Sam Kovzan

Award’s 12th year wraps up with winners who make a difference

by Sam Kovzan July 12, 2013 in Football

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With the completion of the 2012-13 academic year, the Senior CLASS Award® wraps up its 12th year recognizing the most outstanding senior student-athletes in 10 NCAA Division I sports. These individuals, chosen by a nationwide vote of coaches, national media and fans, exemplified excellence in four areas—classroom, community, character and competition—and used their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders their communities.

Brown defender Ryan McDuff, who helped the Bears to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances during his career, was the Senior CLASS Award winner in men’s soccer. A co-captain his senior season, McDuff anchored a back line that touted one of the best shutout percentages in the country. Among his several volunteer projects, McDuff worked at Project GOAL, an organization that develops Rhode Island’s disadvantaged youth through after-school tutoring and soccer programs.

Tishia Jewell of Central Florida won the Senior CLASS Award in women’s soccer, leading the Knights to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and their highest national ranking in two decades. Jewell captured UCF’s school record for career assists and earned all-conference honors three times.  Currently pursuing a master’s degree in psychology, Jewell coached youth soccer and volunteered at The Haven for Children and the Women’s Center in Brevard, Florida.

Nebraska’s Gina Mancuso received the Senior CLASS Award in volleyball, helping the Huskers to a 26-7 record. Mancuso was a two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American and a unanimous All-Big Ten team selection as a junior and senior. She was named to the academic All-Big Ten team and served as the community outreach officer of Nebraska’s student-athlete advisory committee. Mancuso was a member of the Husker Connect mentoring program and a motivational speaker at a local foster care.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was the Senior CLASS Award winner in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. Te’o captained a unit that ranked first nationally in scoring defense and guided the Fighting Irish to the BCS National Championship Game. He was a unanimous first-team All-American, won seven different post-season awards and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Te’o participated in the Irish Experience League, which brings South Bend youth to campus to participate in activities with Notre Dame student-athletes.

A four-time All-American at Delaware, Elena Delle Donne won the Senior CLASS Award in women’s basketball.  Delle Donne is the fifth leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,039 points and won Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year three times. She twice received the Capital One Academic All-America® of the Year award and was active in many community service activities, including the A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital and Delaware Special Olympics.

“Throughout my career, I was constantly aware of the leadership position that comes along with being a student-athlete and strived to be a role model in the classroom, in the community and on the basketball court,” Delle Donne said.

Indiana guard Jordan Hulls was the Senior CLASS Award winner in men’s basketball. A two-time All-Big Ten selection, Hulls ranked second in the conference in three-point shooting at 45 percent as the Hoosiers earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He played more games (135) than any other player in Indiana history. Off the court, Hulls was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, earned his bachelor of science in kinesiology and worked to help patients recover from cardiac issues.

Rhodes Scholar candidate Cheyne Rocha of Army won the Senior CLASS Award in men’s ice hockey. Rocha was a three-time Atlantic Hockey Association Academic All-Star. He spearheaded House of Blues, an awareness campaign for prostate cancer, and was active with the Special Olympics and Neighborhood Knights, a community service provider. He played in all but two games his senior season—games he missed to attend his Rhodes Scholarship interview.

Lacrosse defender Brendan Buckley was Army’s second Senior CLASS Award winner of the 2012-13 school year. The Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year earned all-conference honors twice and was selected in the 2013 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft. Buckley was a first-team academic all-American and ranked in the top 15 of his class of more than 1,000. He will enter the Field Artillery branch of the U.S. Army after graduating with a degree in engineering management.

“Brendan has been a competitor and winner throughout his college career, but his most important contributions will come after he gets his degree when he brings those same skills to the United States military,” said Erik Miner, executive director for the Senior CLASS Award.

Kayla Braud of Alabama won the Senior CLASS Award in softball. The four-time All-Southeastern Conference honoree finished the 2013 regular season with a .460 batting average and a team-high 80 hits. As a junior, she helped lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship. Braud was an academic all-American and National Fastpitch Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete. In the community, the public relations major participated in Read Across America, the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation and in the Autism Society of America’s Light It Blue campaign and Walk for Autism.

Cal State Fullerton first baseman Carlos Lopez won the Senior CLASS Award for baseball, guiding the Titans to four straight Big West titles during his career. The Miami Marlins selected Lopez in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. He was named Cal State Fullerton Male Scholar Athlete of the Year three times and, as a senior, became the second player in school history to be named to the Capital One Academic All-America team. Lopez visited local elementary schools to read to students, performed free baseball clinics for local kids and traveled to Mexico to help build houses for the needy.

“When I made the decision to return for my senior season, I could not have fathomed the amazing and successful season we had this year, as well as the long-lasting relationships I was able to build with my coaches and teammates,” Lopez said.