FAIRFIELD, CT - The Sacred Heart University Department of Athletics held its 21st Annual Senior & Scholar-Athlete Awards Gala on Sunday evening at the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts, as 164 senior student-athletes and others were honored for their accomplishments both on and off the field. Jeff Holtz and Randy Brochu, the voices of the Pioneer Sports Network, served as the evening's Masters of Ceremonies and Rock Tate (Lantana, FL) of the football and men's lacrosse teams delivered the student-athlete response.
“This ceremony is about the 750 student-athletes and the 31 Division I sports at Sacred Heart, and more importantly, about all of us here tonight and the experiences that we’ve had here," stated Tate during his address. "When you leave this place, you should have all the confidence in the world in knowing that you were a Division I athlete and because of that, you’re more than ready for whatever life has coming your way."
"There’s so much that’s been said tonight about all the intangibles that are contributors in making you the whole person that you are today – the enormous experience that you have, the growth that came from it, the education you received, and the acknowledgement you received tonight that validates all that you accomplished here," stated SHU Executive Director of Athletics, C. Donald Cook. "You should all be proud of all that you did."
"For me, this is a moment somewhat of trepidation. I’ve been in the intercollegiate college business for just about 48 years. I coached my first college game in April of 1966, the day my son was born and he’s now 47 years old. I’ve had a wonderful experience, and obviously a wonderful run, at three different universities including my alma mater Fairfield University and the University of Hartford. But I have to tell you and I don’t want to say it too loud in front of my fellow Fairfield alumni, these past 20 years at Sacred Heart have been the most wonderful years of my life."
The awards portion of the event was highlighted by the presentation of the ECAC Medal of Merit, the highest award given by the Department of Athletics, which recognizes a senior male and female athlete who demonstrate athletic and academic excellence. This year's recipients were Stuart Holmes (Centereach, NY) of the men’s fencing team and Alyssa Slemquist (Northford, CT) of women's track & field and cross country teams.
The Athletic Director's Award, presented by Sacred Heart University Executive Director of Athletics C. Donald Cook, was given to four individual student-athletes this year who have achieved at the national level or accomplished in an extraordinary way in their respective sports. This year's recipients were Alison Brosky (Manhasset, NY) of the equestrian team, Marcello Castro (Parana, Brazil) of men's soccer, Morgan Merriman (Seattle, WA) of women's basketball and women's lacrosse and Jackie Carbonetto (Blauvelt, NY) of women's bowling. Brosky was the first Pioneer to qualify for the IHSA’s National Championship in Novice Fences. Castro won his third consecutive Northeast Conference “Player of the Year” honor this past fall and was named “All-American” for the second time, placing on the third team by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He was also selected by the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer in its supplemental draft. Merriman's academic success off the court at the national level has earned this senior a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to teach abroad after graduation. Carbonetto was a two-time All American selection during her tenure at Sacred Heart University and also earned a spot on the Junior Team USA in 2013.
The Dr. Gary Rose ECAC Scholar-Athlete Awards are given annually to athletes who has achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.2, reached sophomore athletic and academic status, held a starter or significant reserve position on his or her team, and competed in at least 50% of the contests in that sport. Other notable factors include community service, exemplary citizenship, and involvement in other extracurricular activities. This year's recipients were Ray Satagaj (Rocky Hill, CT) from men's volleyball, Stuart Holmes (Centereach, NY) from men's fencing, Jeff Stoddard (Branford, CT) of baseball, Alex Aitkens (Wood Ridge, NJ) of football, Nick Greenbacker (Coventry, CT) from men's basketball, Trevor Dauses (Glen Arm, MD) of men's lacrosse, Kiley Evans (Cazenovia, NY) of women's basketball, Elizabeth Bennett (Fairbanks, AK) from swimming, Ashley Moore (Levittown, NY) of women's soccer, Annie Dreher (Saugus, CA) and Nicole Sidor (West Vancouver, BC) of softball and Marua Leahy (Ashburnham, MA) of women's ice hockey.
The Allyson Rioux Award is presented in memory of the outstanding athlete and well-respected Sacred Heart softball coach, who died in 1989 after a long battle with cancer. The award includes a $500 book scholarship, which is given to the student-athletes that exemplify the characteristics of loyalty, dedication, and great love for his or her sport and teammates. This year's award was given to Alexis Parlato (Center Moriches, NY) of the women's soccer team and Joe Tulino (Lacey Township, NJ) of the football team.
The Alumni Recognition Award is given to a graduating male and female senior who demonstrate the high values associated with intercollegiate competition, academic achievement, leadership, university service, and athletic prowess. The recipients of this award reflect qualities that indicate potential leadership roles in the alumni association. This year's winners were Stephanie Walters (Wanaque, NJ) of the women’s swimming team and Rock Tate (Lantan, FL) from the football team. The John Croffy Award is presented each year to the graduating senior with the highest academic average. This year's recipients were Luke Wischnowski (West Chester, PA) of the football program and Julianne Cappadona (North Attleboro, MA) of women's track and field.
The Alvin Clinkscales Pioneer Unsung Hero Award is presented to the female or male student-athlete who has been a consistent, positive force both in and out of his or her sport, representing the Department of Athletics in a positive manner in the University community and beyond. Their contributions made to the team are not always visible to the general public, but are essential to the spirit and success of their team. This year's winner was Sam Sheppard (Shoreham, NY) of the wrestling program.
The Chip Kennedy Outstanding Contributions Award recognizes an individual either within or outside the immediate university community whose contributions and support for athletics have played a key role in their development at Sacred Heart. This year's winner was Keith Johnston, Director of Pioneer Bands at Sacred Heart University.
The Faculty / Student-Athlete Mentor Appreciation Award is given to the individual who has made a significant positive impact on an individual sport program, with individual student-athletes, the team, the coaching staff, and within the community on behalf of the team and the Department of Athletics. This year's recipients were Dr. David Cameron from the Physical Therapy Department and faculty / student-athlete mentor to the wrestling team and Professor Tanya Grant from the Criminal Justice Department and faculty/student-athlete mentor to the football program.
The Coca-Cola Community All-Americans program is teamed with the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics to recognize community service in collegiate athletics. It recognizes, celebrates, and applauds student-athletes who make a difference in others' lives through community service. This year's winners Kyle Church (San Francisco, CA) from football, Lauren Cebello (Clinton, NJ) from women's fencing, Lindsey Kasten (Fair Haven, NJ) from field hockey, Emm Jospeh (Seekonk, MA) from equestrian, Rudy Favard (Malden, MA) from football, Emily Nunes (Stamford, CT) from swimming and Catherine Chittick (Hingham, MA) from women's ice hockey.
The Comeback Student-Athlete award is bestowed upon any male or female student-athlete who has experienced a major injury or series of injuries, endured extensive rehabilitation, and shown great dedication in returning to the playing field, is one selected by the entire Athletic Training staff. This year's winner was Nicolas Soubry (Oakville, ON) from softball. The Student Athletic Trainer of the Award is presented each year to the undergraduate student in the athletic training program who exemplifies great dedication and effort to the Pioneer athletic program while working as a student athletic trainer with numerous athletes either on the field or in the athletic training room. This year's recipient of the Student Athletic Trainer of the Year Award was Will Perkins.
The Dr. Marian "Bunny" Calabrese Spirit Award is given to the person who has made a significant and lasting impact on Sacred Heart Athletics by promoting and creating a better atmosphere for student-athletes, coaches, and fans. The award is named on behalf of Dr. Marian "Bunny" Calabrese, a former English professor at Sacred Heart University, who has been an avid supporter of Pioneer Athletics over the past twenty-plus years and continues to be a fixture at many Pioneer games in support of our student-athletes and coaches. The recipient of this year's Spirit Award was Sara Gerrity, the SAAC Executive Secretary.