The following list is the Top 10 Valpo Sports Moments from the 2020-2021 season. The list was compiled and voted upon by the beat writers of the Torch Sports Section.
1. Women Soccer’s first ever Missouri Valley Championship (MVC) appearance
The story starts with Head Coach John Marovich’s concept of the team living up to the ‘above the line’ standard and winning big in the upcoming moment. The team won, 5-3 in penalty kicks against Evansville. The road win against Indiana State was then secured with a goal by freshman Lindsey Dutsako in double overtime. These were some of the moments that gave the team the opportunity to appear in their first MVC championship. This was also the first time they appeared in a championship in general since the 2014-2015 Horizon League championship against Detroit. Yes, the result did not go their way. Yes, the Brown and Gold did not win against Loyola Chicago. But the 5-4-5 overall record showed other teams in the MVC what is to come for the Brown and Gold. As much of the success has been owed this season to their freshman, their journey will only get better for them as they improve over time.
- Lachlan Streeter
2. Men’s Basketball upsets nationally ranked Drake 74-57
Coming off a heartbreaking loss the day before at the ARC against the Bulldogs, Valpo looked for a rebound effort in the second game of their two game, two day series. The last time Valpo defeated a nationally ranked team was against Rhode Island in head coach Matt Lottich’s first year. The Brown and Gold got out to a 7-0 lead to start, and went on an extended 25-12 run to take a 36-24 lead into the half. That was only the crescendo to the highlight of the season, as freshman guard Sheldon Edwards Jr. threw down the dunk of the year over the outstretched arms of a Bulldog defender, as Neil Everett had the pleasure of describing the poster on Sportscenter's Top 10 plays later in the evening. Valpo ended Drake’s perfect season, defeating a team that would eventually win a game in the NCAA Tournament.
- Garrett Willis
3. Colin Fields pitches no-hitter against Middle Tennessee State
No-hitters do not happen every day. They are cherished, celebrated, and honored when a pitcher is gifted with a big red bow of a no-hitter. Colin Fields unwrapped that bow on March 13, 2021. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Fields struck out the leadoff hitter and followed up with a walk. With the pressure building, he walked two more batters to load the bases with two outs. A high fly ball was caught in the outfield to end the game and produce the eighth no-hitter in Valpo history. Fields became the first Valpo pitcher to throw a no-hitter since March 28, 1992, when Eric Spillers cuffed a no-hitter against Eastern Illinois. At the time, Fields was only the second pitcher in the nation to throw a no-hitter in the season, joining Ohio’s Joe Rock. He also became the first Valpo player to win two MVC weekly honors in a single season ever since the Brown and Gold joined the conference.
- Zach Collins
4. Women’s Basketball’s back to back Big Ten Conference (B1G) wins
While a six point first quarter in Champaign looked like a slow start for the Brown and Gold, Valpo just saw it as a warmup for what followed: comeback wins on the road against Illinois and Purdue. Valpo outscored Illinois 17-9 in the fourth quarter to win 62-59, and sprinted ahead of Purdue in the third quarter to win 52-47. Before last November, it had been 12 years since Valpo had beaten a B1G team, as Grace White scored 37 points in the two games for Valpo’s biggest week under Mary Evans. After the win at Mackey Arena, Evans said that “days like today help validate all of the hard work they have put in,” as a new energy surrounds a program in a renaissance.
- Garrett Willis
5. Valpo Football defeats San Diego 20-19
Coming in at number five on our list of Valpo’s Top 10 Sports Moments of 2020-2021 is the football team’s triumph over San Diego. Finishing up their season with a 20-19 win at Brown Field, head coach Landon Fox and the Brown and Gold defeated the Torero’s for the first time since 2003 while also earning the program’s best winning percentage since the same year. Valpo was trailing behind San Diego by six points with 25 seconds on the clock, but the pressure would not crack the Brown and Gold. Quarterback Ben Nimz threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to freshman Braden Contreras who made a stellar catch in the back corner of the endzone that tied the game at 20 points. Kicker Brian Bartholomew then secured the team an extra point, ending the game and Valpo’s memorable season.
- Kiley Dugan
6. Claire and Olivia Czerwonka’s short and long term success
The conclusion of this season marks the end of one of the most successful seasons in history for the Women’s Tennis Team. While their 6-13 record was ultimately the result of great teamwork and dedication, two team members’ contributions to these numbers stand out in particular: The Czerwinka sisters, Claire, ‘21, and Olivia, ‘23, served as a dynamic duo all season. As doubles partners, Olivia and Claire finished the season with a 12-6 record, ranking them seventh in Valpo’s history. Individually, both Czerwonka sisters have been awarded many different honors and titles during their respective careers at Valpo thus far. Most recently, Olivia was awarded a place on the MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team and Claire was awarded an MVC Scholar-Athlete Honorable Mention. Claire plans to return to Valpo next season, as she was recently granted an extra year of eligibility, and will continue to add to her existing 52 career wins.
- Kristine Hayden
7. Rylee Cookerly’s Accolades
Rylee Cookerly: #7 on the court and on our list. Cookerly has become a defensive stalwart for the Valpo Women’s Volleyball team. Earning both the MVC Libero of the Year and First Team All Conference two years in a row, Cookerly’s back-to-back achievements deserve some recognition. The senior libero then added another award to her list of accomplishments when she earned a spot on the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Midwest Region Team, which has now made her eligible for All-American Consideration. Cookerly finished out her senior season with a total of 422 digs and an average of 5.78 digs per set that now has her ranked 10th nationally and third in a single season in Valpo’s program history. Cookerly’s list goes on and on, which is exactly why she has secured a spot on ours.
- Kiley Dugan
8. Keegan Maris playing soccer for the first time in 885 days
Senior Keegan Maris of Women’s Soccer returned to the field this season after 885 days. In 2018, her season was cut short by an injury, a fractured foot, that would cause her to miss the rest of the 2018 season as well as the entirety of the 2019 season. Formerly a midfielder, Maris returned to the team as a defender, starting the 2020-21 season in a completely new position after her injury. During this season’s opening game, Maris was awarded MVC Defensive Player of the week, marking one of the most impressive comebacks in Valpo Athletics history. In addition, she is the first MVC Defensive Player of the week to be named since 2018. Women’s soccer ultimately ended their season with a 5-4-5 record this year. This was also the first year out of their five conference appearances that the team has appeared in the MVC title match.
- Kristine Hayden
9. Baseball’s series win against Southern Illinois University
The last time Valpo played a weekend series on Emory G. Bauer Field was May 10-12, 2019. The infield was made up of dirt, grass, and of a mound that needed constant tending. The last time Valpo played that same weekend series was, in fact, against Southern Illinois University. The Brown and Gold swept the Salukis in a three game series. But now it's the 2021 season. Valpo opened up their pandemic home-opener series with a new turf field, new threads, and a 3-1 series secured at home. The first day of the series opened up with two wins, both won with walk-offs in the bottom of the ninth. Starting off with this was critical for snapping a nine game skid. Pitching proved critical for the Brown and Gold, especially in the fourth game coming from sophomore Zach Fricke as he gave up one run and struck out nine on the side.
- Lachlan Streeter
10. Womens Volleyball’s sweep over University of Northern Iowa (UNI)
The Valpo volleyball team was taking on a University of Northern Iowa powerhouse in the regular season. Never before has a Valpo Volleyball team beaten a Panthers team since their first matchup in 1984 in the Panther Open. Valpo had lost fourteen straight games against UNI until one fateful afternoon. Valpo started out cold in the first set and then jumped up to a 17-16 lead after a seven-point deficit in the first. They were able to close things out early gaining the 26-24 win in the first set. From that point on, it was Brown and Gold action. Valpo took the second set 25-17 and UNI was able to take the next two sets from Valpo. It was down to the last set of the match. Bella Ravotto lifted the team in serving followed by Jaclyn Bulmahn with a big kill to help push the team further into the set. UNI was down 14-12, their serve. The serve was up and into the net which closed out a Valpo win three sets to two. The next day, the Brown and Gold jumped back into action against the Panthers going from a five-set game down to a three-set game victory. Valpo led the whole way in the second match closing things out in the ARC to give them their second overall win against UNI in team history and earning their second series sweep in the season.
- Zach Collins