The Tewaaraton Award winners will be named Saturday at halftime of the PLL game that starts at 5 p.m. EST. There are five finalists for the men’s award and five more on the women’s side. I’m taking a look at the five men’s finalists for the 2021 Tewaaraton and making a case for and against each of the final candidates.
The Case For & Against Each 2021 Men’s Tewaaraton Finalist
Final stats: 16 games, 71 goals, 28 assists
The case for Bernhardt: Jared Bernhardt is the favorite entering the ceremony and will almost certainly walk away the winner. He finished his final season as the nation’s leader in both points and goals and had 20 (!!) more goals than second-place Jake Carraway. He had a hat trick in 13 of his 16 games played this year. Meanwhile, Maryland went undefeated until the national championship, a game that it lost by just one goal.
In that game, Bernhardt was quieter than usual by his 2021 standards but still had five points. More importantly, though, he very quickly shut down any ideas that he was only producing because of the Big Ten’s conference-only schedule. In three straight games against ACC opponents, Bernhardt racked up 12 goals and five assists. He proved that he can do it against anybody. Sure, losing the title game opens the tiniest crack in an otherwise airtight case, but that’s a pretty unreasonable nit to pick.
The case against Bernhardt: Look, there isn’t much of one. He outlasted every other finalist in the playoffs. He scored more than any of them. His team had a better record than any of them. He and his Maryland team personally ended the season for both Pat Kavanagh and Michael Sowers.
Final stats: 16 games, 49 goals, 42 assists
The case for Gray: If you’re looking for a more balanced player, well, Chris Gray is probably your guy. Unlike Bernhardt, Gray was top five in total assists while still finishing third in goals. His UNC team secured a share of the ACC title, the No. 1 overall seed, and a spot in Memorial Day Weekend. Gray ranks second nationally in points-per-game. His efficiency is great. He’s led UNC to a combined 20-3 record since stepping on campus…
The case against Gray: …all of which sets him up nicely to be the favorite for the Tewaaraton next season. Look, Bernhardt is going to win this thing. He outscored Gray. He put up more points-per-game. He made it farther in the tournament.
Final stats: 17 games, 37 goals, 44 assists
The case for Sowers: Unlike everybody else on this list, Michael Sowers didn’t have the luxury of coming in with chemistry with his team. After having to transfer from Princeton to play his final season in college, Sowers entered a brand-new system full of a bunch of dudes he’d never played with before, barely had a fall ball, and still managed to be third in the nation in points while leading Duke to the No. 2 seed and national semifinals. He finishes his illustrious college career second all-time in career points.
The case against Sowers: Man, what could’ve been. Sowers was easily the favorite for the Tewaaraton in 2020, before COVID cancelled the season. He could’ve won it last year and gotten this first taste of playoff action with the Tigers instead. That would’ve been fun to see. Sowers is an all-timer. But even though he’s a finalist for the 2021 Tewaaraton, he’s not winning.
Final stats: 18 games, 37 goals, 42 assists
The case for Kavanagh: Pat Kavanagh has such a bright future. He’s the only men’s Tewaaraton finalist who couldn’t graduate in 2021 even if he felt like it. He finished the season fifth in points-per-game and still ranked seventh nationally in total assists despite his team playing fewer games than dang near anybody else. The fact that Notre Dame was stuck with the No. 6 seed and forced to play Maryland in the quarters isn’t his fault, and he did have three points in that Maryland loss.
The case against Kavanagh: But honestly, Kav didn’t have enough games to truly compete this year. His stats are too far behind the others, and Notre Dame didn’t make it far enough in the tournament to make up for it. No matter. He’s got another three seasons to try and win a Tewaaraton.
Final stats: 16 games, 51 goals, 17 assists
The case for Carraway: The biggest case for Jake Carraway is the relative lack of help he had compared to the rest of these guys. Georgetown ended up as the No. 5 seed this year, but that’s out of character for this team. It’s worth mentioning that TJ Haley did have a nation-leading 49 assists, but a lot of those were to Carraway. The grad student finished second in goals. Georgetown not only got seeded for the first time in a good while but absolutely rocked Syracuse (Carraway had five goals) in the first round before getting rocked itself in the second round.
The case against Carraway: Big games. He was held to just two goals in the Hoyas’ first game against Denver. In the second game against the Pios, just a single goal, and two points in their third game. He was also held to only one assist in Georgetown’s blowout loss to Virginia in the quarterfinals. Carraway did a lot of damage this year, but a lot of his stats came against lesser opponents. Putting up five goals against Mount Saint Mary’s or Providence isn’t quite the same as doing it against Duke, which is what Bernhardt did.
Final stats: 18 games, 37 goals, 42 assists
The case for Shellenberger: “Umm…he’s not a finalist,” I can already hear you saying. I don’t care. I’d like to use this space to rant about the obvious (at least with hindsight) elephant in the room, which is that the best player on the national championship-winning team isn’t even invited to the ceremony.
My man finished fourth in the nation in points – the only three guys above him are all nominees, and he ranks higher than two of the actual nominees. He’s top five in total assists. Shellenberger is a redshirt freshman who put up 24 points in the tournament and won NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. He’s bringing the natty home to Charlottesville. He shot 50% or better in every single postseason game. In the national championship game alone, he racked up six points and put literally every single one of his seven shots on cage.
I’m convinced that, a decade later, whatever spirit possessed 2011 Steele Stanwick that caused him to win the championship and upset Rob Pannell for the Tewaaraton came back to possess Shellenberger. He’s the only person who would have any argument for beating Bernhardt, and he’s not even eligible. That sucks. I still think Bernhardt should win it, but Shellenberger should’ve been there.
The case against Shellenberger: He’s not actually nominated and cannot actually win the award (this year).