Athletic departments across the country were thrust into an unprecedented state of chaos in the first half of 2021. Due to the COVID pandemic, most fall sports were postponed until the time traditionally reserved for just spring sports. With winter sports finishing their runs at the beginning of the semester, most schools had every single team playing simultaneously.
With so many events happening at once, it has been hard to keep up with everything. I have put together a four-part series recapping the extra busy spring sports seasons for Belmont, Lipscomb, Tennessee State, and Vanderbilt.
For part one we’ll begin with the Bruins, highlighted by NCAA Tournament appearances individually in men’s and women’s track and field, men’s cross country, and men’s golf, and as a team in men’s tennis.
The Bruins finished 22-30 with a 14-16 OVC record, just short of qualifying for a conference tournament berth. 3B Logan Jarvis and OF John Behrends were named First Team All-OVC, while freshman pitcher Andy Bean made Second Team.
Intra-Nashville: L at Vanderbilt 4-1, W vs Lipscomb 5-4, L vs Lipscomb 10-9, W vs Lipscomb 11-2
It was a subpar season for the Bruins, finishing 15-26 with an 11-20 record in conference play. Senior Cheynne Cavanaugh was a bright spot, earning Third Team NFCA All-Central Region and Second Team All-OVC.
Intra-Nashville: W at Lipscomb 5-1, W at TSU 5-2, W at TSU 7-0, W vs TSU 12-0, W vs TSU 8-0
The men’s squad placed third at the OVC Championships, with senior Ben Naegar qualifying for the NCAA Championships with a second-place finish. Fellow senior Taylor Vroon placed third. Naegar placed 149th at Nationals.
The women’s team placed second at the OVC title race, with Freshman of the Year Grace Litzinger grabbed second place individually. Lily Hallum (7th) and Katie Flaherty (9th) also placed top-10 to help the Bruins earn their best-ever finish in the OVC.
Evan Davis had an outstanding spring. The senior won co-medalist honors at the OVC Championships (just the second Bruin ever to do so), qualified for the NCAA Regionals, and was the first player in program history to be named to the PING GCCA All-Southeast Region Team.
The Bruins also finished second in the OVC Tournament, while Davis placed 19th at Regionals.
The women’s golf team placed a program-best third at the OVC Championships thanks to a school-record final round from Katelyn Dunstan who finished in a tie for fifth.
Belmont secured its first-ever OVC title game appearance after knocking off No. 25-ranked Furman 3-1 in the semifinals. They ultimately fell 1-0 to UNC Greensboro in the championship to end the season 7-3-2. A program record seven Bruins earned OVC postseason accolades.
Intra-Nashville: W vs Lipscomb, 2-1 in double OT, W at Trevecca 2-1
The women’s soccer squad finished 5-4-1 in a season that consisted only of conference play. Franklin native Julie Garst closed out her decorated career with a fourth-consecutive ALL-OVC honor, a USC All-South Region Second Team bid, and a USC All-South Region Scholar First-Team honor. Rachel Vernon was also named All-OVC and Third Team All-Region Scholar.
The men’s tennis squad qualified for the NCAA Tournament with a 4-3 win over Tennessee Tech in the OVC championship. In their second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the 15-seed Bruins were swept 4-0 to 2-seed Ole Miss. Fun fact: head coach Mauricio Antun was the youngest coach at the 2021 championships.
Intra-Nashville: L at Vanderbilt 6-1, W at Lipscomb 4-3, W at Lipscomb 4-3, W at TSU 7-0
The Bruins did not qualify for the OVC Tournament, but Franklin native Somer Henry was named to the All-OVC First Team.
Intra-Nashville: L at Lipscomb, 5-2
Track and Field
Both the women’s and men’s track teams turned in program-best OVC Championship performances, securing second and third place, respectively.
Five Bruins qualified for NCAA East Regionals: Jessica Mattsson (28th, Hammer Throw), Maddie Quinn (45th, Javelin), Adreanna Parlette (25th, Long Jump), Aidan Thompson (14th, 3,000m Steeplechase, and Ben Weisel (13th, 1500m).
All but Thompson (who broke the OVC record but still placed 2nd) won gold at the OVC Championships, and Parlette was named the Female Field Athlete of the Year. Brandon Carei also won the pole vault, while Ridvan Kazimov won the shot put.
The Bruins VOlleyball squad also played a conference-only schedule, finishing 3-13. Junior Taylor Floyd earned Belmont’s first postseason accolade since 2017 with a Second Team All-OVC honor.