The Sacred Heart University Department of Athletics celebrated the Class of 2017 at the 25th Annual Senior Awards Brunch 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. Part of the celebration included 98 student-athletes, nearly half of the graduating class, being inducted into the C. Donald Cook Scholar Athlete Society for posting cumulative grade point averages of 3.5 or better.
Ellen Nighbor of the women's golf team and Justin Danforth of the men's ice hockey received the top honors of the Pioneer Award, presented to the male and female student-athletes who, on and off the playing surface, represent the best in athletic and academic excellence.
Nighbor capped her playing career Wednesday at the NCAA Regionals in Lubbock, Texas, the same day she earned her second consecutive NEC Golfer of the Year award. The three-time NEC First Team selection won the 2017 NEC individual crown as the team won its first league title in record fashion. She became the first Pioneer to shoot under par with a 71 at the Dartmouth Invitational as a junior. She carded back-to-back under par rounds during the NEC Championships and graduates with five on her resume in the past 18 months. Nighbor is graduating Sunday with a degree in Marketing.
Danforth graduated seventh on the Pioneer career-scoring list with 124 points. He netted 42 goals during his career and added 82 assists. As a senior he posted a team-best 32 points, leading the team with 22 assists, as he earned First Team All-Atlantic Hockey honors. Danforth earned Second Team All-League honors as a junior and was the 2014 Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year All-Rookie during his freshman campaign. Following the season he became the second player in program's history to sign an ATO, playing with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Danforth is graduating with degrees in Finance and Business Economics on Sunday.
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 men's lacrosse player Ryan O'Donoghue, women's volleyball player Sarah Krufka and track and field athlete Nicole Bartosch. O'Donoghue became the first player in program history to win NEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and ended his career third on the NCAA career caused turnover list, with 125. He is a two-time NEC First-Team honoree. Krufka is a two-time NEC Volleyball Player of the Year, leading the Pioneers to the 2016 NEC regular season title. She leaves the program as a three-time First Team selection and the all-time leader in kills, with 1,542. Bartosch is the track and field team's highest-scoring competitor in NEC Championship history, and was named the MVP of the 2016 NEC Outdoor Championship and the 2014 Rookie of the Year. She currently holds nine school records, including the indoor pentathlon and the outdoor heptathlon.
Nighbor and O'Donoghue were also named as the Pioneers' nominees for the 2017 NEC Student-Athlete of the Year. 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.
Women's volleyball player Madison Losure and football player Jake Davis 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. Losure finished with 292 career kills her 69 career matches. She is a double major in Business and Marketing with a minor in Spanish and has been inducted into Delta Epsilon Sigma, Phi Sigma Iota and the Thomas Moore Program. Losure takes part in numerous community service activities including Walk a Mile in Her Shoes and the MS Walk. Davis has worked as a Resident Assistant on campus and has volunteered his time at the Jewish Home for the Elderly, runs a summer camp for youth in his hometown and has taken three mission trips. Davis played any role that was asked of him, playing in 24 games and making a career-best 17 tackles as a senior.
Men's Basketball player Cavan LaRose and softball player Carina Zupa 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. Zupa has been an emotional leader for the Pioneer softball team, overcoming the passing of her father as a freshman. She is graduating on Sunday and plans to attend law school. LaRose worked his way from team manager to a club team player to walk-on, all while earning the respect and admiration of his peers and coaches.
Lea Lieb, women's volleyball, and Jake Friar, baseball, were presented the John Croffy Award for the highest graduating GPA of the senior class. Lieb is a Management major that has a 4.0 GPA during her time at SHU. Friar posted a 3.98 GPA with double majors in Finance and Business Economics. Friar, Kelyn Fillmore, softball, Doug Dzema, men's volleyball, and Caitlin Delaney, women's lacrosse, were named the winners of the Lucy Cox Alumni Recognition Award, presented to the graduating seniors that best reflects the high values associated with intercollegiate competition, academic achievement, leadership, and university service.
The Pioneers also presented awards to members of the University community for their continued support of athletics. The Dr. Marian 'Bunny' Calabrese Spirit Award was presented to Senior Associate Director of Athletics Meghan Miller for her dedication to the success of student-athletes and staff. The Faculty/Student-Athlete Mentor Appreciation Award was given to Professor Bob Marsh for her efforts with the Pioneer football team. Pablo Stalman, a member of the University Board of Trustees, received the Chip Kennedy Outstanding Contribution Award for his efforts in providing a positive experience at athletic events, and across campus, for student-athletes and fans alike.