Penn State’s Top Sports Moments Of 2021

Well, folks, 2021 has come to a close. The year produced plenty of memorable moments for Penn State, especially across its athletic teams and programs.

As we get set to flip the page to 2022, take a stroll down memory lane as we recount some of the Nittany Lions’ biggest feats and best moments from the year.

The White Out Returns

The White Out is a Penn State tradition unlike any other. In 2020, however, we missed out on that experience. This fall, though, college football’s greatest environment returned in incredible fashion when Penn State hosted Auburn for a White Out showdown.

Penn State wound up defeating the No. 22 Tigers 28-20 to stay undefeated on the season. Although that unblemished record was short-lived, an incredible night at Beaver Stadium will always be remembered.

The Micah Shrewsberry Era Begins

With canceled seasons and interim coaches aplenty, it’s been a rough few years for Penn State men’s basketball. Then, enter Micah Shrewsberry, who’s already helped stabilize the program and breathe new life into a struggling team.

He first locked down the highest-rated recruiting class in program history by inking five players for the 2022-23 season. Shrewsberry then established relationships with the State College community, bringing hype to a basketball program that felt faded away since the 2019-20 season ended abruptly.

The biggest thing Shrewsberry did, however, was bringing fans back to the Bryce Jordan Center. At one point, it had been 617 days since fans were allowed back in the Bryce Jordan Center to see the Nittany Lions play, and with that much time off, it could have been hard to bring fans back to watch the team. But Shrewsberry was able to do just that, and even though his team is off to a 5-5 start, there is hope that Penn State is on the right track.

Wrestling Crowns Four National Champions

Despite not winning the team title, Penn State was able to produce four national champions in 2021. Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci, and Aaron Brooks each captured titles at their respective weights to cap off another dominant season for Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lions.

Women’s Hockey Wins First-Ever Regular-Season Title

The women’s hockey team at Penn State had a massive year. The Nittany Lions won their first regular-season championship since joining the College Hockey America Conference, achieving unprecedented success that turned plenty of heads.

The team finished with a 16-3-2 record and went 9-0-1 at home in Happy Valley. Josie Buthon and Kiara Zanon both won national awards, with Zanon specifically winning the Women’s College Hockey National Rookie of the Year.

Men’s Soccer Captures Big Ten Double

Penn State men’s soccer made some noise by capturing the Big Ten’s regular-season and tournament titles this season. The Nittany Lions capped off their tournament run with a long-awaited win over rival Indiana.

Throughout the Nittany Lions’ postseason run, Penn State’s defense didn’t allow a single score. Three matches, nearly 300 minutes, zero goals. It was simply some of the best defense in program history.

Late-Game Interceptions Beat Wisconsin To Open Season

We can’t forget how the season began for Penn State football. A road challenge against a ranked Wisconsin team was going to set the tone for the Nittany Lions, and it did just that. Penn State’s strong secondary came up huge to set the tone for a big season for Penn State’s defense.

Safety Jaquan Brisker had the first massive interception that came on fourth-and-goal with about two minutes left in the game. He returned that ball all the way to midfield, stifling any possible momentum that the Badgers had at that moment.

Wisconsin responded, however, and was soon within striking distance yet again. This time, Ji’Ayir Brown sealed the deal with an interception of his own, ending the game on a high note.

Lady Lions Take Down No. 15 Ohio State

The Lady Lions did not have a 2020-21 season to remember, but one of the highlights was an upset win at home over No. 15 Ohio State. Niya Beverly led the way with 21 points, while Makenna Marisa finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Marisa would also score the game-winning basket with only a minute left in the game.

The matchup would later serve as Penn State’s final win of the 2020-21 season. However, it was Penn State’s first win over a top-15 team in nearly five years, which easily cements it as the biggest win of coach Carolyn Kieger’s tenure.

Men’s Hockey Upsets No. 6 North Dakota In Nashville

A second upset win came this October when Penn State men’s hockey beat No. 6 North Dakota in a neutral site game in Nashville for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. The Nittany Lions dominated 6-4 and scored two goals in each period.

Clayton Phillips and Connor MacEachern led the way with two goals apiece, while Ben Copeland and Tyler Gratton chipped in with the last two scores. Six different players had assists as well. The win remains one of the Nittany Lions’ best wins so far in the 2021-22 season.

Russ Rose Retires From Penn State Women’s Volleyball

After spending 43 years in Happy Valley, women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose has called it a career. He leaves Penn State with seven national titles as the winningest coach in any Division I sport.

Rose’s departure sparked a tidal wave of support across the volleyball world, including remarks from former players, coaches and mentees, and fans at large. It’s safe to say he’s among the best of the best — both at Penn State and in college sports.

Nittany Lions Bring Home Olympic Hardware

We’re cheating a little since these Olympians are not currently at Penn State anymore, but it is still a cool accomplishment to recognize.

Women’s volleyball standouts Micha Hancock and Haleigh Washington helped lead the U.S. to its first-ever gold medal. Penn State wrestling legend David Taylor took gold in the men’s 86 kg tournament. Shot put star Joe Kovacs notched his second career silver medal, while women’s soccer alumna Alyssa Naeher received a bronze alongside current Penn State coach Erica Dambach. Erin McLeod took gold alongside Canada’s national soccer team. Former men’s basketball standout Tom Hovasse earned silver coaching Japan’s women’s basketball team, too.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey was a Secondary Education major before he graduated from the wonderful institution known as Penn State. When he was not writing for the blog, he enjoyed rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor," and yes mom, actually doing school work. All of this work prepared him to teach his own class of students, which was always his true passion. He still can be found on Twitter @theowenabbey and can be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]

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