SAAC Presents the 2013-14 Student-Athlete Excellence Awards

Kiana Quolas was named the Female Athlete of the Year, while Pedro Ribeiro and Lorenzo Taliaferro shared the Male Athlete of the Year award


Presidential Student-Athlete of the Year Meghan Laffin with CCU President David DeCenzo.

April 30, 2014

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CONWAY - The Coastal Carolina Department of Athletics honored its top performers of the 2013-2014 season at the annual Student-Athlete Excellence Awards, Monday evening, hosted by the members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at The HTC Center.

Coastal Carolina student-athletes Ruby Durham (women's track & field) and Bruce Mapp (football) served as the masters of ceremony, and the program included remarks from Interim 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 (women's cross country, men's soccer [regular season and tournament], football, women's indoor track & field, men's basketball, women's outdoor track & field and softball) and three teams have qualified for NCAA postseason play (men's soccer, football, men's basketball). Also, 11 Chanticleers have earned Big South Player of the Year honors, including Letitia Saayman (Women's Cross Country Runner of the Year), Pedro Ribeiro (Men's Soccer Attacking Player of the Year), Shawn McLaws (Men's Soccer Defensive Player of Year), Lorenzo Taliaferro (Football Offensive Player of the Year), Quinn Backus (Football Defensive Player of the Year), LaDarius Hawthorne (Football Defensive Player of the Year), Reggie Nelson (Men's Outdoor Track & Field Outstanding Field Performer of the Year), Teka Simpson (Women's Outdoor Track & Field Outstanding Field Performer of the Year), Kyla van Graan (Women's Cross Country Freshman of the Year), Dan Riff (Men's Cross Country Freshman of the Year) and Honami Yazawa (Women's Tennis Freshman of the Year).

A total of 242 Coastal Carolina student-athletes own a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 (through the Fall 2013 semester), including 116 with a 3.5 GPA or better and 16 of those posting a 4.0 GPA. Moreover, Dominique De Wit was named the Big South's Women's Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Meghan Laffin (volleyball) 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.

Laffin holds a 3.87 GPA with a major in marketing, while also being a member of University Honors Program and Wall Fellow Program. In addition, the senior is an active in WCCU Radio, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Student Affairs Student Leader Team, Big South Leadership Conference, Golden Key International Honor Society, Omicron Delta Kappa National Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma International Business Honor Society and Phi Sigma Tau Philosophy Honor Society. Laffin is also a standout on the volleyball court as she garnered Big South All-Freshman honors in 2010 and helped the Chanticleers to the Big South championship match in both 2012 and 2013.

Awards were presented to Dominique De Wit (women's tennis) as the Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year and to Niccolo Mastromatteo (football) as the Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, based on their cumulative GPAs.

De Wit will graduate in May with a perfect 4.00 GPA with a degree in political science. De Wit, a four-year member of the Coastal Carolina women's tennis team, earned All-Big South honors as a senior. She is a three-time member of the Big South Conference Presidential Honor Roll.

Mastromatteo graduated from Coastal Carolina in December with a degree in philosophy after posting a 3.947 career GPA. Mastromatteo was named a National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete, earning an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. In addition, the receiver/punt returner was an FCS Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Star and Big South All-Academic Team member, as well as earning second team All-Big South honors for his play on the field.

Kiana Quolas (softball) was named the Female Athlete of the Year, while Pedro Ribeiro (men's soccer) and Lorenzo Taliaferro (football) were honored as the co-Male Athlete of the Year for their significant contributions to their teams and to Chanticleer Athletics.

After earning Big South Conference Pitcher of the Year honors in 2013, Quolas has led the conference in every individual pitching statistic throughout this season, while helping the Chanticleers to their second straight regular-season conference championship. The junior ranked as high as sixth in the NCAA in ERA and has been named Big South's Pitcher of the Week five times, while compiling a 24-5 record and a 1.20 ERA with 182 strikeouts and just 45 walks. Quolas has pitched 26 complete games and has seven shutouts, including a no-hitter against North Carolina. At the plate, she is hitting .301 with eight doubles, six home runs and 32 RBIs.

Ribeiro also earned his second career All-American honor from the NSCAA after posting an 11-goal, seven-assist senior campaign. Ribeiro finished his Chanticleer ranked 11th all-time with 31 goals, tied for sixth with 26 assists, ninth with 88 points (31g, 26a) and second with 249 shot attempts. He became only the third Chanticleer to be named a MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist. Ribeiro was selected by the Philadelphia Union with the 15th overall pick of the of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.

Taliaferro, who was selected to four FCS All-American teams, closed his Chanticleer career ranked among the NCAA FCS top 36 in six categories including scoring (2nd), rushing touchdowns (3rd), rushing yards (3rd), rushing yards per game (12th), points responsible for (22nd) and all-purpose yards (36th). He set 12 CCU single-season records and seven Big South single-season marks. Most notably, he shattered the Big South record for rushing TDS (27, breaking the previous record by six) and points (174, breaking the previous record by 36) while shattering the CCU single-season record for rushing yards in a season (1,729, breaking the previous mark by 622 yards). In addition, Taliaferro was also a finalist for the Walter Payton Award given annually to the FCS National Player of the Year.

New to this year's banquet was the awarding of the Newcomer of the Year award. Men's basketball standout Elijah Wilson was presented with the Male Newcomer of the Year honor, while women's cross country/track & field student-athlete Kyla van Graan was honored as the Female Newcomer of the Year.

Wilson, a freshman, had a phenomenal rookie campaign while leading the men's basketball team the NCAA Tournament. He was named honorable mention All-Big South and Big South All-Freshman Team. He led the Chanticleers in scoring while breaking Coastal Carolina Hall of Fame member Jack Leasure's freshman scoring record by 170 points. He also broke the school's freshman field goals made record which stood for 29 years with 200 made baskets. The previous record was held by William Calvin who made 156 shots during the 1984-85 season. Wilson finished the season ranked among the top-15 freshmen scorers in the country and 10th overall in the Big South with 15.8 points per game.

Van Graan burst onto the scene with an impressive freshman campaign in the fall as she helped the Chants win the Big South Women's Cross Country Championship with a second-place overall finish. Van Graan's efforts earned her Big South Freshman of the Year as well as all-conference honors. She additionally led the Chants in two of seven meets, finishing first overall at the CCU Invite and placing 31st of 265 runners at the NCAA Southeast Regional. She continued to excel during the indoor track season, earning All-Big South honors with runner-up finishes in both the 3,000 and 5,000 meters to help Coastal repeat as conference champion. She also set a new school record in the 5,000 meters with a time of 16:53.40.

The men's basketball team was named the Comeback Team of the Year, and football player Adrian Sullivan was voted the Comeback Athlete of the Year. The Chanticleer hoopsters posted a 21-13 overall record, going 11-5 in Big South play on their way to the program's first conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance since 1993. The Chants captured the Big South Tournament championship with a dominating 76-61 win over in-state rival Winthrop before ultimately falling in a thriller to No. 1 seeded Virginia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Sullivan sustained a severe leg injury during preseason camp in 2012. He missed the entirety of the 2012 campaign and the first two games of the 2013 season before returning to the field as a solid contributor on the NCAA Playoff Chanticleers' special teams units.

Jessie Winans (softball), Lauren Alejo (volleyball), Jeffery Salley (football) and Andrew Dorn (men's golf) garnered the National Strength and Conditioning Athletes of the Year awards. The honor, which recognizes collegiate student-athletes whose athletic accomplishments, in the opinion of the 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. The program boasts a 3.705 cumulative GPA.

Jason Eastman, an associate psychology/sociology professor in the College of Science, was named this year's Student-Athlete Faculty Member of the Year as voted upon by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and presented by Beth Kassuhn and Kiana Quolas of the softball team. The Student-Athlete Faculty Member of the Year award is given to the CCU faculty member who has supported student-athletes academically, athletically and personally.

Sophomore men's basketball player Tristian Curtis presented the Athletics Staff Member of the Year award to Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Support Services Samantha Kost. It was Kost's second time earning the award in the past three years.

The award portion of the banquet closed with the inaugural Champions For Life Community Service Award. The award, which recognizes people in the Coastal Carolina community who make a difference and inspire those around them, was presented to Savannah Thompson by Megan Laffin (volleyball) and Rylie Johnson (women's soccer). It was also announced that the award will be named in Thompson's honor and henceforth be known as the Savannah Thompson Humanitarian Award.



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