SAAC Presents the 2014-15 Student-Athlete Excellence Awards
CONWAY - The Coastal Carolina Department of Athletics honored its top athletic and academic performers of the 2014-2015 season at the annual Student-Athlete Excellence Awards hosted by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee on Monday evening at The HTC Center.
Coastal Carolina student-athletes Ruby Durham (women's track & field) and Kacey Kelley (women's soccer) served as the masters of ceremony, and the program included remarks from Director of Athletics Matt Hogue, an all-sports highlight video and a senior recognition video. Coastal also recognized its academic successes, both individual and team.
To date, Coastal Carolina has produced eight Big South Championships (football, men's soccer, volleyball, women's indoor track & field, men's basketball, men's tennis, women's tennis and golf) and five teams have qualified for NCAA postseason play (men's soccer, football, volleyball, men's basketball, women's golf).
Also, 10 Chanticleers have earned Big South Player of the Year honors, including Kacey Kelley (Women's Soccer Attacking Player of the Year), Ricky Garbanzo (Men's Soccer Attacking Player of the Year), Shawn McLaws (Men's Soccer Defensive Player of the Year), Leah Hardeman (Volleyball Player and Freshman of the Year), Quinn Backus (Football Defensive Player of the Year), Alex Ross (Football Offensive Player of the Year), Jessica Gelibert (Women's Indoor Track & Field Most Outstanding Track Athlete), Amirah Al-Bayyinah (Women's Indoor Track & Field Most Outstanding Field Athlete) and Lena Schaeffner (Women's Golfer of the Year.
A total of 280 Coastal Carolina student-athletes own a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 (through the Fall 2014 semester), including 132 with a 3.5 GPA or better and 29 of those posting a 4.0 GPA.
Quinn Backus (football), a three-time All-American, was named the Presidential Student-Athlete of the Year, presented each year to the singular Coastal Carolina University student-athlete who displays extraordinary achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.
In addition to being a three-time All-American, Backus was named the Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Year his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, and holds the conference and school record for solo tackles as he led the Chanticleers to Big South championships the past three seasons. Academically, Backus holds a 3.25 GPA in psychology, is a member of the National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society and has earned a place on the Big South Presidential Honor Roll twice. Backus has been extremely active in the local community as well, participating in many of Coastal Carolina's community outreach programs including Chants for Kids School Supply, Adopt a Chant, Caring for Kindergartners and Dr. Seuss Day. Backus has also mentored high school students through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Awards were presented to Lily Yednock (lacrosse) as the Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year and to Ridge Robinson (men's soccer) as the Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, based on their cumulative GPAs.
Yednock will graduate in May with a 3.94 GPA with a degree in communications. A three-year member of the Coastal Carolina women's lacrosse team, Yednock earned All-Big South honors as a sophomore and junior, and was named the Big South Women's Lacrosse Scholar-Athlete of the Year at the conclusion of her sophomore season. She is also a two-time member of the Big South Conference Presidential Honor Roll.
Robinson will graduate from Coastal Carolina in May with a degree in recreation and sport management after posting a 3.97 cumulative GPA. A two-year defender on the men's soccer team, Robinson was named a Big South All-Academic Team member his senior season after starting 12 of 18 matches and contributing five assists offensively.
Lena Schaeffner (women's golf) was named the Female Athlete of the Year, while Backus (football) was honored as the Male Athlete of the Year for their significant contributions to their teams and to Chanticleer Athletics.
Schaeffner was named the 2015 Big South Women's Golfer of the Year after finishing the regular season with a league-leading 72.48 scoring average. She then led the Chanticleers to a conference title at the Big South championship, pacing the entire field with a two-round score of 3-over par to claim Big South Championship Medalist honors. The medalist honor made her the first Chanticleer in program history to win three events in a single season, as the junior had previously been the individual medalist at the Palmetto Intercollegiate hosted by College of Charleston, and the 3M Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate hosted by GRU Augusta. Schaeffner, currently ranked the 43rd best golfer in the nation by Golfstat, will be competing in the NCAA postseason with the rest of the Chanticleer women's golf team.
Backus had an outstanding senior season in 2015 to cap a historic Coastal career. Among his national honors, Backus was named "Top Collegiate Linebacker" by the FCS Athletic Directors Association, was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award for the second straight year, was named a seven-time All-American and was a two-time National Defensive Player of the Week honoree. Among his Big South honors, Backus was named Defensive Player of the Year for the third straight season, was a first team all-conference selection and twice earned Defensive Player of the Week honors. Backus led Coastal's linebackers with six forced fumbles to set a school and Big South record, and was the leader of a defensive unit that helped the Chanticleers reach the NCAA FCS quarterfinals for the second straight year. At the conclusion of the season, Backus was named the "American Team" MVP at the Medal of Honor Bowl after recording six tackles and returning an interception 87 yards for a touchdown.
Wiggins, a redshirt sophomore playing his first season in a Coastal uniform, helped the Chants win their second consecutive Big South Men's Basketball Championship and reach the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship for the second straight year. Starting at point guard in all 34 games, Wiggins averaged 10.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. His 111 total assists ranked fifth in the Big South, and he ranked second in the conference and 27th in the nation with a 2.64 assists to turnover ratio.
Hardeman became just the second player in Big South volleyball history to be named the conference's Player and Freshman of the Year in the same season. Hardeman was also a first team All-Big South selection and made the conference's All-Freshman Team in her rookie season. Hardeman paced the Chants averaging 4.05 kills per set as she led Coastal to a Big South Championship and a first round appearance in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship. Her 478 total kills marked Coastal's sixth-highest single-season total, and her personal-best, single-match kill total of 24 came in Coastal's five-set win over Radford in the conference title match.
The Coastal Carolina baseball team was named the Comeback Team of the Year, while baseball's Alex Cunningham was voted the Comeback Athlete of the Year.
The 2015 baseball team is currently tied for first place in the Big South with a 30-13, 14-4 record. The team opened its brand new facility, Springs Brooks Stadium, earlier in the season and has defended its home field well, posting a 19-11 record at home. Coastal holds a 5-1 record against the Atlantic Coast Conference so far this season, collecting wins against North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia Tech. The Chants also defeated South Carolina 9-8 in extra innings before a crowd of 3,086 at Springs Brooks Stadium. Coastal broke into the national polls at No. 23 on March 30 earlier this season, and currently holds that same ranking.
Cunningham is a large reason for the team's success so far this season as the redshirt sophomore has made an outstanding comeback after undergoing surgery on his throwing arm in 2014. Cunningham is 6-0 in his 10 appearances this season with a 2.64 era. He leads the team in innings pitched at 58, and has allowed just 44 hits and 17 earned runs. He also leads the Chants with 59 strikeouts.
Kiana Quolas (softball), Ruby Durham (women's track & field) and Reggie Nelson (men's track & field) garnered the National Strength and Conditioning Athletes of the Year awards. The honor recognizes collegiate student-athletes whose athletic accomplishments, in the opinion of their strength coach, reflect dedication to strength and conditioning.
The Linda C. Vereen Academic Excellence Award was awarded to the Women's Tennis team, representing the Coastal Carolina University Department of Athletics with the highest combined grade point average for the second straight year. The program boasts a 3.726 cumulative GPA.
Chris Powers was named this year's Student-Athlete Faculty Member of the Year as voted upon by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The Student-Athlete Faculty Member of the Year award is given annually to the CCU faculty member who has supported student-athletes academically, athletically and personally.
Sophomore football player De'Angelo Henderson presented the Athletics Staff Member of the Year award to Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Support Services Samantha Kost. It was Kost's third time earning the award in the past four years.
The award portion of the banquet closed with the second annual Savannah Thompson Humanitarian Service Award. The award, which recognizes people in the Coastal Carolina community who make a difference and inspire those around them, was presented to Megan Hoverman by Olivia Carlton (women's basketball) and Rylie Johnson (women's soccer). The award is named after its inaugural winner, Savannah Thompson.