Year in Review: 2021

The Phoenix’s Year in Review: 2021 in Sports

Courtesy of the MVCMembers of the Loyola men's basketball team reach out and touch the Missouri Valley Conference tournament trophy in March 2021.

Although 2021 began as an unconventional year for Loyola sports — filled with winter soccer and women’s volleyball seasons — the year was also marked by some major events for Loyola athletics.

Highlighted by a men’s basketball Sweet Sixteen run and capped off with a switch to the Atlantic 10 Conference, it was a big year for Rambler sports.

Krutwig Wins Player of the Year

Abby Schnable, Lu Calzada and Zack Miller, March 2, 2021

Cameron Krutwig goes to shoot the ball against Southern Illinois University.
Steve Woltmann | Loyola Athletics


After a season that saw the Loyola senior become the fourth player in MVC history to score 1,500 points, 800 rebounds and 300 assists, Krutwig became the third Loyola player in four seasons to win MVC Player of the Year. He followed former Loyola stars Clayton Custer and Marques Townes.

Other Ramblers also brought home accolades in the 2021 postseason awards, including senior guard Lucas Williamson who became the second Rambler in four seasons to win Defensive Player of the Year.

Three other Ramblers were also named to all-conference teams — Williamson was also named to All-Defensive Team along with junior redshirt Aher Uguak. Uguak was also named to the All-MVC Third Team and redshirt sophomore Braden Norris was named to the All-Newcomer Team.

Brackets Busted: No. 8-Seeded Loyola Upsets No. 1-Seeded Illinois

Abby Schnable, March 24, 2021

The men’s basketball team prays with famed team chaplain Sister Jean before a game at Gentile Arena.
Courtesy of Bill Behrns

In a shock to college basketball fans across the country, the Loyola men’s basketball team managed to pull off an upset over No. 1-Seeded University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign March 21.

The Ramblers never once gave up the lead during their 71-58 victory in the field of 32, while senior center Cameron Krutwig contributed a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

Throughout the battle, Loyola held Illinois to just 58 points on 44.9 percent shooting. During the 2020-2021 season, the Fighting Illini averaged 81.3 points per game on 50 percent shooting.

Drew Valentine to Step Up as Next Ramblers Men’s Basketball Coach

Lu Calzada, April 5, 2021

Drew Valentine was announced as head coach of the Loyola men’s basketball team following former head coach Porter Moser’s departure to the University of Oklahoma.
Nick Schultz | Loyola Phoenix

Former Loyola assistant coach Drew Valentine took the reins as head coach of the Ramblers after previous head coach Porter Moser announced his departure for University of Oklahoma April 2.

Valentine stepped into the role after spending four years as an assistant coach under Moser, during which he saw Loyola through three MVC regular-season titles and appearances in the 2018 Final Four and 2021 Sweet Sixteen.

Sister Jean later expressed her support for the hiring decision, saying “I have a feeling that he is going to speed up the momentum of the [team].”

Jerry Harkness: Athlete, Storyteller, Man for Others

Lu Calzada, Sept. 15, 2021

Jerry Harkness captained the 1963 men’s basketball team that helped desegregate the NCAA through the “Game of Change.”
Courtesy of Loyola Archives

Jerry Harkness, a member of the 1963 NCAA Tournament winning men’s basketball team, died Aug. 24 at the age of 81. He was revered for his bravery in the face of racial discrimination during the 1963 tournament.

Harkness made history in the “Game of Change,” where he was one of four Black starters for Loyola in the Regional Semifinal against Mississippi State University. An image from the game, showing Harkness shaking hands with Mississippi State’s Joe Dan Gold, became a symbol of the subversion of segregation laws.

Harkness went on to become Indianapolis’ first Black sportscaster. Apart from his work in the sports world, he was recognized for his unwavering commitment to his family and friends. He is survived by his two children, Jerald and Julie, his four grandchildren and his wife, Sarah.

‘Back Up and Running’: Club Sports Finally Return to Action

Jack Barron, Oct. 27, 2021

Courtesy of Pete ConleyUltimate frisbee was just one of the club sports Loyola was able to bring back during fall 2021.
Courtesy of Pete Conley

2021 saw the return of both varsity and club sports on Loyola’s campus, with 25 club teams starting to practice in fall 2021 with new COVID-19 restrictions.

The requirements for club athletes are similar to those of the general student body, as each club sports participant is required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Unlike varsity athletes, club sports players don’t need to take frequent COVID tests.

Despite some restrictions, the return of club sports to campus was a huge step for the groups involved. Club sports were limited in the spring of 2021 to light conditioning sessions, which only some teams participated in.

‘Four’-Ever in History: Loyola’s Women’s Soccer Wins Fourth Straight MVC Championship

Lu Calzada and Kathryn Abney, Nov. 7, 2021

Loyola women’s soccer took home its fourth consecutive MVC title with a 4-0 win over Evansville.
Wes Kinard | Loyola Phoenix

The Loyola women’s soccer team defeated University Evansville 4-0 Nov. 7 to clinch its fourth straight MVC Championship title. The victory sent the Ramblers to the NCAA Tournament once again.

The Ramblers also made history by being the only team in history to receive the MVC regular-season title four times in a row. Their 7-0 record in conference play sent them to the MVC Tournament as the No. 1-seeded team.

Loyola went on to fall to Purdue University 1-0 on a goal in double overtime in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Nov. 13.

Loyola Announces Move to Atlantic 10 Conference

Zack Miller, Amelia Ickes and Lu Calzada, Nov. 16, 2021

The 2021-22 season will be Loyola’s last in the Missouri Valley Conference before it switches to the Atlantic-10.
Zack Miller | Loyola Phoenix

Loyola announced Nov. 16 it will be leaving the MVC for the Atlantic 10 (A-10) Conference, starting in the 2022-2023 season. The move was the second conference change in eight years, as Loyola left the Horizon League in 2013.

The Ramblers will become the 15th team in the A-10, joining three other Jesuit universities as a member of the conference. Other A-10 competitors include Saint Louis University, Davidson College and St. Bonaventure University.

“Loyola’s commitment to the high-level scholastic achievement of all of its students, coupled with its excellent athletic profile, from success in basketball, soccer and volleyball to outstanding facilities and resources, is a perfect fit for the A-10,” the conference’s commissioner Bernadette McGlade said about the move in a statement.

Weekend Recap: WVB Clinches Regular Season Title for the First Time Since 2002

Griffen Kreuger and Nick Pallotto, Nov. 17, 2021

For the first time in 17 years, the Loyola women’s volleyball team took home a regular season title.
Wes Kinard | Loyola Phoenix

The Loyola women’s volleyball team managed to take the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) title outright after defeating Illinois State University Nov. 13. Loyola went 22-10 for the 2021 season, going 14-4 in conference play.

This was the first time the Ramblers’ have become their conference champions since 2002, when Loyola took the Horizon League regular season title. Looking to the next season, the Ramblers are expected to return all but one player to its roster.

Despite the Nov. 13 victory over the Redbirds, Loyola went on to fall for the second season in a row in the MVC Championship match against Illinois State.

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