To see all of our 2021 Swammy Awards, click here.
2021 NCAA WOMEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR: TODD DESORBO, VIRGINIA
Todd DeSorbo is the second coach to win back-to-back NCAA Women’s Coach of the Year Swammies, having won the award in 2020 as well during the COVID-halted season. Stanford’s Greg Meehan was the first coach to win this award consecutively, earning the honors in 2017 and 2018.
DeSorbo led his Cavaliers to the NCAA team title by a 137-point margin. UVA had an A finalist in every swimming event at NCAAs, something that no ACC team had ever accomplished before. UVA also had no divers score points at NCAAs, adding to just how impressive the team performance in the pool was.
Then-Senior Paige Madden won all 3 of her events (200, 500, 1650 free) making her the only swimmer at the 2021 NCAAs to win 3 individual medals. Madden also helped the UVA 800 free relay to victory on the opening night, while Alex Walsh won the 200 IM, and Kate Douglass won the 50 free. DeSorbo’s squad started the meet absolutely on fire, winning 4 of the 6 events through the first 2 days of the meet, and finishing 2nd in the other two (200 free relay and 400 medley relay).
DeSorbo’s team also won their 3rd ACC team title in 4 years, beating NC State out by 169 points. At ACCs, his Cavaliers broke the NCAA and American Records in the 200 medley relay, becoming the first team ever to go under 1:33 in the event.
The UVA squad was exceptional, particularly in freestyle. The Cavaliers ended the 20-21 season with the top times in the NCAA in the 50 free, 200 free, 500 free, and 1650 free. Kate Douglass was also the fastest 200 IM’er in the country last season.
Here is a summary of the Cavaliers who finished the 2020-2021 season with top 10 times in the NCAA:
|#1||Kate Douglass||50 Free||21.09|
|#1||Paige Madden||200 Free||1:42.35|
|#1||Paige Madden||500 Free||4:33.09|
|#1||Paige Madden||1650 Free||15:41.86|
|#1||Kate Douglass||200 IM||1:50.92|
|#2||Kate Douglass||100 Free||46.30|
|#2||Kate Douglass||100 Fly||49.55|
|#2||Kate Douglass||200 Breast||2:03.93|
|#2||Alex Walsh||200 IM||1:51.53|
|#2||Ella Nelson||400 IM||4:02.33|
|#3||Ella Nelson||200 Breast||2:04.35|
|#4||Alexis Wenger||100 Breast||57.60|
|#5||Caroline Gmelich||50 Back||23.70|
|#5||Reilly Tiltmann||100 Back||50.49|
|#5||Lexi Cuomo||100 Fly||50.65|
|#7||Paige Madden||1000 Free||9:45.43|
|#7||Reilly Tiltmann||200 Back||1:50.66|
|#8||Alex Walsh||200 Breast||2:05.64|
|#8||Ella Nelson||200 IM||1:54.72|
|#9||Alex Walsh||200 Free||1:43.61|
|#9||Alex Walsh||200 Back||1:51.12|
|#9||Alex Walsh||100 Breast||58.28|
|#9||Abby Harter||200 Fly||1:53.73|
UVA landed a truly astonishing 23 top 10 performers last season, including 5 #1 performers and 5 #2 performers. DeSorbo also had 9 different swimmers crack the top 10 last year, by far the most of any program.
DeSorbo won our US Coach of the Year honors for his accomplishments in the NCAA season, as well as his swimmers’ performances this summer. 4 of DeSorbo’s swimmers went on to win medals at the Tokyo Olympics.
In no particular order
- Braden Holloway, NC State – In his 10th season leading the Wolfpack, NC State head coach Braden Holloway‘s team posted the highest NCAA finish in program history, coming in 2nd behind UVA. Additionally, NC State won their first NCAA title ever by taking the 400 medley relay on day 2 of NCAAs. The Wolfpack squad of Katharine Berkoff, Sophie Hansson, Kylee Alons, and Julia Poole swam a 3:24.59, breaking the NCAA and US Open records, and demolishing the 3:26.88 they swam at ACCs.Holloway’s team only continued to climb from there, winning 4 more NCAA titles, including the 200 medley, where they took down a UVA team that had just set the NCAA Record at the ACC Championships. Sophie Hansson swept the breaststroke events, winning the 100 breast in 57.23, a new ACC Record. She clocked a 2:03.86 to win the 200 breast, breaking the pool record. Katharine Berkoff won the 100 back in 49.74, also breaking the ACC Record.NC State had 7 swimmers make A finals individually at NCAAs, for a total of 13 A finals swims. Holloway’s heaviest hitters were Hansson (100/200 breast champion), Berkoff (100 back champion, 6th in 200 back, 8th in 50 free), and Kyle Alons, who took 3rd in the 100 fly, 4th in the 50 free, and 6th in the 100 free. Andrea Podmanikova was an A finalist in both breast events, while Kate Moore finished 6th in the 500, Julia Poole 6th in the 200 IM, and Emma Muzzy 7th in the 200 back.NC State also boasted a 3rd-place finish in the 200 free relay, and 4th in the 400 free relay.
On top the success in terms of finishes at the big meet, the season was historically fast for Holloway’s Wolfpack. In addition to the NCAA and US Open Records in the 400 medley relay, the Pack broke 3 ACC Records, including the 400 medley relay, 100 breast, and 100 back. Under Holloway’s leadership, NC State program records were broken in 9 events.
- Carol Capitani, Texas – The Longhorns finally had the NCAA performance we’ve been waiting for in 2021, landing head coach Carol Capitani on this list. While Texas has been a top program for years from a roster and NCAA top times standpoint, they had a streak of underperforming at the NCAA Championships. That changed last season, as the Longhorns took 3rd at NCAAs. Their divers came up huge, but the Texas swam exceptionally in the pool as well. The Longhorns had 5 different individual A finalists, 2 of whom made 3 A finals. Evie Pfeifer took 2nd in the 500 and 1650 free, and 5th in the 400 IM. Kelly Pash was 2nd in the 200 IM, 3rd in the 200 free, and tied for 4th in the 200 fly. Additionally, Texas saw 6 team records fall under Capitani’s leadership during the 2020-2021 season.
- Katie Robinson, Northwestern – In her first season as the head coach of Northwestern, the women’s team had its highest NCAA finish in the past 20 years. The Wildcats took 16th, scoring 96 points, which is also their highest-scoring performance since 2000. They did so with arguably the fastest swimmer on the team, Calypso Sheridan, sitting the season out before transferring to USC. In the end, Robinson’s squad scored in all 4 relays they competed in, and had 3 swimmers racing in Championship finals. Maddie Smith finished 7th in the 50 free, while Sophie Angus and Lola Mull took 8th in the 100 breast and 1650 free respectively.