2015-16 Athletic Award Winners Announced; McDaniels And Rose Earn Top Accolades

2015-16 Athletic Award Winners Announced; McDaniels And Rose Earn Top Accolades

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KINGS POINT, N.Y. (June 17, 2016) – The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy held its 2016 Awards Convocation on Friday morning at the Ackerman Auditorium as part of Graduation Weekend festivities. Four major athletic award winners were announced during the ceremony – the Male and Female Athletes of the Year as well as the two Coaches of the Year – along with a number of other athletic awards and honors.

The Admiral Giles C. Stedman Trophy, the highest athletic award bestowed upon a graduating male Midshipman went to Matt McDaniels (Malverne, N.Y.) of the football team, while Elizabeth Rose (Hamilton, Ohio) of women's swimming earned the Julie A. Berke Trophy for the top senior Female Athlete of the Year.

McDaniels – one of three team captains, a two-time Team MVP and one-time Offensive MVP winner – finished his career with another great season at quarterback for the football team in 2015. The four-year starter was selected to the First Team All-Liberty League for the second-consecutive year – solidifying a postseason honor from the conference in each of his four years at Kings Point. He ended his career with 2,877 career rushing yards on 574 attempts (5.01 average) and scored 184 points, while also throwing for 917 yards on 59 completions (15.5 average) with eight touchdowns passes. McDaniels also represented Merchant Marine at the 2016 Tazón de Estrellas Senior Bowl Game in Mexico, where he helped lead Team Stars & Stripes to a dramatic 15-14 victory over the Mexican Collegiate All-Stars by throwing the decisive two-point conversion with just 24 seconds left to play.

Rose, the women's swim & dive team captain, was a four-year member of the Mariner program. Throughout her career, she claimed a first-place finish 13 times, and reached the finals of the Landmark Championship Meet three separate times. Additionally, she reached the finals at the Metropolitan Championship Meet three times. Rose was awarded the team's Mariner of the Meet Award four times in the past four years and was a member of the Mariner team that defeated NCAA Division I Manhattan College back in 2012. She was the 2015-16 President of the USMMA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Rose helped lead Merchant Marine to its highest finish at the Landmark Championship Meet earlier this year.

The Dr. Stephen "Bill" Omeltchenko ("Coach O") Coach of the Year Award, voted on by all USMMA head coaches and presented to the top head coach of a men's team went to Greg Ilaria of wrestling.

Ilaria and the USMMA wrestling program garnered their first All-American since 2011 when senior Ricky Fisher (Nashville, Tenn.) placed sixth in the 197lb. weight class at the NCAA National Championship Meet. Ilaria led the Mariners to a second-place finish at the Centennial Conference Championships, with two individual conference champions and six wrestlers claiming a top-three finish. The team also captured the Division III Title at the 2016 All-Academy Championship Meet, finishing ahead of arch-rival Coast Guard, and was selected to wrestle in the highly-selective NWCA National Duals in early January. The Mariners enjoyed success in the classroom in addition to the mats, as they boasted three Academic All-Americans and earned an NWCA Scholar Team Award for the second-straight season, ranking 22nd in the nation for Team GPA.

In its second year, the Sue Petersen Lubow Coach of the Year Award, honoring former Mariner Coach and Athletic Director Sue Petersen Lubow, was awarded to the top head coach of a women's team as voted on by all head coaches. The 2016 recipient of the Petersen Lubow Coach of the Year Award was women's lacrosse head coach Kyle Simensky.

Simensky led the Mariner women's lacrosse team to its best season in program history in 2016. The squad had just two victories combined in its first three seasons, but this year's group quadrupled that total, finishing with eight wins to earn the program's first winning season at 8-6. Simensky was selected as the Landmark Conference Coach of the Year by the conference coaches at the conclusion of the season. His freshman class of 12 contributed greatly to the success along with the seven returners and the Mariners earned Landmark postseason honors for the first time ever with freshman Meredith Willard (Portland, Maine) being chosen as the league's Rookie of the Year and selected to the All-Landmark Second Team and classmate Hannah Gizzi (Finksburg, Md.) earned First Team accolades as a Goalie. Under Simensky's guidance, the Mariners set new program records in every offensive and defensive category during the 2016 season.

Not presented at the convocation were the Julie A. Berke Rookie of the Year Awards. This year's winners were Jack Renard (Wilmington, N.C.) of the men's lacrosse team and Hannah Gizzi of the women's lacrosse team.

Renard had a breakthrough season for the Mariners, helping to lead the team to a 10-4 record and the program's first double-digit win campaign since 2009. He ranked third on the squad and fifth in the Landmark Conference with 60 points, while his 39 goals and 21 assists were both good for fourth in the league. Renard also ranked high nationally in all three categories, coming in highest at 40th in the country for points per game (4.29). He was a part of Merchant Marine's three-headed monster at attack along with sophomores Pat Coll (Clifton Park, N.Y.) and Nick Treon (Danville, Pa.). Together, the trio combined for 192 points (69% of the team's total scoring).

Gizzi was selected by the Landmark Conference head coaches to the First Team All-Landmark as the top goalie in the league. She led the team and the conference with a program-record 172 saves and her 50.4% save percentage ranked second in the Landmark. Gizzi's 12.04 goals against average is both a single-season and career program record at USMMA, as were her 66 groundballs. She also set a new single-game record of 22 saves twice throughout the year. Nationally, Gizzi ranked eighth among DIII goalies with 12.29 saves per game, 21st in saves and 34th in save percentage, while her 4.71 groundballs per game were good for 14th in the country. Her name is in the Merchant Marine program record book 16 times.

Below are a list of other 2015-16 athletic award winners and a description of each award.

Thomas LeBlanc Achievement Award Josh Levitas (Tennis)

  • Presented to the outstanding male scholar-athlete in the senior class. Established in 1987 as the Captain Leo V. Berger Award, it was revised in 2003 as the LeBlanc Award.

Julie A. Berke Achievement Award Rachel Smith (Women's Lacrosse)

  • Presented to the outstanding female scholar-athlete in the senior class.

Herman Berke Athletic Leadership Award Matt McDaniels (Football)

  • Established in 1999 by Julie A. Berke in memory of her husband, Herman Berke '45, this award is presented annually to the Midshipman who made significant contributions to both the athletics and regimental programs during their first class year at USMMA.

Robert G. Domini Memorial Award Chris Jennings (Men's Basketball) & Eric Kennedy (Men's Lacrosse)

  • Established in 2008, the Robert G. Domini Memorial Award will be presented annually to the Midshipman who received at least three letters in the sport of either men's or women's basketball, men's or women's lacrosse (if added), baseball or softball and who best exemplifies the traits of Robert Domini, Class of 1954. While not being the most athletically gifted athlete on his teams, Domini was known for being a team leader through drive, determination and hard work. He was also known for being a fierce and intelligent competitor who rose to a far higher level than expected through talent alone, and lived by the motto "Acta Non Verba."

Kenneth Graff Memorial Award Erik Kempinski (Men's Soccer) / Brad Suciu (Baseball)

  • Established in 2002-03, this award in presented in the memory of Second Lieutenant Kenneth Graff, Class of 2001, who passed away in the fall of 2003, while in attendance at the Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola, Florida. The Graff Award is presented annually to a member of the Soccer Team and a member of the Baseball Team. The recipients of this award exemplify the same characteristics of fierce competitiveness, regimental honor and integrity, and family pride that Kenneth consistently exhibited during his time as a Midshipman at the Academy.

Hanley-Naegele Award Jacob Hill (Football) / Ricky Fisher (Wrestling)

  • The Hanley-Neagele Award is presented annually to the outstanding defensive football player and outstanding wrestler. The honor is given in the memory of Midshipman Paul Hanley and Douglas Neagele, who participated in the two sports. This award is contributed by the Kings Point Maritime Association.

Andrew E. Gibson Award Robert Baker (Football)

  • The Andrew E. Gibson Award is presented annually to the outstanding offensive football player. The trophy was donated by Mr. Andrew Gibson. Gibson maintained many credentials including, former Ship Master, senior executive with the Grace Line, Maritime Administrator and Assistant Secretary of Commerce, President of Delta Line, and most recently as a Professor at the Naval War College.

Steven Wickboldt Memorial Award Michael Dittmer (Men's Track & Field)

  • This award is presented in the memory of Steven Wickboldt, Class of 1979, and is presented to a member of the Track & Field Team who exemplifies the same traits of dedication, leadership, and sportsmanship which Stevens displaying as Midshipman at the Academy.

Charles C. Rackett Memorial Award – Rexford Ryman (Men's Crew)

  • The Charles C. Rackett Memorial Award is presented to the Most Valuable Oarsman on the USMMA crew team who contributed the most to the success of the team through steadfast dedication, outstanding performance and superior leadership.

Captain Dan Buckley Memorial Award Preston Padgett (Men's Basketball)

  • The Captain Dan Buckley Memorial Award is given to a basketball player who exemplifies Coach Buckley's work ethic and dedication. The recipient also possesses the qualities of an exceptional leader who has strong character and has been a good teammate.

Academic Dean's Award – Men's Cross Country (Small Team) / Baseball (Large Team) / Women's Cross Country (Most Improved)

  • The Academic Dean's Award is presented the varsity team with the highest combined grade point average among its members.  In 2008, the Academic Dean's Award was split into two separate awards. One award will be given to a small athletic team of less than 18 members, and the other award will be presented to a large athletic team.  A most improved award is also presented to the team that showed the largest improvement in team grade point average from one academic year to the next.

ECAC Scholar-Athlete Award (Institutional) Rob Tirrito (Men's Lacrosse) / Jolyn Green (Women's Swimming & Diving)

  • The ECAC Scholar-Athlete Award is presented annually to a male and female scholar-athlete. The minimum requirements for the award are a 3.2 cumulative GPA, and the athlete must have played a significant role on his or her team. This award is presented to the Midshipmen who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom while contributing to their chosen sport team. The recipient of this award is the instituational winner and will be forwarded on to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) for consideration for its ECAC Scholar-Athlete Award.

ECAC Merit Award Rob Tirrito (Men's Lacrosse) / Rachel Smith (Women's Lacrosse)

  • The ECAC Merit Award presented by the USMMA Employee's Association in memory of deceased member, Robert Brazeil to the outstanding male and female senior scholar-athletes. This award is presented to the midshipmen who have demonstrated excellence in the athletic arena, while maintaining high academic standards. 

ECAC Certificate of Appreciation – LCDR Paul Acquaro (Director of the Academic Center for Excellence)

  • This award is presented by the ECAC to a member of the USMMA regiment, faculty, or staff in appreciation for their support of the overall Athletics Program

Captain Perry Walter Team Mentor Award – Kevin Hasson (Baseball Team Mentor)

  • Established in 1999, this award is presented annually to the team mentor who best exemplifies the traits exhibited by Captain Perry Walter. Captain Walter was known for his guidance and dedication in academics, athletics, and regimental affairs for Midshipmen-Athletes.

Mark J. Paradiso Memorial Service Award Gerrit Porter (Men's Swimming & Diving)

  • Inaugurated in 1984 as the Mariner Service Award, the honor is presented annually by the SAAC in memory of Mark J. Paradiso, Class of 1983. It is bestowed upon a member of the Academy family who best exemplifies the traits of Mark, a Midshipman unequaled in his dedication and service to the USMMA Athletic Program.

Captain James Liebertz Memorial Award Kyle Simensky (Women's Lacrosse)

  • This award is presented in memory of Captain James Liebertz, who served as the Academy's Athletic Director from 1950-72.  The Award is presented by the Athletic Director and is given to someone who exemplifies the same traits of dedication, perseverance, enthusiasm and love for USMMA Athletics as Captain James Liebertz.

Power of Inspiration Award – David Gregory (Football/Men's Basketball)

The Power of Inspiration Award goes to an individual who inspires not only through the use of words but actions. This award represents a person who is very enthusiastic and passionate about their work and is able to translate it to others.

Listed below are all the team individual award winners:



Team MVP

Captain Award Winners

Men's Cross Country

Connor Cole

Daniel Wolfer
Cameron Green
Conor McWeeney

Women's Cross Country

Mary Catherine Zehnder

Mary Catherine Zehnder


Matt McDaniels

Matt McDaniels
Jacob Hill
Skyler Stone

Men's Soccer

Gavin Yingling

Erik Kempinski

Women's Volleyball

Dominque Pope

Gabby Marionakis
Jordy Macbeth

Men's Basketball

Preston Padgett

David Smith
Preston Padgett
Matt Miller
Hunter Jones

Women's Basketball

Tichina Carmon


Men's Swimming & Diving

Gerrit Porter

Alex Rodgers
Gerrit Porter

Women's Swimming & Diving

Blythe Fentress

Elizabeth Rose


Ricky Fisher

Ricky Fisher
Patrick Rooney


Jeff Suicu

Jeff Suciu
Brad Suciu

Men's Lacrosse

Gus Sawicki

Eric Kennedy
Gus Sawicki
Rob Tirrito

Women's Lacrosse

Maura Malone

Breanna Linsley


Jake McDonough

Josh Levitas

Men's Track & Field

David Collins

Tomas Sanchez
Kenneth Pressey

Women's Track & Field

Kelsey Ramirez

Patricia Ormond

Men's Crew

Rexford Ryman

Rexford Ryman

Women's Crew

Gena Narcisco


Dinghy Sailing

Charles Lomax

Austin Neuman

Offshore Sailing

Connor Sexton

Stephen Webster


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