Football senior Chandler Harnish and volleyball senior Kristin Hoffman were named Northern Illinois University’s 2011 NIU Alumni Association Male and Female Athletes of the Year, headlining a list of 24 award winners honored Thursday night at DeKalb’s historic Egyptian Theatre during NIU’s third 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 2011-12 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 and musical numbers.
Midfielder/defender Mike Mascitti (men’s soccer) and forward Shaakira Haywood (women’s basketball) served as the student emcees with an assist from head cross country and assistant track & field coach Greg Hipp, who Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher introduced as the host.
NIU coaches nominated student-athletes and teams for the awards, while the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members voted on the winners.
Harnish, who was the Mid-American Conference Vern Smith Leadership Award (MVP) winner and Offensive Player of the Year and SI.com honorable mention All-American, led the way for an accomplished night for the football team. Other winners from the 2011 MAC Champions included DeMarcus Grady (Unsung Hero of the Year), Head Coach Dave Doeren (Male Program Coach of the Year), and Nabal Jefferson (Mr. Victor E. Huskie).
Hoffman, the MAC Setter of the Year, Capital One Academic All-American and American Volleyball Coaches Association honorable mention All-American, was the lone representative of the volleyball team on the winner list. But the team as a whole took home the Female Program Team of the Year honor after making its first NCAA appearance since 2001.
In order of selection, the male and female Newcomer of the Year winners were Jeff Zimmerman (baseball) and Amanda Corral (women’s basketball). Zimmerman was the MAC Freshman of the Year and Corral led the team in points scored (311) and three-point shooting (45 percent).
Male and female Scholar Athlete of the Year went to Brad Dieckhaus (wrestling) and Jenner Sio (track & field). The male and female Community Service Award recipients were Jared Torrence (wrestling) and Shelby Miller (softball). The Huskie Heart Award went to Megan Melendez (gymnastics) after she bounced back from a torn ACL to win MAC Co-Specialist of the Year for her performances on the balance beam and uneven parallel bars.
The male program and female program Coach of the Year honors were handed out to Doeren and Kathi Bennett (women’s basketball). The first-year football coach led the Huskies to their first MAC championship in 28 years. Bennett guided the Huskies to their first two-win MAC Tournament appearance since 2007.
The first of three honors for men’s soccer was given to Rocco Taglia (Huskie Pride Award). Sean Totsch’s game-winning header-goal in the MAC championship against Western Michigan won the fan vote for Performance of the Year. The MAC champions also took home male program Team of the Year after advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
Four of the awards were swept by the same male and female counterparts. Men’s and women’s golf took home Academic Team of the Year. Baseball and softball won Community Service Team of the Year.
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 wrestling and women’s track and field teams were honored for the second straight year.
The evening concluded with the prestigious Mr. and Ms. Victor E. Huskie honors. Determined by overall excellence in competition, in academics and in community service, along with outstanding commitment to Northern Illinois athletics, the accolades went to Jefferson and women’s basketball’s Courtney Shelton.
For more information on Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.