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Victors Awards honor top-dog Huskies

May 5, 2011
Lauren Wicinski, Joe Matty and Chad Spann

Lauren Wicinski, Joe Matty and Chad Spann

Football senior Chad Spann and volleyball freshman Lauren Wicinski were named Northern Illlinois University’s 2010 Male and Female Athletes of the Year, headlining a list of 24 award winners honored Monday night during NIU’s second annual Victors Awards. 

The Victors saw NIU student-athletes, coaches, athletic department and university staff come together to honor the Huskies’ best individuals and teams, as well as the 2010-11 seniors from each of Northern Illinois’ 17 sport programs.

The 90-minute ceremony featured all the trademarks of a traditional awards show, complete with kitschy skits performed by student-athlete presenters, video highlights and even dance numbers.

Linebacker Jordan Delegal (football) and goalkeeper Meaghan Bennett (women’s soccer) served as the student emcees with an assist from assistant football coach Tom Matukewicz, who Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher introduced as the “interim” host.

NIU coaches nominated student-athletes and teams for the awards, while the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members voted on the winners. 

Spann, who led all NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision players in touchdowns with 22 and was named the 2010 Mid-American Conference Vern Smith Leadership Award Winner by MAC coaches, earned the NIU Alumni Association Male Athlete of the Year Award.

Wicinski, an honorable mention All-American selection by the American Volleyball Coaches Association in 2010, was also the first freshman to be named MAC Player and MAC Freshman of the Year. She earned both the NIU Alumni Association Female Athlete of the Year and NIU Female Freshman of the Year honors on Monday. Football’s Jimmie Ward was named the Male Newcomer of the Year. 

Spann and Wicinski were also a part of the Huskies’ top male and female teams of the year as football and volleyball were unanimous choices in those categories. Football and volleyball also swept the Coach of the Year honors with Matukewicz and Ray Gooden picking up the honors for the NIU men’s and women’s teams, respectively.

Northern Illinois Huskies logoNorthern Illinois also honored its top academic teams and top scholar-athletes during The Victors.

Men’s golf and women’s gymnastics picked up the team awards, and first team Academic All-American Kyle Knotek of men’s soccer and Mo Smunt of women’s soccer were the individual honorees. Knotek completed his Huskie career with a perfect 4.0 grade point average in business, while Smunt owns a 3.57 GPA in kinesiology. 

The Huskies’ top community service teams and individuals were men’s soccer, football’s Adam Kiel, women’s golf and Samantha McConeghey of track and field. 

Four awards were presented without regard to gender. The Huskie Heart Award, given to a student-athlete that has overcome injury to perform at the highest levels, went to senior Holly Reichard of women’s gymnastics, who did not miss a routine in 2011 despite competing with a painful foot injury that limited her training and required surgery immediately after season. Even with the injury, Reichard qualified for the NCAA Regionals for the third time in her four seasons at NIU. 

Mary Bull of women’s track and field was named the winner of the Huskie Pride Award, which goes to a non-scholarship student-athlete, and Bennett, one of the evening’s emcees, earned the Unsung Hero Award for her contributions to the women’s soccer program and to the entire athletic department as a student leader. 

In voting completed on the NIU Athletics website at, Brad Dieckhaus’ win in the championship match at 184 pounds in the 2011 Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships earned the Play of the Year Award. The honor was given as much for the reaction of Dieckhaus and his coaches following the victory as for the wrestling itself.

The evening concluded with four of the most prestigious awards as the Mr. and Ms. Victor E. Huskie honors for overall excellence in competition, in academics and in community service, along with outstanding commitment to Northern Illinois athletics, went to football’s Chandler Harnish and volleyball’s Kristin Hoffman.

Harnish, the Huskies’ starting quarterback and first team All-MAC performer, set school records for total offense while compiling a 3.59 GPA in NIU’s College of Business. He was also named the winner of the Humanitarian Bowl Community Service Award.

Hoffman earned third team Academic All-America honors with her 3.95 GPA in history and was a first team All-MAC performer for NIU’s 27-8 volleyball team that advanced to the MAC Tournament Championship match. She annually organizes a Relay for Life Team and recently spent her 2011 spring break on a week-long community service tour with Students Today Leaders Forever.

In the annual Victors Cup competition, which awards points to the Huskie teams for competitive achievement, academic success, community service, attendance at athletic events and voluntary programs throughout the year, the NIU wrestling and women’s track and field teams were honored.

“The Victors is a great way for Northern Illinois athletics to come together as a department and celebrate our successes on the fields of play, in the classroom and in the community,” Compher said. “We also have the chance to honor our departing seniors and to have a little fun before dispersing for the summer. I want to congratulate all of our winners and also all of our nominees and thank everyone involved for a fantastic night.”