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    May 3, 2016 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    From humble beginnings, Liberty University's Club Sports department has grown exponentially over the past eight years — from fewer than 100 student-athletes competing on six teams in 2008 to more than 500 on 35 teams in 2015-16.

    More than 200 of those, including graduating seniors, scholar athletes, and award nominees, attended Tuesday night's fifth-annual Club Sports Awards Banquet, held in the LaHaye Event Space. A total of 125 student-athletes with grade-point averages (GPAs) of 3.5 or better and 26 more with GPAs of 4.0 or better were among those honored.

    Two highlight videos, filmed and edited by Club Sports Video Coordinators Patrick Strawn and Gabe Henderson, captured the thrill of victory and the spirit of competition enjoyed by student-athletes in all of their respective sports.

    That set the tone for the evening and the stage for the individual awards presentations, introduced by Mike Zumpano — who serves as lacrosse assistant coach and hockey public address announcer — and handed out Club Sports Director of Athletics Kirk Handy.

    Division II men's hockey senior forward and head captain Paul Ingles was the first honoree on the night as the recipient of the newly created Champion Award, recognizing him for more than just his athletic performance, but also his dedication, commitment, and leadership qualities on and off the ice.

    Ryan Miller, the senior attack on Liberty's men's lacrosse team and SELC Division I Offensive Player of the Year who ended his career ranked among the MCLA's top all-time scorers, was selected as the Club Sports Male Athlete of the Year.

    Lady Flames junior triathlete Megan Merryman, who placed 21st at the April 22-23 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships, was tabbed as Female Athlete of the year.

    The Lady Flames' Division I women's hockey team, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation all season long and reached the Final Four of the ACHA DI National Championship tournament for the fourth consecutive year, earned Women's Team of the Year honors.

    Liberty's ACHA Division II men's hockey team, which went 30-4 and advanced to the ACHA Division II National Championship final for the first time in 10 years, was named the Men's Team of the Year while junior forward Devon Docksteader, who scored overtime goals in back-to-back games to send the Flames to the final, was honored for the Outstanding Performance of the Year.

    ACHA DII men's hockey Head Coach Chris Lowes and Assistant Coach Mike Morrison were picked as Club Sports Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year, respectively, with Morrison sharing his honor with Van Phillips, an assistant coach with the first-year cycling team.

    Liberty Chief Information Officer John Gauger, Dr. Norman Mintle, dean of the School of Communication & Creative Arts, and his wife, Dr. Linda Mintle, an associate professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine were among the honored guests in attendance along with Liberty Senior Vice President for Auxiliary Services Lee Beaumont.

    "Lee's been the biggest support for me personally as we've championed the cause of Club Sports here at Liberty University," Handy said. "He has done a fantastic job of working with President Falwell and making sure that every day, the Club Sports mantle is carried through Liberty University, and that it's promoted in such a way that we are able to support student-athletes and coaches better every year."

    The Club Sports department runs efficiently in part through services provided by  Sport Management majors fulfilling requirements for their event experience practicum, Communication & Creative Arts majors working on the live broadcast productions of Club Sports contests, and Athletic Training and Exercise Science majors assisting Club Sports Athletic Training coordinator Angie Witt in providing immediate medical attention and rehabilitative care to student-athletes. Many more students meet Christian/Community Service (CSER) requirements by staffing live events.

    Handy expressed his appreciation for the student-athletes' efforts on the playing fields and those of their coaches, athletic trainers, academic advisors, and strength coaches who help make Liberty's Club Sports program one of the nation's best.

    "It's a privilege to serve you guys," he said. "We have a fantastic team. I'd like to thank our Club Sports staff that took our program to brand new heights and worked in conjunction with the coaches, the student-athletes, and the support staff to have our best year ever."