The Sacred Heart University Department of Athletics celebrated the Class of 2016 at the 24th Annual Senior Awards Gala at the William H. Pitt Center on Friday afternoon. The members of the Pioneer senior class were honored for their success in the classroom and the athletic venue with numerous awards.
Sean Ferguson of the cross country and track & field team and Katie DeRienzo of the women's tennis team received the top honors of the Pioneer Award and are the Pioneers' nominees for the Northeast Conference Student-Athlete of the Year award. The Pioneer Award is presented to the male and female student-athletes who, on and off the playing surface, represent the best in athletic and academic excellence. The NEC Student-Athlete of the Year is presented to a male and female student-athlete from a full member based equally on athletics, academics and community service.
Ferguson is a nine-time All-NEC selection, holds five school records and earned the 2015 cross country and 2016 indoor track and field NEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor. He became the first Pioneer in school history to win the NEC cross country crown in 2015 and as a sophomore became only the third runner in school history to earn All-NEC, All-New England and All-East honors in one season. Ferguson was selected as the 2016 NEC indoor track and field Most Outstanding Performer. He is graduating this weekend with a degree in History having attained Dean's List honors in all of his semesters at SHU, including three semesters with a perfect 4.0.
DeRienzo graduates as the all-time wins leader in SHU tennis history, posting 130 victories over the course of her career. A two-time All-NEC Second Team selection, she won 15 singles matches in dual matches as a senior, six more than any player in the NEC. Earlier this week, DiRienzo was named the ITA East Region Most Improved Senior to cap of her career. She earned NEC Player of the Week nine times in her career. DiRienzo will graduate on Saturday with a degree in Accounting.
The Athletic Director Award is presented to the senior student-athletes that were voted to have the best overall athletic careers and are in good academic standing. The award was presented to football player R.J. Noel and cross country and track & field runner Shannon Hickey. Noel, who has one year of eligibility remaining, ranks second in school history in passing yards, completions and touchdowns. He is a three-time NEC First Team selection and was named the 2013 NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year. Noel led the Pioneers to back-to-back NEC Championships in 2013 and 2014 and the program's first-ever national ranking in 2014. Hickey ranks in the top-10 in program history in the 5K for cross country, the mile, 3,000 and 5,000 indoors and the 5,000 and 10,000 outdoors – as well as holding the school record in the mile. She won her second NEC individual crown this past weekend, capturing gold in the 10,000 after winning the 5,000 at the indoor championship. Hickey has helped the Pioneers to eight NEC Championships in the past three years.
The Student-Athlete Advisory Board's Outstanding Performance Award honors the best individual performance in the class's time at Sacred Heart, as voted by the senior class. Jesus Medina of the baseball team earned the men's award. He drove in the game-tying run in the championship game of the 2015 NEC Tournament, before coming around to score the championship-winning run. The vote produced two top moments on the women's side. Jesslyn Joseph of women's lacrosse was honored for her eight-goal, one-assist, and six-draw control effort in a win over Saint Francis U in the 2015 season finale. Women's basketball senior Alissa Tarsi was honored for her 23-point, career-high 15-rebound effort in the Pioneers' win over NEC rival Central Connecticut State.
Joseph and football player Nicholas Bartoli were presented the Dr. Gary Rose Scholar-Athlete Award. Honorees have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2, and are a starter or significant reserve for his or her team. Joseph started 57 of the 59 games she played during her career, finishing her four seasons with 110 points and 130 draw controls, while boasting a GPA over 3.8 with a Business Administration major and a Digital Marketing minor. Bartoli was a four-year starter for the football team, helping anchor an offensive line that helped produce some of the most productive offensive campaigns in school history. He led the team in numerous community service efforts, including visits to the residents of the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield. He earned a degree in Sociology and is working towards a Master's in Education, with a GPA of over 3.6.
Wrestler Matthew Herbert and women's volleyball player Katie Direnzo were presented the Alvin Clinskscales Unsung Hero award, presented to a senior that is a consistent and positive force in and outside of their sport. Herbert played a key role in the resurgence of the Pioneer wrestling program over the past four seasons. He has been willing to fill any role needed by the team and his footprints will forever be on the program's history. Direnzo also filled any role that her team needed over the course of her career, and did so with energy and passion. Her teammates selected her as team captain for both her junior and senior seasons.
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 GPAs of 3.5 or higher. Forty Pioneers received the honor Friday afternoon and they were: Mary Altepeter (field hockey), Austin Arcala (volleyball), Nicholas Bartoli (football), Carly Cavagnaro (lacrosse), Rachel Claroni (field hockey), Heather Daley (ice hockey), Alec Dauses (lacrosse), Courtney Davis (soccer), Matthew Dean (tennis), Katie Direnzo (volleyball), Katie DeRienzo (tennis), Nichole Dobachesky (field hockey), Christine Donnelly (cross-country/track & field), Connor Donnelly (golf), Lerae Ettienne (basketball), Joseph Faicco (fencing), Sean Ferguson (cross-country/track & field), Cynthia Gray (cross-country/track & field), Spencer Hackett (lacrosse), Tucker Hackett (soccer), Alexander Harwood (fencing), Shannon Hickey (cross-country/track & field), Jesslyn Joseph (lacrosse), Jenna Liljeberg (lacrosse), Jake Lynes (ice hockey), Christine Mace (field hockey), Mikaela Marbot (bowling), C.J. McCarter (fencing), Joseph McGuckin (football), Victor Sorrento (baseball), Megan Ofner (ice hockey), Alexis Parlato (soccer), Joshua Phillips (ice hockey), Lindsey Post (tennis), Karly Shockey (volleyball), Michael Slaughter (lacrosse), Kevin Stimmel (fencing), Matthew Surprenant (tennis), Jayna Tartaglia (bowling) and Tamaric Wilson (football).
Donnelly and Slaughter were then presented the John Croffy Award for the highest GPA of the graduating class; two of nine graduating seniors with cumulative GPA's over 3.8. Jenna Liljeberg, lacrosse, Michael Slaughter, lacrosse, and Karly Shockey, women's volleyball, were named the winners of the Lucy Cox Alumni Recognition Award, presented to the graduating senior that best reflects the high values associated with intercollegiate competition, academic achievement, leadership, and university service.
Women's tennis player Tori Oates and football player Delvon Artis 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. SAAC President and men's golfer Connor Donnelly was presented with the Dr. Marian 'Bunny' Calabrese Spirit Award, given annually in honor of one of the Pioneers' biggest fans. Men's soccer player Giancarlo Maurello was named the Comeback Athlete of the Year, returning from three knee surgeries to play in 30 games his final two seasons.
The Pioneers also presented awards to members of the University community for their continued support of athletics. The Faculty/Student-Athlete Mentor Appreciation Award was given to Professor Bernadette Boyle for her efforts with the Pioneer cross country and track & field teams. Judy Ann Riccio, Associate Dean of Students, received the Chip Kennedy Outstanding Contribution Award for her efforts in providing a positive experience at athletic events, and across campus, for student-athletes and fans alike.