UTRGV Athletics Announces Student-Athlete Awards

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Texas Border Business

EDINBURG – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Department of Intercollegiate Athletics recognized 21 award winners at the annual V Awards ceremony on Sunday at the UTRGV Performing Arts Center.

Those winning awards include:

Mr. V – Johnny Crnogorac (men’s basketball)


Ms. V – Tuva Rolstad Nilsen (women’s soccer)

Student-Athlete of the Year (Male) – Abraham Chirchir (cross country/track & field)

Student-Athletes of the Year (Female) – Ragni Steen Knudsen (volleyball) and Dominique Ibarra (women’s tennis)

Rookie of the Year (Male) – Jacob Flores (baseball)

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Rookie of the Year (Female) ­– Emily Zapata (women’s soccer)

Newcomers of the Year (Male) – William Akio (men’s soccer) and Tyson Smith (men’s basketball)

Newcomer of the Year (Female) ­– Madison Northcutt (women’s basketball)

Breakout Athlete of the Year (Male) – Javon Levi (men’s basketball)

Breakout Athlete of the Year (Female) – Kinga Szemik (women’s soccer)

Comeback Player of the Year – Conner Dotson (baseball)

Team Performance of the Year – Indoor track & field winning program record nine WAC Championships

Legacy Award (Male) – Isidro Martinez (men’s soccer)

Legacy Award (Female) – Dominique Ibarra (women’s tennis)

Lou Hassel Award – Tyler Torres (baseball), biology major

Anheuser Busch/Ann LaMantia Award – Alexandra Ecker (volleyball), bachelor of science in biology (fall 2018)

AD Cup (Academic Team of the Year) – Women’s Tennis

AD Community Service Cup – Women’s Golf

Student Trainer of the Year – Michael de la Fuente (baseball)

The academic team of the year is the team with the highest grade point average. The Mr. and Ms. V awards were awarded to the most spirited student-athletes. The newcomers of the year awards are given to first-year student-athletes that are not freshmen. The legacy awards are given to seniors who have made a significant impact during their careers at UTRGV. The Lou Hassel and Ann LaMantia awards are given to the senior student-athletes with the highest GPAs who competed during the current academic year.

“We are proud of all of our student-athletes for their accomplishments this season. Their hard work and dedication as both students and athletes is apparent, and while we’ve only honored a select group tonight, they are all deserving of recognition,” UTRGV Director of Athletics Chris King said.

Student-Athlete of the Year (Male)

Abraham Chirchir (cross country/track & field)

Became first UTRGV runner to compete in the NCAA National Championships since 2005 … Finished second in the region and third in the WAC … Ranked No. 9 freshman in the nation … WAC Cross Country Freshman of the Year (fall semester was his second on campus and his first cross country season) … Two-time WAC Cross Country Athlete of the Week … Finished in top five in five of six races … Recorded three of the top six fastest 8k times in program history and the fifth-fastest 6k time … Became sophomore for indoor track & field and won WAC Championship in the 5,000-meter run with the fourth-fastest time in program history … Took silver in the 3,000-meter run at the WAC Championships with the third-fastest time in program history … Recorded second-fastest 5,000-meter run in program history at the University of Washington … Recorded fourth-fastest 3,000-meter run in program history at Texas A&M.

Student-Athletes of the Year (Female)

Ragni Steen Knudsen (volleyball)

WAC Player of the Year … All-WAC First Team selection … Four-time WAC Offensive Player of the Week … Led the WAC in kills and points and ranked ninth in hitting during WAC play … First player in program history to record three seasons of at least 400 kills … Ranks fourth in program history and 49th among player who were active through 2018 in kills … Holds program record for kills per set and ranks eighth in hitting … Averaged 3.50 kills per set in eight matches against teams in top 100 while hitting .244 (above her season average of .237).

Dominique Ibarra (women’s tennis)

Led the team with 19 wins in singles play … Fifteen of those wins have come this spring while wrapping up the regular season on a 15-match win streak … Finished 5-0 in WAC play … Played all of her matches at the No. 1 spot in the lineup … Won 14 matches in doubles this season, including 10 this spring with teammate Marine Darzyan … Two-time WAC Singles Player of the Week…All-WAC First Team…WAC Player of the Year.

Rookie of the Year (Male)

Jacob Flores (baseball)

Hitting .255 (27-for-106) with a .307 on-base percentage, five doubles, two triples, 16 RBI and 11 runs scored … Has split time at first base, appearing in 31 games (26 starts) … Hitting .256 (11-for-43) with a .333 on-base percentage, two doubles, six RBI and four runs scored in 12 WAC games … Went career-best 3-for-4 in 7-3 win over Seattle U on April 26 … Recorded career-high three RBI at No. 10 Texas Tech on May 1.

Rookie of the Year (Female)

Emily Zapata (women’s soccer)

Earned All-WAC First Team honors … Led the team in goals (11), points (23), shots (71), shots on goal (30), and game-winning goals (5) … Set the program record for game-winning goals and tied the single-season program record for goals and shots on goal … Tied for the most goals and game-winning goals in the WAC this season … Third in the WAC in shots and fourth in the WAC in points … Ranked 91st among the top-100 freshman in the country by Top Drawer Soccer.

Newcomers of the Year (Male)

William Akio (men’s soccer)

Led the team with 10 assists and finished second on the team with 20 points … The 10 assists tied the program record for most assists in a single season … Named to the All-WAC Second Team after leading the WAC in assists and four game-winning goals … Named to the First Touch Football All-Canadian Second Team.

Tyson Smith (men’s basketball)

Averaged 10.8 points on .394 shooting, including .364 from behind the arc, plus .817 from the line, 2.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game … Ranked 218th in the NCAA and second in the WAC in three-pointers made and 199th in the NCAA and third in the WAC in attempts … Scored a team-high 19 points while hitting a career-high tying four three-pointers and dishing out a career-high seven assists to lead team to first NCAA Division I postseason victory … Earned All-WAC Tournament Team honors by averaging 21.0 points on .500 shooting, including .462 from behind the arc plus .941 from the line, and 2.0 steals. This included a game-high 19 points in team’s first-ever WAC Tournament win and a career-high 23 points against eventual champion New Mexico State in the semifinals … Led team I scoring nine times, rebounding twice and assists seven times … reached double-figures in scoring 20 times, including three games of 20+ points.

Newcomer of the Year (Female)

Madison Northcutt (women’s basketball)

Named to the All-WAC Second Team, All-WAC Defensive Team, All-WAC Newcomer team, WAC All-Tournament Team … posted 12 double-doubles … averaged 10 points and 8.9 rebounds per game … upped averages in WAC play with 11.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per WAC game … grabbed 294 rebounds this season, which set a new program record for most rebounds in a single season … played in all 33 games this season while starting in 32 of them.

Breakout Athlete of the Year (Male)

Javon Levi (men’s basketball)

As a sophomore, multiplied scoring by 205% (120-to-366), steals by 211% (35-to-109), steals by 85% (114-to-211) and rebounds by 106% (71-to-146) … Increased shooting percentage by 66 points (.328-to-.394) and free throw percentage by 60 points (.607-to-.667) … WAC Defensive Player of the Year and finalist for National Defensive Player of the Year … Part of WAC All-Defensive Team … Earned one WAC Player of the Week award … Ranked second in the NCAA in total steals, third in steals per game, 18th in assist-to-turnover and total assists, 30th in assists per game, 80th in total minutes, 171st in free throw attempts and 231st in free throws made … Led the WAC in each of the aforementioned categories … Only player in the NCAA to average at least 5.5 assists (5.7), 2.5 steals (2.95) and 2.1 turnovers or less (2.03) per game … Only player in NCAA to average at least 9.9 points (9.9), 3.9 rebounds (3.9), 5.5 assists (5.7), and 2.5 steals (2.95) per game … Broke single-season program record for assists and single-season WAC record for steals and steals per game during WAC play … Recorded second-highest single-season steals total and third-highest steals per game average in WAC history.

Breakout Athlete of the Year (Female)

Kinga Szemik (women’s soccer)

Earned All-WAC First Team Honors … Named to the WAC All-Tournament Team … Earned three WAC Defensive Player of the Week awards … Named to the United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-West Region Third Team … Ranked fifth in the WAC in saves (72), goals against average (1.09) and shutouts (4), and sixth in save percentage (.783) … Recorded four shutouts including a shutout of CSU Bakersfield at the WAC Tournament.

Comeback Player of the Year

Conner Dotson (baseball)

Dotson started his career at West Virginia, putting up strong numbers during his first two seasons. As a junior in 2017, however, Dotson broke the humerus in his right arm in such a way that the initial belief was that he would never pitch again. Dotson tried to come back in 2018 but was limited to five games before a shoulder injury ended his season. Dotson transferred to UTRGV for his final season of eligibility and to work with athletic trainer Tom Mendez, who helped Dotson to return to the mound on March 5 with three innings of one-hit, shutout ball at No. 7 Texas. Dotson has since become the Saturday starter, going 2-1 with a 4.42 ERA. He has struck out 38 in 36.2 innings and held opponents to a .203 batting average.

Team Performance of the Year

Indoor track & field winning program record nine WAC Championships

Won nine individual WAC Championships, the highest total in program history … Men’s team finished second and women fourth, marking the best finishes in program history.

Legacy Award (Male)

Isidro Martinez (men’s soccer)

Played in 72 career matches … Set a new program record for career assists (14) … Ranks second in program history in shots (81), sixth in points (32), and seventh in goals (9) … Named teamed captain during senior season … Earned All-WAC Honorable Mention as a senior … Currently playing professionally with RGV FC.

Legacy Award (Female)

Dominique Ibarra (women’s tennis)

Tied for second in program history in career singles victories (64) and is tied for second in career doubles victories (53) … Holds the program record for overall career victories with 117 … Double-digit victories in singles and doubles every season … All-WAC First Team honors in singles last season … Five-time WAC Singles Athlete of the Week … Four-time WAC Doubles Team of the Week … Three-time Academic All-WAC … Helped the program to its first-ever WAC Tournament Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016, and first-ever WAC Regular Season Championship in 2018.

Student Trainer of the Year

Michael de la Fuente (baseball)

De la Fuente started as a student athletic trainer under 2016 Hall of Honor inductee Jim Lancaster. De la Fuente has primarily worked with the baseball team, first with Lancaster, and now with Tom Mendez.  De la Fuente is a soft-spoken, reliable, and diligent worker. He plans to sit for his Texas Athletic Trainer exam later this month. He also plans to attend graduate school to work on his Master’s in Athletic Training.

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