ending a memorable ride.

Wahoo Alumni will also be well-represented in the Tokyo Olympics:

  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Col ’08) will captain the U.S. Women’s Soccer team. Emily Sonnett (Col ’15) joins her on the squad.
  • Dawn Staley (Col ’92) was selected as head coach of the U.S. Women’s basketball team.
  • Former rowers Meghan O’Leary (Col ’07) and Kristine O’Brien (Col ’13) will compete for the United States. Christine Roper (Col ’11) and Susanne Grainger (Col ’13) will row for Canada while Morgan Rosts (Educ ’18) will serve as an alternate. Hannah Osborne (Col ’17) and Inge Janssen (Col ’11) will row for New Zealand and the Netherlands, respectively.
  • Joe Bell (Col ’21) will play for the New Zealand men’s soccer team.
  • Mike Tobey (Col ’16) will play for the Slovenian men’s basketball team.
  • Filip Mihaljevic (Col ’17) will compete for Croatia in men’s track and field, in the shot put.