Sacred Heart Honors Senior Class At 22nd Annual Senior Awards Gala

Alex Aitkens and Lindsay Aponte are presented 2014 ECAC Merit Award by Bobby Valentine at 22nd Annual Senior Awards Gala
Alex Aitkens and Lindsay Aponte are presented 2014 ECAC Merit Award by Bobby Valentine at 22nd Annual Senior Awards Gala

The Sacred Heart University Department of Athletics celebrated the Class of 2014 at the 22nd Annual Senior Award Gala at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center Sunday evening.  The members of the Pioneer senior class were honored for their success in the classroom and the athletic venue, with numerous awards.

The ECAC Medal of Merit, presented to the male and female student-athlete who, on and off the playing surface, represent the best in athletic and academic excellence. Lindsay Aponte of the women’s track and field team and Alex Aitkens of the football team were presented the highest honor bestowed on the evening. 

Aitkens earns the honors for his efforts in leading the Pioneers to their first-ever FCS Tournament, serving as team captain during the 2013 NEC Championship campaign. His off the field contributions are of even greater import.  Aitkens took part in a bone marrow drive sponsored by the Athletics Department, found out he was a match and donated to a man with lymphoma and saved the man’s life.

Aponte will go down as one of the top shot putters in SHU history, having won three NEC and three New England titles in the event.  As a junior she earned All-East honors and was selected for the NCAA East Regional Preliminary round.  Aponte is a two-year team captain of the indoor track and field team and is the treasurer of the Pioneers’ Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

The Athletic Director Award is presented to the senior student-athlete that was voted to have the best overall athletic career and is in good academic standing.  The award was presented to baseball pitcher Kody Kerski and bowler Nicole Trudell. Trudell is a three-time All-America selection, being named Second Team by the National TenPin Coaches Association this April and was the 2011 NCAA Rookie of the Year.  She completed her career by averaging 197 pins per match and leading the Pioneers to a top-six finish at last weekend’s USBC Nationals. Kerski earned his 20th career victory on Friday night and is now 7-1 this spring, with one of the nation’s best ERA’s at 1.33. He has fanned 190 batters in his career and is 3-0 in NEC Tournament play, including complete games win in consecutive NEC Championship Games to propel Sacred Heart to back-to-back NCAA Regional appearances.

The Executive Committee of SAAC presented its Outstanding Performance Award, for the best individual performance in the classes’ time at Sacred Heart to Brianna Castrogivianni of the women’s cross country and track & field program.  At the 2014 NEC Indoor Championship, the senior became the first female in league history to complete the distance triple – winning the mile, 3000m and 5000m run. The effort earned Castrogivianni MVP honors at the meet, as SHU captured its first-ever Indoor NEC team crown.

Neil Fachini from the men’s ice hockey team was announced as the winner of the Alvin Clinkscales Unsung Hero Award, presented to a senior that is a consistent and positive force in and outside of their sport.  Fachini, a four-year letterwinner, was a defenseman for nearly his entire career.  Midway through his senior campaign the Pioneer coaching staff asked him to move to forward, learning a brand new position.  Without hesitation, Fachini made the move and substantiated why he wore the captains ‘C’ on his jersey this season.

Softball centerfielder Jade Bowins and Andrew Newbold, captain of the men’s lacrosse team were presented the Dr. Gary Rose ECAC Scholar-Athlete Award. Honorees have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2, and are a starter or significant reserve for his or her team.  Bowins has started 187 of 189 games in her four-year career and was named Second-Team All-NEC as a sophomore.  Newbold has led the Pioneers lacrosse team to consecutive NEC Tournament appearances, earning the third-seed in next weekend’s event. Over 46 career games he has 124 groundballs, 59 caused turnovers and 13 points, on 10 goals and three assists.

Two awards are presented annually purely based on academic success for graduating senior student-athletes.  The C. Donald Cook Scholar-Athlete Society recognizes student-athletes that are graduating with cumulative grade-point averages of 3.5 or higher. Twenty-three Pioneers received that honor Sunday evening and they were: Kevin Almerini (fencing), Lizzy Bennett (swimming), Bianca Boudreau (fencing), Hayle Boyle (track and field), Alyssa Brandofino (soccer), Jennifer Clinton (golf), Kaitlyn Doyle (track and field), Annie Dreher (softball), Stephanie Frye (field hockey), Derick Horn (baseball), Gabriala Kaldan (tennis), Katherine Knight (track and field), Blair Koniszewski (basketball), Taylor Lane (softball), Elise Lorenz (basketball), Mandy Montgomery (ice hockey), Zachary Moran (wrestling), Daniel Pepitone (track and field), Melissa Poli (cheerleading), Brendan Stokes (fencing), Margaret Tooley (tennis), Ronaldo Vieira (soccer) and Margaret Vogel (equestrian).

Almerini and Knight were presented the John Croffy Award for the highest GPA of the graduating class. Dreher and Andrew Borts, of the men’s soccer team, were selected as the recipients of the Lucy Cox Alumni Recognition Award, presented by 2001 Sacred Heart University alumni Michael Koosa, a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Three underclassmen were also honored at the event.  Hannah Kimmel of the women’s basketball team was named the Comeback Student-Athlete of the Year as she, in her third year at SHU, finally made her collegiate debut by starting the season opener against St. John’s.  Kimmel tore the same ACL in preseason of each of her first two seasons, but completed the year-long rehabilitation process and earned All-NEC Rookie Team honors this season.

Runner Sean Ferguson and rower Jaclyn Smith were presented the Allyson Rioux Memorial Book Award, given annually in the memory of the former student-athlete and SHU softball coach who passed away in 1989 after a long battle with cancer.

The Pioneers also presented several awards to members of the University community for their continued support of athletics.  The Faculty/Student-Athlete Mentor Appreciate Award was given to Professor Pat Morris for his efforts with the Pioneer wrestling team.  Professor John Gerlach received the Dr. Marian ‘Bunny’ Calabrese Spirit Award, given annually in honor of one of the Pioneers biggest fans. Lisa Gallagher and Mark Tammone, both from Chartwell’s, received the Chip Kennedy Outstanding Contribution Award for their work in providing a positive experience at athletic events, for student-athlete and fans alike. Dr. Michael Redler was presented a special recognition for his 25 years of service to the Sacred Heart Department of Athletics.