CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For the second year in a row, UNC’s annual Rammy Awards were celebrated virtually, announced on the Athletic Department’s @GoHeels Twitter account. And for the third year in a row, the Tar Heel field hockey team was the big winner.
The Rammy Awards honor outstanding performances by UNC student-athletes and teams over the previous year. The event is typically held at Memorial Hall on campus, where decked-out Tar Heels gather to walk the blue carpet and celebrate a year of successes as the school year comes to an end. In 2020 and now in 2021, the pandemic forced a pivot to on-line, but the ninth-annual Rammys still provided plenty of reasons to cheer.
— UNC Tar Heels (@GoHeels) July 6, 2021
After winning a third consecutive NCAA title, the Carolina field hockey team was voted the winner of a third Outstanding Team award. Additionally, a team member was named Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year for the third year in a row: junior Erin Matson won her second consecutive Rammy, following Ashley Hoffman’s win in 2019.
Matson also won the Best Play Rammy for her game-winning goal in overtime of the 2020 NCAA Championship game, in which the Tar Heels beat Michigan to claim the program’s ninth title.
Wrestling’s Austin O’Connor, who in March became the program’s sixth NCAA Champion, was named Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year.
Diver Aranza Vazquez, who earned All-America honors in all three diving events as a freshman in 2021, was named Outstanding Female Newcomer. The freshman from La Paz, Mexico, was named Most Valuable Diver at the ACC Championship.
Peter Fountain, a member of the men’s golf team, was named Outstanding Male Newcomer. He’s the first Tar Heel since 2003 and the first freshman in program history to be named first-team All-America.
William Blumberg, a member of the men’s tennis team who earned Outstanding Male Athlete honors last year, received the Rammy for Record Breaking Performance. In 2021, he became the first 10-time All-America (five honors in singles, five in doubles) in NCAA history.
Makenna Jones and Elizabeth Scotty from women’s tennis won the Rammy for Best Championship Performance. They teamed up for the 2021 NCAA Doubles Championship, marking the second time in program history that a Tar Heel duo has won.
Jill Shippee of the women’s track and field team was honored for the year’s top individual performance. She won the women’s hammer throw at the conference’s Outdoor Championships, resetting the ACC record she already owned. Shippee then broke her own record one more time in the NCAA Outdoor Championships, where she placed third.
Rinky Hijikata from men’s tennis was voted Male Breakthrough Athlete following a season in which he earned All-America honors. A sophomore from Sydney, Australia, Hijikata finished the season ranked No. 22 in singles and earned first-team All-ACC honors.
There was a tie for the women’s Breakthrough Athlete honor, with Caroline Wakefield of women’s lacrosse and Rachael Dorwart of women’s soccer both recognized. Wakefield emerged as a defensive leader for the Tar Heels and earned a spot on the All-ACC Tournament team. Dorwart came back from injury to score key goals in the spring, including the gamewinner against Texas A&M that put the Tar Heels in the College Cup.
The men’s soccer team’s NCAA Tournament run was the choice for Best Upset. The unseeded Tar Heels beat fourth-seeded Stanford and fifth-seeded Wake Forest in back-to-back games to reach the College Cup. Carolina went 3-0 against top-five teams during the 2020 season and finished the year ranked No. 4.
2021 RAMMY Awards
Outstanding team: Field Hockey
Other nominees: Football, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis
Best Championship Performance: Makenna Jones, Elizabeth Scotty (women’s tennis)
Other nominees: Reza Merchant (men’s fencing), Brandon Tubby (men’s track & field), Elizabeth Culton (gymnastics), Taylor Moreno (women’s lacrosse)
Best Individual Performance: Jill Shippee (women’s track & field)
Other nominees: Anton Down-Jenkins (men’s swimming & diving), Isaiah Palmer (men’s track & field), Alexa Graham (women’s tennis), Daniel McArthur (men’s track & field)
Male Breakthrough Athlete: Rinky Hijikata (men’s tennis)
Other nominees: Beni Rabinowitz (men’s fencing), Alex Hart (men’s swimming & diving), Santiago Herrera (men’s soccer), Austin Greaser (men’s golf)
Female Breakthrough Athlete: Rachael Dowart (women’s soccer) and Caroline Wakefield (women’s lacrosse)
Other nominees: Stephanie Watts (women’s basketball), Neeva Wersnman Young (rowing), Karenna Wurl (volleyball)
Best Upset: Men’s soccer in the NCAA Tournament
Other nominees: Wrestling’s Heilmann beats No. 10; Women’s Basketball beats No. 4 NC State; Men’s Tennis beats Wake Forest in ACC Tournament
Best Play: Erin Matson (field hockey)
Other nominees: Javonte Williams (football), Filippo Zattarin (men’s soccer), Justice Thompson (baseball), Caitlyn Wurzburger (women’s lacrosse)
Record-Breaking Performance: William Blumberg (men’s tennis)
Other nominees: Distance Medley Relay (men’s track), Jamie Ortega (women’s lacrosse), Sam Howell (football), Sara Daavettila (women’s soccer)
Outstanding Female Newcomer: Aranza Vazquez (women’s swimming & diving)
Other nominees: Sasha Neglia (women’s cross country), Nicole Adam (women’s golf), Fiona Crawley (women’s tennis), Kiannah Pierce (softball), Sam Meza and Talia Dellaperuta (women’s soccer)
Outstanding Male Newcomer: Peter Fountain (men’s golf)
Other nominees: Collin Krieg (men’s lacrosse), Kerwin Walton (men’s basketball), Justice Thompson (baseball), Tony Grimes (football)
Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year: Erin Matson (field hockey)
Other nominees: Grace Countie (women’s swimming & diving), Sara Daavettila (women’s tennis), Brianna Pinto (women’s soccer), Jamie Ortega (women’s lacrosse)
Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year: Austin O’Connor (wrestling)
Other nominees: Chris Gray (men’s lacrosse), Anton Down-Jenkins (men’s swimming & diving), Sam Howell (football), Michael Carter (football)