24 teams, 361 events, 1 semester
Everything was a spring sport at Villanova this year, as all 24 varsity teams returned to competition in January 2021. In a fast-paced, jam-packed, historic season, Villanova’s student-athletes soared — winning championships, earning accolades and inspiring Nova Nation with their spirit of teamwork and unity.
It was a first in Villanova Softball history — players streaming onto the field and piling up at home plate to celebrate a BIG EAST title. In capturing its first conference championship, the team also earned its first-ever bid to the NCAA Division I Softball Championships.
A standout for the team this year was senior Paige Rauch, who amassed an impressive collection of honors as the season concluded: Most Outstanding Player of the BIG EAST Tournament, Third Team All-American, and both BIG EAST Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year — the first person ever to earn both titles in the same season.
The Women’s Swimming and Diving team tallied its eighth straight BIG EAST team championship — a record for the program. The team earned 11 gold medals, including champions in seven individual events and first-place finishes in four of the five relays. Leading the way was junior Kelly Montesi, who was named the Women’s Most Outstanding Swimmer. The team’s coaches, led by Head Coach Rick Simpson, also were named Women’s Coaching Staff of the Year for the eighth consecutive season.
William B. Finneran Endowed Head Coach of the Men’s Basketball team and two-time national champion, Jay Wright has added another accolade for his storied career: induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
During his 27-year head coaching career — seven years at Hofstra University and the last 20 years at Villanova — Wright has won 612 games. He will be the eighth active Division I coach in the Hall of Fame.
Described as “both a world-class coach and world-class person” by Vice President and Director of Athletics Mark Jackson, Wright has been credited with championing student-athletes to achieve at the highest level, on and off the court.
“While the numerous championships, wins and awards Jay has amassed over his career are impressive, I am the most proud of the culture he has created and the program he has built here at Villanova,” says University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS.
For the seventh time in 20 seasons, Villanova Men’s Basketball reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in March. While the Wildcats fell to the eventual national champion Baylor Bears, they ended the season as the BIG EAST regular season conference champions, and sophomore Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and senior Collin Gillespie shared BIG EAST Player of the Year honors.
Women’s Basketball sophomore Maddy Siegrist led the BIG EAST in scoring and rebounding this season, and she was rewarded by being named to the All-Conference first team, and also as an Honorable Mention All-American. In just two seasons, she has scored more than 1,000 points, and she reached that milestone in 50 career games, faster than anyone in Villanova Women’s Basketball history.
Villanova’s legendary track and field program added several new trophies and medals to its collection. The Women’s Track and Field team won its third straight outdoor BIG EAST championship, and five athletes won their individual events: graduate student Grayce French in discus, senior Taryn Ashby in javelin, senior Danielle Burns in the 400 meter hurdles, senior McKenna Keegan in the 800 meters and sophomore Anna Helwigh in the 1500 meters.
Four Wildcat track stars also qualified for the NCAA National Championships: sophomore Haftu Strintzos in the 10,000 meters (the first Villanova athlete to qualify for the national championships in that event); senior Casey Comber in the 1500 meters; Keegan in the 800 meters; and junior Sanaä Barnes in the high jump.