Editor’s note: Check out a photo gallery from the all-sports banquet here.
By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
The University of Michigan-Dearborn celebrated the 2014-2015 academic year of athletics in an all-sports banquet on May 8.
The banquet, held in Kochoff Hall, honored UM-Dearborn athletes, coaches and athletic staff members. It is believed to be the first banquet featuring each of the university’s athletic programs.
Dr. Galen Duncan, Detroit Lions Senior Director of Player Development, spoke at the banquet. Mike Long, arena voice of UM-Dearborn athletics, was the Master of Ceremonies.
Campus Video Network produced a video featuring UM-Dearborn athletes for the banquet.
Athletes were honored for their yearly performances, both on the field and in the classroom, at the banquet. They were given conference awards as well as several from UM-Dearborn.
“It brings together a celebration of their achievements academically, athletically and socially,” UM-Dearborn Athletic Director Matt Beaudry said. “They commit a tremendous amount of time and effort into being a student athlete, and it’s our responsibility to celebrate that and bring together our campus.”
Softball coach Scott Combs was honored as Coach of the Year at UM-Dearborn.
In his second year as the team’s coach, the Wolverines finished 26-25 and reached the WHAC championship game, becoming the first team from UM-Dearborn to do so. The 2015 season was the program’s best in five years.
After the banquet, Beaudry said he was still excited about the softball team reaching the WHAC championship.
“I was able to go with the team and take in the entire tournament, spoke to them at the hotel before the championship game,” Beaudry said. “You could see the excitement and change that’s going through our department right now. That’s a tribute to coach Combs and his staff, as well as those student athletes that set goals and went out and worked very hard to achieve them, and were very close to winning a championship.
“I feel very confident we’ll be back there, not only in softball, but other sports in the future.”
Softball’s Jessie Thueme and lacrosse’s Dylan Hatcher won the Female and Male Athlete of the Year honors, respectively.
Thueme was a catalyst for the softball team in her final season. She hit .386 with 10 home runs and a WHAC-high 52 RBI in 45 games.
In her final collegiate game — the WHAC championship game — Thueme shined, going 2 for 3 at the plate with a three-run home run.
Hatcher set a handful of program records in his final season with the lacrosse team. He tied for first in UM-Dearborn single-season goals (31) and broke its career goals record (113) and points record (134).
According to Beaudry, athletes were nominated by their coaches for the Athlete of the Year awards. The banquet’s executive committee reviewed the strength and weaknesses of nominees, and sought the complete picture of being a student athlete.
Thueme and Hatcher, both four-year athletes at UM-Dearborn, were the perfect fit.
“Both Dylan and Jessie exhibit (the complete picture of being a student athlete) in everything they do, and it’s a great honor to be able to recognize them as the male and female Athletes of the Year,” Beaudry said.
Hockey’s Ryan Urso and softball’s Jordan Ewald were honored as UM-Dearborn’s male and female Newcomer of the Year, respectively.
Urso scored nine goals and adding 29 assists in 35 games last season. His 39 points ranked amongst the nation’s top forwards in ACHA Division-I and was the second-highest output for a defensemen.
It was announced at the banquet that Urso is one of four candidates for the ACHA’s Rookie of the Year award. UM-Dearborn’s 2015-2016 captain won three Great Lakes Conference Hockey League awards in March.
Ewald started 48 of 49 games played as a freshman, hitting .326 with five home runs, 32 RBI and 26 runs.
Rachel Ruta (women’s soccer) and Jared Davidson (wrestling) were honored with the William “Rudy” Radulovich award, given to two club sport athletes. Radulovich was UM-Dearborn’s first intramural sports director.
Megan McDonald (cross country) and Chris Porecca (men’s soccer) won the Chancellor Award. Men’s soccer head coach Matt Quirk received Porecca’s award as he was unable to attend the banquet.
Athletic Trainer Kim Weindel was honored with the Acclaimed Staff of the Year award. She received the lone standing ovation of the night when accepting the award.
Beaudry said he began thinking of this award over the last few months.
“When we’re working to create change and sustain success in the future, we have to have personnel that carry our mission that Chancellor Little and our department strives to do every day,” Beaudry said. “When those individuals do that, it makes, collectively, everything we do better. Kim is a perfect example of the leadership we require from our staff and coaches to make a difference for the campus, the community, and our student athletes.
“I’m honored, and so are many others, to be able to award that to Kim this year.”
Softball’s Maria Rodriguez boasted the top GPA for female athletes, while hockey’s Ryan Kelly led male athletes. Women’s cross country had the highest team GPA at UM-Dearborn.