Men's golfer Chris Herzog and women's swimmer Jenel Lopez were named Male and Female Athletes of the Year at the banquet. (Photo: Michael Chen)
The Cal State East Bay Athletics Department honored its student-athletes at the annual Student-Athlete Awards Banquet on Saturday, June 2 at the Dining Commons. The event capped the Pioneers’ first season as an active member in NCAA Division II that saw them collect seven all-region and 16 all-conference selections and have eight named as Player of the Week during the 2011-12 campaign.
Selected by the Athletics Department coaches and administrative staff, junior golfer Chris Herzog and junior swimmer Jenel Lopez were honored as the 2011-12 Male and Female Athletes of the Year. Hailing from Medford, Ore., Herzog led the Pioneers during the regular season with a 74.48 scoring average, winning one individual title and guiding the team to its first NCAA Regional appearance. Lopez, a Los Angeles native, consistently ranked among the top 30 in Division II in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle this season, breaking school records in all three events while anchoring four record-breaking relay teams and guiding the team to its best-ever finish at PCSC Championships.
The other candidates for Athlete of the Year also found plenty of success during the 2011-12 campaign. Sophomore men’s soccer player Tyler Andersen was one of just three players to start every game this season, anchoring the midfield and finishing the season second on the team in assists and third in points, while junior baseball designated hitter Jordan Wilder collected All-CCAA Honorable Mention honors after leading the team with a .317 batting average and hitting safely in 34 of 47 games this year. Rounding out the Male Athlete of the Year nominees was men’s basketball guard Mark Samuels who helped East Bay nearly capture a spot in the 2012 CCAA Tournament, ranking second in the CCAA in scoring and sixth in assists while earning an All-CCAA Second Team selection and CCAA Player of the Week honors.
On the women’s side, Lopez edged out six other equally accomplished student-athletes, including freshman golfer Linda Brown, who led the team with a 78.64 scoring average and became the first Pioneer to collect individual medalist honors with a pair of tournament wins while finishing among the top 10 in five tournaments. Junior Eugénie Foote finished the fall soccer season third in the CCAA in goals and fourth in points, earning All-CCAA Second Team and All-West Region honors before posting the fastest 200 and 400 times as a sprinter on the track team in the spring. Senior softball player Taylor Neumann was an All-CCAA First Team and All-West Region Second Team performer after setting the single season and career homerun records for East Bay this season, while senior water polo goalie Jayme Pekarske earned WWPA All-Tournament and All-WWPA honors, guiding the Pioneers to their best-ever finish at WWPA Championships. A senior on the volleyball team, Leslie Ray was one of the top liberos in the CCAA this season, collecting All-CCAA Second Team honors, while CCAA Freshman of the Year Micah Walker rounded out the women’s nominees after a rookie campaign that saw her lead the basketball team in assists and start all but three games.
Volleyball player Morgan Hirzel was honored for her dedication to and support of the athletics program with the Pioneer Spirit Award, created and voted on by the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) representatives from each Cal State East Bay team. A regular attendee at all Pioneer sporting events, Hirzel was a vocal and positive supporter of her fellow student-athletes and a key organizer in SAAC throughout the 2011-12 campaign.
Women’s soccer senior and SAAC President Tenaya Davis joined Herzog as Cal State East Bay’s winners of the CCAA’s Hal Charnofsky Memorial Award, honoring both their academic and athletic achievements. The award recognizes two CCAA student-athletes from each member school who have distinguished themselves in the classroom and in their sport.
Each team and the Pioneer sports medicine staff also honored their top students with the Scholar-Athlete Award. Winners of the award included baseball’s Ed Rettagliata, basketball’s Jason Smith and Hege Blikra, cross country’s Chris Gallagher and Gabby Cruz, golf’s Chris Herzog and Linda Brown, soccer’s Tenaya Davis and Tyler Andersen, softball’s Jamie Yaller, track’s John Vergara and Nastassia Hamor, volleyball’s Katie Allen, water polo’s Marrina Nation and sports medicine’s Bret Gibson.
In addition, the department honored its 50 seniors for their contributions to the success of the program, in particular, the nine student-athletes who were four-year letterwinners for their teams, our last class to have made the difficult transition from Division III to Division II: Breanna Baker, Gabby Cruz, Tenaya Davis, Christine Gee, Breezy Johnson, Frieda Li, Francisco Pulido and Michelle Quintero.
Along with student-athletes and coaches representing every Pioneer team, athletics department and university staff members were on hand to help celebrate the Pioneers’ third season in the CCAA. Among those in attendance were Director of Athletics Debby De Angelis and Don Sawyer, Chief of Staff to the University President, both of whom spoke to congratulate the student-athletes and athletic trainers on their success this season.