April 28, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois student-athletes, coaches and staff from all 17 Huskie sports programs came together Monday night at Victor E. Court in the Convocation Center to celebrate "The Victors," a unique awards ceremony that featured both traditional and new awards. In addition, Northern Illinois honored its 2009-10 seniors in all sports during the 90-minute program.
Football defensive end Jake Coffman (German Valley, Ill./Forreston HS) and women's soccer goalkeeper Lindsey Curnock (Batavia, Ill./Batavia HS) were honored as the NIU Alumni Association Male and Female Athlete of the Year, respectively. Coffman, a Marine veteran, led Northern Illinois' International Bowl team in quarterback sacks and tackles for loss and was named the Columbus Touchdown Club Male Athlete of the Year for his contributions to college football. Curnock set the Mid-American Conference career record for shutouts and finished her career with 284 saves to rank 10th in the MAC all-time, and third at Northern Illinois.
Rochelle Muskeyvalley, a senior from Rock Island, Ill., was named Northern Illinois' Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year with a 3.764 grade point average in industrial engineering, while golfer Tim Kay (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett HS) earned Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors with a 3.97 GPA in accountancy.
In addition to individuals, the Victors honored the Huskie Men's and Women's Teams of the Year and Academic Teams of the Year. Men's soccer, which tied No. 1 North Carolina and was the first team to take top-ranked Akron (the eventual national runner-up) to overtime, was the men's team of the year and Gymnastics was selected as the top women's team. Men's golf had the highest cumulative grade point average among NIU men's team to take the men's Academic Team of the Year award with volleyball scoring the women's Academic Team honor. NIU coaches Eric Luzzi (men's soccer) and Ray Gooden (volleyball) were honored as the NIU Coaches of the Year for men's and women's teams, respectively. Luzzi completed his first season as NIU head coach with a 10-8-1 record, while volleyball went 8-8 in the MAC to earn fourth place, and a first round bye in the MAC Tournament, in Gooden's eighth year.
The Victors, an "ESPYs" style awards show hosted by assistant men's basketball coach Sundance Wicks, concluded with the naming of Mr. and Ms. Victor E. Huskie, the student-athletes deemed to best represent the Northern Illinois Athletics mission statement of "Developing Champions - in the Classroom, in Competition and in Life." Baseball's Brian Smith (Chicago Ridge, Ill./Richards HS), a senior pitcher/designated hitter who also serves as president of the NIU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, was named Mr. Victor E. Huskie, while volleyball's Monica Lang (Chicago, Ill./Marist HS), a defensive specialist who was also nominated for the Scholar-Athlete and Community Service awards, earned the Ms. Victor E. Huskie designation.
Lang's teammate, Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia HS), won the Female Community Service Award. Hoffman organizes a variety of community service events for the volleyball team. Most recently, her Relay for Life team raised more than $3,500 for the American Cancer Society. Ben Thomas (Hamilton, Ohio/Fairfield HS) of men's soccer, which won the team community service competition last year, accepted the Male Community Service Award.
Xavier Silas (Austin, Texas) of men's basketball and freshman Courtney Oldenburg (West Salem, Wisc./West Salem HS) from women's cross country were named the Huskie Newcomers of the Year. A junior transfer, Silas was named second team all-district by the National Association of Basketball Coaches after averaging 19.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last year. Oldenburg led the cross country team at every regular season competition and helped the Huskies record their best finish at the MAC Championships since 1981.
Four awards were presented to just one student-athlete. Baseball's Zach Oates (Wheaton, Ill./North HS) was named the Unsung Hero for "selflessly and enthusiastically" serving the best interest of his team, Brittany Houghton (Freeport, Ill./Dakota HS) of women's track and field was given the Huskie Heart Award as the comeback player of the year, while her teammate, Kaylee Walters [Lafayette, Ind./Hononegah (Ill.) HS], earned the Huskie Pride Award presented to the non-scholarship student-athlete who best displays his or her love for the Huskies and love for competition.
Finally, Northern Illinois fans were given the opportunity to choose the 2009-10 "Top Play" through internet voting on NIU's official athletics website at www.NIUHuskies.com. By an overwhelming margin, fans chose wrestler Bryan Deutsch's (Columbia City, Ind./Columbia City HS) spectacular and unusual pin of Northwestern's Kevin Biakla to spur Northern Illinois to a 24-13 victory over the Wildcats.
Members of the NIU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from all Huskie teams, voted on the remaining awards based on nominations from the Northern Illinois coaches.
"This was a great night to celebrate Huskie Athletics, our student-athletes and our seniors," said NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher. "I loved the fact that our student-athletes were so involved in the entire process, from selecting and presenting the awards to helping host the show and helping with the set-up. I'm looking forward to the Victors becoming an annual tradition at Northern Illinois."
-- NIU -
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