By JERAMY STOVER, Sports Editor
As the sports calendar on the 2015-16 season has finally come to an end, the University of Michigan-Dearborn athletics department celebrated their teams and individual achievements at its annual banquet on Saturday, May 7.
Held in the Kochoff Hall in the University Center on campus, hundreds of athletes, coaches, staff members, and supporters filled the room to watch as some of UM-Dearborn’s brightest and best athletes were given awards for their hard work this past sports season.
Taking home the top prize for Athlete of the Year was Valerie Bertani (softball) for the women’s side and Ryan Urso (hockey) for the men’s side.
A senior leader on the softball team, Bertani was an instrumental part to her team’s success this season. She was named to the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference’s All-Conference Honorable Mention team this past week.
“It’s awesome, it’s definitely an honor; I’m super excited to get this award but I wouldn’t be here without my coaches and my team,” Bertani said. “I can’t imagine a better way to go out, I just wish I had more time.”
Urso was the captain of the hockey team and is arguably one of the best players in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. He was named to the ACHA All-American team last month and helped lead to the Wolverines to their first national tournament since 2007.
Like Bertani, Urso acknowledge his coaches and teammates were a big reason for his award.
“It’s a good feeling, like I said in my speech it wouldn’t happen without my teammates and coaches with the successful season so give a little shout out to them and hopefully we can come back stronger than ever next year,” Urso said.
As Urso was voted on by the other coaches at UM-Dearborn as the top male athlete, he appreciates the support they show him on a day-to-day basis.
“Just having them come up to me in the hallway and say congratulations on things like that, it’s obviously a good feeling and I really appreciate it,” he said.
The awards for Newcomer of the Year went to Shyla Smalls (volleyball) and Marcus Williams (basketball).
As a freshman, Smalls helped the volleyball team improve on their wins total from last season and will be a key component of the team going forward.
Williams transferred to UM-Dearborn from Henry Ford College and led the Wolverines this season in points per game.
The Chancellor Award, which is given to an athlete who demonstrates distinguished leadership, was given to Sam Parks (men’s cross country). The senior quipped in his acceptance speech that after running with his team for four years, running by himself now can feel pretty lonely.
The William “Rudy” Radulovich awards are given to members of UM-Dearborn’s club sports teams. This year’s winners were Marina Goocher (wrestling) and Joe Osmialowski (tennis).
Goocher, the only female member of the wrestling team won a national championship this past season.
The award for Coach of the Year went to Chris Haltinner (hockey). Haltinner led the team to a 22-9 record and won the conference championship. The hockey also made the national tournament where they were eliminated in the second round.
The Wolverine Award was given to Makenzie Trowbridge (softball) and Tyler Groat (hockey).
Trowbridge hit for a .385 batting average for the softball team but her season was cut short due to injury. She was also the UM-Dearborn representative for the WHAC’s Character of Champion for softball and made the All-Academic team for the conference as well.
Groat was a star player for the hockey team, leading the Wolverines with 25 goals and collecting 37 points. His season was also cut short due to an injury. Groat was named to the ACHA’s All-Rookie team last month.
There were off the field awards handed out for excellent academic achievements.
Jordan Ewald (softball) and Maria Rodriguez (softball) scored the Top Female GPA award. Rodriguez was also named to the WHAC’s All-Academic team for softball.
On the male side, Alex Krasuski (cross country), Tyler Dalton (hockey) and Ryan Kelly (hockey) were noted for having the highest GPA amongst male athletes.
Assistant Athletic Director Bryan Earl was awarded with Staff of the Year. Earl had multiple responsibilities outside of the administrative side, from helping run the athletics website to administering athletic events.
Former Eastern Michigan baseball coach Jay Alexander was the keynote speaker, and gave a powerful speech to the athletes about the importance to giving back to their community. Alexander expressed the essence to volunteering and that helping out others could lead to helping yourself out.
Alexander spent six seasons as the head coach of Wayne State from 2003-2008 before taking over as the Eagles head coach in 2009 where he spent the next five years in charge of their baseball program.