Year in Review: UVM

Looking back at the year that was in Catamount Country
Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 1:10 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - 2021 would turn out to be a banner year for the athletic department at the University of Vermont...but it didn’t exactly start out that way. After COVID concerns wiped out the 2020 Fall season and pushed the Winter campaign back a few weeks, the virus would continue to plague the Cats in the early part of this year. The department shut down completely for a month from mid-January to mid-February, with the women’s hoops team deciding to pull the plug on the season just 6 games in.

The men’s hockey team finished its first season under new head coach Todd Woodcroft with just one win, but some encouraging signs the program was moving in the right direction with five NHL draft picks on this Winter’s roster.

The women’s hockey program got off to a phenomenal start, briefly earning votes in the national polls and a Hockey East Tournament home game for the first time since 2014...but the celebration was cut short as Maine pulled the upset in the conference quarterfinals.

The men’s hoops team struggled a bit more than we’re used to seeing early last Winter, but they heated up down the stretch. Playing a conference-only slate, the Cats would finish 10-4 on the campaign, claiming a share of the America East regular season title for the fifth consecutive season. But with COVID issues a concern heading into the America East Tournament, the league scrapped its traditional playoff model and handed Vermont a bye into the semifinals. Unable to maintain their momentum after more than two weeks off, the Hoopcats fell to Hartford.

The Spring would be the busiest in recent memory at UVM, as typically Fall squads took the field in March. The soccer programs both had successful seasons end with disappointment. Handed a lifeline into the America East Tournament due to COVID issues at UNH, the women’s soccer team carried a 1-0 lead into the final 20 minutes of their semifinal contest, but saw Stony Brook storm back to claim a 3-1 win.

The men were undefeated...against everyone not named UNH. Vermont’s lone draw and only two losses came to the Wildcats including a heartbreaker in the conference title game...but we’d hear from both soccer teams again come the Fall.

The women’s lacrosse team posted a 6-3 mark in conference play, earning the program’s first trip to the America East tournament in 6 years though they would fall to Albany in the semifinals.

The Catamount men’s lax team would post arguably the best season in program history in year five under Chris Feifs. After three America East title game losses and a canceled 2020 campaign which UVM entered as the conference favorite, the Cats finally finished the job in 2021. Vermont would post a 5-0 mark against traditional foils Albany and Stony Brook, defeating the Great Danes and Seawolves on home turf over the final week to earn a share of the regular season title before turning around the next week and beating both again at UMBC to win their first ever America East Tournament Championship. In the process, they punched their first ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The Cats would fall to eventual national runner-up Maryland in the first round, but will enter 2022 with high expectations once again.

As students returned to Burlington after the Summer vacation, so did the traditional Fall sports schedule. The field hockey team would post its first winning season since 2007.

But the soccer programs were the stars of the Fall. With a massive group of seniors back, the Catamount women’s soccer team got off to a fast start, then after a midseason lull, rebounded with a seven-game conference win streak to claim their first America East Regular Season title in 25 years and hosting duties for the conference tournament. Vermont would come from behind to down Albany 3-1 in the semis before emerging with a dramatic 1-0 victory over New Hampshire in the final to punch their first ticket to the NCAA Tournament since 1984! The Cats would fall to Princeton in the first round of the tournament.

But they were not the only Catamount soccer team to play on the national stage. The UVM men were back with a vengeance this Fall, looking to bounce back from previous postseason disappointments. Vermont didn’t give up a goal over their first five games, overcame a bit of a rough patch, and frankly ran roughshod over the majority of America East. But They’d have to prove it in the tournament. After a laugher turned into a testy 3-2 win over NJIT in the semifinals, the Cats ventured back to Durham for their second America East Final in seven months...only this time, Yves Borie’s wonder volley would prove the difference as Vermont claimed its first league title since 2015. UVM would get a home game in the NCAA Tournament, but bow out to Villanova after a first half penalty kick.

Which brings us back around to the Winter sports. Things are looking up for men’s hoops and women’s hockey while the women’s basketball and men’s hockey programs seek to continue their climbs in the new after COVID messed up the entire 2021 campaign, the Ski Cats will be back on snow soon. Cheers to a great 2021 in Catamount Country, and here’s to you, 2022.

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