2020: Furman Athletics Year in Review
Furman Athletics saw a lot of heartbreak in 2020, but let's focus on some positives.
2020 was tough, but that means 2021 can only be better.
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2020 proved to be year that no one wants to ever experience again. Boredom, quarantine, heartbreak, loss, and more crippled the minds of people everywhere. Not much was able to relieve the stress of the monotonous daily quarantine, except for certain activities. For many, said activity was sports. Sports gave people things to get excited about, activities to look forward to, and events they could plan their days around. Asking athletes to play during a pandemic is surely not an easy decision for anyone involved, but something to be grateful for. It’s especially hard to think that we actually went four months without any sort of sport to watch or engage with. Thank goodness sports are back and here to stay.
2020 was a difficult year for Paladin players and fans. The Baseball and Men’s Lacrosse teams were eliminated, seasons were cut short, and student-athletes transferred or were left wondering if their sport would face the fate of their peers. Similarly, the athletic department faced a substantial budget cut and lost funding across the spectrum.
Nonetheless, focusing on the negatives won’t produce much good for anybody. It is important to note them, but only insofar as to provide relativity for success and a baseline for improvement. So, what are the positives?
Well, first, the Athletic Department launched a fundraising campaign that provided $1 million in funding. In an impressive show of support and unity, the Furman community rallied around the institution when it needed help the most.
Furman Cross Country and Track won another Southern Conference Championship, marking it their 8th in a row. Following the dominant win, the GirlGang and DinMen were both ranked nationally at 10th and 29th respectively.
Furman Men’s Tennis started off 2021 with an impressive victory over Davidson and has notched other notable wins. Similarly, Furman Women’s Tennis found some good news for 2021: The Lady Paladins returned All-American Katarina Kozarov to the roster who is ranked 15th nationally. Also, two Paladin doubles teams are also ranked in the top 30 in national rankings.
Furman Football was tabbed as a Southern Conference favorite and returns starters like Adrian Hope and Devin Wynn, both of whom are All-Americans. The Paladins will open competition on Feb. 20 and will hopefully hold limited capacity fans at some point this season.
Furman Volleyball is a dark horse to win the Southern Conference; picked third by the media, The Paladins return much of their roster and experience. Watch out for this impressive group to shock some people.
Furman Men’s Basketball got off to a hot start winning all but three non-conference games. In a similar fashion, they started conference play 4-0 but lost an ugly road game at VMI. The Paladins were picked first by the media, including The Paladin, to win the Southern Conference. The Paladins have a substantial amount of work to do as inconsistency and shaky play have plagued them at various times throughout the season. Nonetheless, The Paladins are poised to make a run at the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980 led by Coach Bob Richey who recently signed a contract extension, a good sign for Paladin players and fans. Furman’s Women’s Basketball Team has struggled this year. With injuries and scheduling problems, The Lady Paladins have had issues finding their stride, but rest assured when they do find it, watch out.
Furman Golf has continued its impressive play despite no official season. Many Paladins have notched impressive national wins. Anna Morgan, Jack and Walker Crosby, and Natalie Srinivasan have paced The Paladins. Furman Men’s Golf also returns notable player Keller Harper to the team for one final season. Similarly, a generous donation by Mike Hogan ’72 and his wife, Sondra, brings the program closer to being fully funded.
Furman Soccer Alum Walker Zimmerman was named MLS Defender of the Year. Furman’s Men’s and Women’s Soccer Teams will look to build off offseason successes and training. The Men’s team will look to defend last year’s Southern Conference Championship. The Soccer scrimmages were the highlight of Furman’s Homecoming week activities providing much needed competition and entertainment for students, players, and fans.
Other miscellaneous numbers and facts that are notable successes for 2020: Furman registered a 93 percent overall graduation rate in the Athletic Department. Natalie Srinivasan and Jordan Lyons were named Athletes of the Year. Coach Adam Herendeen (women’s tennis) was Coach of the Year. Furman Student-Athletes finished the fall 2020 semester with an average GPA of 3.24, 150 Student-Athletes made the Dean’s List, and 29 of them had a 4.0 GPA.
Whether large or small, success is success and Furman found some in 2020, albeit there was a lot of heartache too. With a busy Spring Semester ahead and after the year 2020 gave us, here’s to hoping 2021 will be better for players and fans.