There’s no avoiding the most significant story in Virginia athletics this year. And no one should try.
The Nov. 13 on-campus shooting deaths of football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry rocked the school and the community, and its impact reverberated throughout college sports.
Later that week, after playing the second of two basketball games in Las Vegas, senior forward Jayden Gardner said something that stood out to me as the important thought of the time. That grieving the victims was not something that would — or should — ever end at UVa.
This wasn’t a tragedy to get over.
“This isn’t a one day, one week, type of thing,” Gardner said that day. “We’re going to remember these guys forever. I think 1, 15, 41 will live forever in our hearts.”
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At Virginia, 2022 was the year Chandler, Davis and Perry were lost in a terrible tragedy. 2023, and beyond, will be a time to keep honoring their memories. That will happen on fields and courts, locker rooms, weight rooms and classrooms.
That’s also where UVa athletes will create new memories and help bring healing to their community, memories like the ones that played out over the past 12 months.
These were the five biggest sports stories of 2022 at Virginia:
1. Virginia women dominate the water: The best story of the year in Virginia sports was easy to choose and impossible to slow down. Led by Olympians Kate Douglass and Alex Walsh, the UVa women’s swimming and diving team claimed its second straight national title.
“I think they wanted to make a statement, and they didn’t want the meet to be close,” said Virginia coach Todd DeSorbo.
The Cavaliers won four of five relays and seven individual events, setting five American records and three school records. Douglass and Walsh combined for six of the individual titles.
2. Men’s tennis gets back on top: When Andres Pedroso took over the UVa men’s tennis team in 2017, the program had just captured three straight NCAA championships. Former coach Brian Boland had built a winning culture and the expectation was that Pedroso, once he rebuilt the roster, would continue it.
“The job is a lot more fun with that expectation,” he said.
A five-match losing streak earlier in this season may have left some thinking this wouldn’t be the Cavaliers’ year. But Pedroso’s team rattled off 23 straight victories, winning the ACC and then the NCAA championships.
Senior Gianni Ross, Pedroso’s first recruit in 2017, clinched the 4-0 win over Kentucky in the national championship match, making Virginia the only ACC program to claim multiple national titles in 2022.
3. Marquee programs struggle: It wasn’t all winning in 2022 for Virginia. Tony Bennett’s national-power men’s basketball team missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. After his team’s NIT quarterfinal loss to St. Bonaventure, Bennett said bluntly, “We must improve.” And with its top six scorers back for the 2022-23 season — and early wins over Baylor, Illinois and Michigan — it looks like they have.
Tony Elliott’s first season leading the Cavaliers’ football program ended with a 3-7 record, the school canceling its final two games after the shooting tragedy. That snapped a run of being bowl eligible for five straight seasons. Virginia struggled despite bringing back star quarterback Brennan Armstrong and a host of talented wide receivers. Now, Elliott must turn things around while largely rebuilding on that side of the ball.
4. Moore than anyone: Senior attack Matt Moore scored two goals and six assists in the regular-season finale win over Lafayette, passing Steele Stanwick to become Virginia lacrosse’s all-time points leader.
“That was one of the coolest moments of my life,” said Moore after that game.
Moore finished his career with 143 goals (second most in school history) and 134 assists (fifth), playing in 73 games and helping UVa win a pair of national titles. But Moore’s senior season ended in an NCAA quarterfinal loss to Maryland.
5. Coach Mox era off to a hot start: Virginia women’s basketball had become, at best, an afterthought under former coach Tina Thompson. At worst, it was the embodiment of the popular dumpster fire internet meme.
That changed with the hiring of new coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton. Coach Mox, as she likes to be known, and hometown star Samantha Brunelle, who transferred from Notre Dame, have the Cavaliers back in a big way. They won their first 12 games and go into the new year with plenty of reason for optimism.