NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Merrimack College celebrated another sensational academic and athletic year on Wednesday night, as the College and Athletic Department announced their annual award winners at the 2016 Leadership, Education, Athletic and Development (LEAD) Awards held at the Rogers Center for the Arts on campus.
From an athletic department front, the 2015-16 academic year has been historic on a number of fronts. Merrimack’s athletic programs have seen and reached unprecedented levels of success, ranging from the field hockey team becoming the first team to reach an NCAA Championship Final in over 20 years, to junior sprinter Carly Muscaro (Ashland, Mass.) becoming the first individual national champion in school history as part of another historic season on the track, and to the women’s ice hockey team’s historic inaugural season on campus.
Three teams and six individuals have already qualified for their respective NCAA Tournaments, with the potential for two others still looming as the spring season continues. Merrimack has ranked as high as 14th in the Division II Learfield Directors’ Cup and as high as second in the Northeast-10 Conference Presidents’ Cup standings, while Warrior student-athletes continue to excel in the classroom and in the community.
Various members of the College administration and the Athletic Department were on hand to announce the Department’s annual awards: Male and Female Athletes of the Year, Male and Female Scholar-Athletes of the Year (Rafferty Awards); Male and Female Rookie of the Year, in addition to others.
MALE/FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
The Athlete of the Year awards are given to student-athletes who have shown exceptional athletic ability, that are a team player and a hard worker, that show sportsmanship and coach-ability, are recognized by the conference or region, were a part of a team that reached NE-10/HEA Tournament or posted winning season if there was no conference tournament, outside of cross country, track, golf and rowing, and have a 2.5 GPA or higher.
Female Athlete of the Year: Carly Muscaro (Women’s Track & Field)
Muscaro became the first individual National Champion in Merrimack history this past winter, taking home the crown in the 400 meter dash in Kansas. She racked up the postseason accolades as she was named an All-American, East Region Athlete of the Year, and NE-10 Track Athlete of the Year. On her way to the national title, Muscaro was twice named national athlete of the week, broke two New England Intercollegiate records, and won the conference and New England title in the 400. She also was part of the first-ever relay team to qualify for Nationals, earning All-American status in that event as well.
Male Athlete of the Year: Scott Corcoran (Men’s Lacrosse)
Corcoran has established himself as one of the country’s best long stick midfielders over the course of his career. Among his many accolades, he was named the New England Preseason Player of the Year and a Preseason First Team All-American. He has dominated his position, ranking in the top-10 nationally in caused turnovers while leading a defense that is also among the country’s best. He has helped the team finish as the No. 2 team in the NE-10 standings for the second year in a row, and the team is set to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season and third time in school history.
MALE/FEMALE SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR (RAFFERTY AWARDS)
The Scholar-Athlete of the Year Awards (which some years double as the Male/Female Rafferty Award winners to graduating seniors) are given to one male and one female student athlete with at least three years of intercollegiate participation at Merrimack, in their junior or senior year currently, and played in at least 50 percent of their games/events/meets. These student-athletes excel in the classroom and in the community. They must have a 3.3 GPA cumulative GPA or higher.
Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year/Rafferty Award: Julio Leon Garcia (Men’s Soccer)
Leon Garcia not only was one of the top soccer players in the region this past season, but excelled in the classroom as well. Leon Garcia was named an Academic All-American this past fall, becoming the second men’s soccer player in program history to earn Academic All-American distinction. He was an academic all-region and all-district selection as well, while on the field he was an all-conference performer from his left back position. Leon Garcia had a flair for the dramatics, leading the nationally ranked Warriors with two game-winning goals.
Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year/Rafferty Award: Jenna Savi (Women’s Soccer)
Savi established herself as one of the top women’s soccer student-athletes in the region throughout her career. As a senior, she garnered her third academic all-conference honor and was named an academic all-district selection for the second consecutive year. Her play also earned her a spot on the NE-10 All-Conference First Team, two all-region honors and a spot on the all-New England team. She led the NE-10 in points and assists, while also ranking fifth in assists nationally. She also became the eighth player in program history to register 10 goals and 10 assists in a season.
MALE/FEMALE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The Rookie of the year awards are presented to student-athletes who are in their first year of college eligibility, have exceptional athletic ability, are a team player and hard worker, show sportsmanship, coach-ability, achieve recognition by the conference or region, and have a GPA of 2.5 or greater.
Male Rookie of the Year: Derek Petti (Men’s Ice Hockey)
Petti becomes the second straight member of the men’s ice hockey team to earn Male Rookie of the Year honors. He finished the year with 12 points in his final 13 games, catching fire at the end of the season. His most memorable goals came in the Hockey East Tournament, as he led all Warriors with three playoff goals to help the team defeat New Hampshire to advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight season. He was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week twice over the course of the season, as well.
Female Rookie of the Year: Mary McNeil (Field Hockey)
McNeil burst on to the scene with a breakout freshman season for the National Runner-Up field hockey team. She was named the NE-10 Rookie of the Year and was selected to the all-conference first team, and was also named the 13th All-American in the history of the program. McNeil was an offensive force in her rookie season, as she led the team in goals, assists and points and was ranked in the top-10 nationwide in scoring. She also is the second straight member of the field hockey team to be named Female Rookie of the Year.
Athletic Director’s Award: Sydney Bowker (Field Hockey); Madison Burke (Women’s Volleyball); Troy Hammel (Men’s Basketball); Hunter McCarthy (Women’s Lacrosse); Jay White (Football)
Reserved for the student-athlete who may not earn the highest recognition for being outstanding on the field or in the classroom. These individuals have been the epitome of what it mean to be a student-athlete at Merrimack. He or she works tirelessly on the field, in the weight room, in the classroom and in the community, and most importantly he/she is a proven leader.
Sydney Bowker led the field hockey team to its most successful season in program history, as she was the lone captain for the Warriors as they made their first ever NCAA National Championship appearance. She started in every game this season for Merrimack, providing leadership both on and off the field for a very young roster.
Madison Burke served as a two-year captain for the women’s volleyball program and has been emblematic of what it means to be a Merrimack student-athlete. On the court, she was an all-conference selection this past year and has her named etched in the Warriors record book as one of the top liberos in program history.
Troy Hammel has been a model student, on and off the court, during his four years on campus. He graduates holding Merrimack’s all-time records in both three-point and free-throw percentage. Hammel received his first-ever all-conference recognition as a senior, ranking second on Merrimack in scoring average.
Hunter McCarthy served as a leader and mentor on and off the field for the women’s lacrosse team. Despite its youth, the team improved its win total from last spring, and McCarthy was instrumental in helping it do so. She also brought a positive spirit that was second to none to help guide the Warriors over the course of the season.
Jay White has served as the football team’s punter for the last three years and has excelled in that role. He was a member of a team that won six games in the Northeast-10 Conference for the first time in six years this past fall. In the classroom, Jay has been just as impressive, excelling as an athletic training major.
CAMPUS-WIDE SENIOR AWARDS
William J. Murray, O.S.A. Medal: Tyler Hunt (Men’s Basketball)
Presented to seniors who have approximately a 2.5 G.P.A. or better, and are role models for others who through their lifestyles emulate Fr. Murray’s concern, open-mindedness and compassion for others and make conscious attempts at social and spiritual growth. Principal consideration for this award is given to those who are not currently members of the Senior Class Council.
Travis G. Kong Student Leadership Award: Marie Delarbre (Women’s Ice Hockey); Kerry Phelan (Women’s Cross Country/Track & Field); Madison Ward (Women’s Basketball)
Awarded in recognition of outstanding service to the Merrimack College community.
Strength & Conditioning Award: Ben Polci (Football); Megan Gada (Soccer)
This award recognizes varsity student-athletes whose athletic accomplishments reflect their dedication to strength training and conditioning. These athletes are also recognized for their academic and personal accomplishments and their integrity as student-athletes.
Joining the football program as a walk-on, nothing was promised to Ben Polci. His selfless dedication to the program and to his physical development made him a staple on the defensive line for Merrimack College. His relentless work ethic has been instrumental in his recognition as a team captain and as a Division II All-American.
A multiple-year captain, Megan Gada has been tremendous in demonstrating her leadership capabilities on and off of the field. The way in which she values the impact of Strength and Conditioning can be seen in the enhancement and demonstration of the physical aspects of her game.
Comeback Student-Athletes of the Year: Mike Forgione (Baseball); Kerry Phelan (Women’s XC/T&F)
The Comeback Athlete of the Year awards recognize a male and female senior student-athlete who has overcome an injury or illness to return to the sport they are passionate about.
Mike Forgione missed all but one game last season due to injury and has returned better than ever this year. He earned Northeast-10 and regional Player of the Week honors this season and is on pace to set career highs in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. Serving as Merrimack’s leadoff hitter, he is also among the conference leaders in doubles and runs scored.
Kerry Phelan returned to action in impressive form after missing all of last indoor track season and parts of the cross country season this fall. She was an all-academic team selection as a captain for the cross country team. She posted one top-10 finish during the season and was the top finisher for the Warriors at NCAA Regionals. She holds multiple school records, including one set this season with the distance medley team for track and field.
Community Service Award: Women’s Basketball
The Athletics Community Service Award is given to one team that demonstrated the core ideals of the Augustinian tradition in their endeavors beyond the playing field more than any other program over the past year.
The women’s basketball program has been a symbol of service in the community for the past year. They have volunteered their time at the Lazerus House and the Family Shelter, organizing pantries and food donations. As a team, the Warriors ran multiple basketball clinics throughout the season at the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club. Additionally, they raised money to put together Thanksgiving baskets to donate around the holidays and are active during Relay for Life in the spring.
Unsung Hero Award: Brad Villett
The Unsung Hero Award goes to the student or staff member who works tirelessly behind the scenes to support Merrimack’s student-athletes and exhibits an excellent work ethic and appreciation and pride in being a Warrior.
In his 26th year at Merrimack College, Brad Villett plays an integral role behind the scenes not only for the Athletic Department, but the entire college. He and the rest of the Physical Plant make sure our playing fields, courts and other areas are in tip-top shape for varsity competition, practices, club sports and intramurals. He and his staff work countless hours and brave the elements day in and day out to assure our student-athletes, coaches and teams have everything they need from a facilities standpoint.
Faculty Member of the Year: Doug White
If a Merrimack College faculty or staff member could swipe their Mack Card for Ultimate Warrior points, they would have as many points as some of our most dedicated students. The Faculty Member of the Year is a major supporter of athletics at games, in the classroom and in the community.
A professor in the physics department, you will find our next winner at any Merrimack sporting event supporting all of our student-athlete. Whether it was the first-ever women’s hockey game, or a men’s lacrosse game in a cold rainstorm, or a track meet in Boston, he is the faculty equivalent of the Ultimate Warrior. A dedicated supporter, this year’s Athletics Faculty Member of the Year is Doctor Doug White.
Club Sport Team of the Year: Club Men’s Ice Hockey
The Club Sport of Year is awarded annually to the Merrimack club that has not only achieved success on the playing field but also exhibited a commitment to student-driven leadership through community involvement, successfully working with members of the Merrimack community and positively representing Merrimack College as a whole.
Led by team president Tyler Bergantino and vice president Dan Resop, the Club Men’s Ice Hockey Team finished with an 11-5-2 overall record to highlight its most successful years in recent memory. The Warriors were ranked 14th in the final AHCA Northeast Regional poll, just missing out on a berth in the Division 2 Northeast Regional Tournament. Over the course of the year, Merrimack picked up wins against quality club programs such as Holy Cross, Bryant, Boston College and Vermont, among others.
Ultimate Warrior Award: Chase Tucker & Ashley Widing
Nominated by the students, the Ultimate Warrior Award is awarded to the Merrimack student who displays the ultimate dedication to Merrimack Athletics. He or she is the sixth man on the hardwood, the 12th man on the gridiron and does everything they can in support of the Warriors. Whether it’s at a volleyball match, a field hockey game or a lacrosse showdown. Whether it’s raining, snowing or freezing. You can always find the Fan of the Year in attendance, rooting on the Warriors.
Chase Tucker is a junior Mechanical Engineering major from West Warwick, Rhode Island. His favorite athletics memory was when the men’s ice hockey team celebrated its win over UNH in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament. Ashley Widing is also a junior Mechanical Engineering major and originally from Charlton, Massachusetts. Her favorite athletics memory from an event she attended this year was when the men’s ice hockey team defeated UNH in the third game of the Hockey East Tournament Opening Round and taking the fan bus to Providence to watch the quarterfinals.
SWAG Award: Merrimack College Pep Band
Awarded annually to those occurrences or people who add a little boost to Merrimack’s step.
The Merrimack College Pep Band embodied the true Merrimack spirit in 2015-16. They were actively present at numerous sporting events and helped cheer on hundreds of Warrior student-athletes throughout the year.--
Mike McMahon has covered Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune since 2006 and he also has been a senior writer at College Hockey News since 2005.
You can follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN and you can follow the site @TheMackReports.