With the end of 2016 quickly approaching, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest sports stories of the year. Each day, The Blue Zone will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year in Blue Devil athletics.

Coming in at No. 1 on our list: Duke Athletics struggles through a year defined by season-ending injuries to some of its biggest stars.

From the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Cavaliers’ riveting 3-1 comebacks in the World Series and NBA Finals, respectively, to a number of awe-inspiring performances at the Rio Olympics, 2016 featured some of the greatest triumphs in sports history.

But the year was not kind to Duke Athletics, with major injuries coming into focus at the wrong time for some of the program’s best teams and the Blue Devils' 26 varsity teams failing to capture a team ACC or national title. Duke won at least one ACC championship from 1988 to 2014, but went through a second straight year without one in 2016. 

The Duke men’s basketball team came into the calendar year without forward Amile Jefferson, who fractured his right foot in Dec. 2015. Without the senior, the Blue Devils struggled with only six healthy bodies for much of the season and eventually ran out of steam in a Sweet 16 loss to Oregon.

Even as Jefferson returned and Duke was ranked No. 1 to begin the 2016-17 season, injuries continued to plague head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s group. The Blue Devils’ highly-touted freshman class—headlined by Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Frank Jackson—was struck by a number of ailments and was never fully healthy until Duke’s game earlier this month against Tennessee State.

For the women’s team, Duke had similar misfortunes as leading scorer Azurá Stevens was sidelined with a torn plantar fascia in February and freshman Haley Gorecki needed season-ending hip injury. Combined with Lyneé Belton’s season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus, the Blue Devils were forced to rely on an inexperienced group and it showed as Duke missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994.

The fall brought hard luck on the gridiron as Duke’s streak of four consecutive bowl appearances was snapped in large part due to season-ending injuries to three of their four captains. Quarterback Thomas Sirk may have had the gloomiest 2016 across the board as the signal-caller tore his Achilles in February, only to rehab and recover before suffering another Achilles injury in August, which ended his season before it even began.

Safety DeVon Edwards and running back Jela Duncan ended their college careers in the most heartbreaking of fashions as they suffered season-ending injuries of their own. Edwards tore both his ACL and MCL in the Blue Devils’ landmark victory against Notre Dame and Duncan tore his Achilles tendon after celebrating a touchdown in Duke’s loss to Georgia Tech.

Things were not much better on the soccer pitch as Duke women’s soccer suffered a number of crushing injuries after reaching the national championship game in 2015. Sophomore Kayla McCoy was ruled out for the year after tearing her Achilles in September and the Blue Devils announced in October that senior Olympian Rebecca Quinn would miss the rest of the season after dealing with a turf-toe injury.

Although women's golf freshman Virginia Elena Carta won an individual national title, Duke field hockey reached No. 1 in the regular season before falling in the postseason and Duke rowing and baseball had historic seasons just by making the postseason, the Blue Devils will look to bounce back with better postseason team results in 2017. 

READ MORE on Duke's injury-plagued 2016

Amile Jefferson to miss season with fractured foot; will seek medical redshirt

Blue Devils can't catch a break—injuries again the story for Duke women's basketball

Thomas Sirk ruptures left Achilles

Sirk suffers significant Achilles injury, potentially ending season

DeVon Edwards suffers career-ending torn ACL and MCL at Notre Dame

Injury bug hurting Duke women's soccer

Uncertainty surrounding injuries nothing new for Duke men's basketballCautiously optimistic about Duke football's future

A look at the rest of our Top 10 countdown:

10. Duke rowing makes first-ever NCAA championship

9. Duke football rallies to stun Notre Dame as injuries mount

8. Grayson Allen returns for junior season but earns suspension for 3 tripping incidents

7. Duke baseball makes NCAA tournament for first time since 1961

6. Landmark wins against North Carolina in 4 sports

5. Mike Krzyzewski wins third Olympic gold medal

4. Duke women's basketball moves past departures of Stevens and Salvadores, internal investigation

3. Former Duke fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad makes history by wearing hijab at Olympics

2. Virginia Elena Carta captures women's golf individual national title in record-setting fashion