Club Sports’ best honored during virtual Choice Awards
A virtual presentation of the 2020-21 Liberty University Club Sports Choice Awards gave many teams an opportunity to gather remotely and celebrate with their own end-of-year banquets while watching online. (COVID-19 restrictions prevented an in-person assembly of student-athletes and coaches from all 40 teams in one location, as had become a year-end Club Sports tradition before last spring.)
Flames Central co-anchors Matt Warner and Rett McGibbon hosted the half-hour-long virtual show, with no usual acceptance speeches, but plenty of highlights from as many teams as practiced or competed this school year. Coaches and players reflected on the disappointment of having last spring semester's events canceled by the onset of the pandemic, and expressed thankfulness for salvaging what they could from this year, if only having the opportunity to meet, practice, and play with their teammates again.
A wide range of athletic, academic, coaching, and service awards were then presented, recognizing outstanding efforts and commitment to building a Club Sports program that rivals any in the nation.
Flames junior swimmer Matt Davidson was named the Club Sports Male Athlete of the Year.
Junior men's swimmer Matthew Davidson, who will travel to Richmond, Va., next weekend to compete in the Speedo Sectional meet for a possible bid to the U.S. Olympic Trials, was named the Club Sports Male Athlete of the Year. He swam lifetime bests in the 50 yard backstroke, 100 freestyle, 100 back, and 50 free at the April 13 Liberty Collegiate Cup, also setting the 50 free school record with a 19.88-second split on the anchor lap of the winning 200 free relay.
Lady Flames graduate cyclist Bethany Matsick was honored as the Female Athlete of the Year.
Graduate women's cyclist Bethany Matsick was selected as the Club Sports Female Athlete of the Year after her performances at the first Liberty Cycling Classic held April 17-18. She placed second in the Pro Category I-III road race in Concord, Va., and fifth in the criterium on East Campus. She will compete against U.S. Olympians and signed professionals at this summer's USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships, set for June 17 in Knoxville, Tenn., and the July 15 USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships on the velodrome in Trexlertown, Pa.
The Men's and Women's Coaches of the Year, presented to those who have led their teams to high levels of success athletically, academically, socially, and spiritually, went to Liberty's ACHA Division I men's and women's hockey Head Coaches Kirk Handy and Chris Lowes, respectively. Handy, in his 21st season at the helm, sparked the Flames to their first ACHA DI men's "Frozen Four" appearance since 2008 with lopsided wins over Maryville (Ill.) and Ohio universities. Lowes, in his fourth season with the Lady Flames, guided them to a 15-1 season, avenging their season-opening loss to Lindenwood in the first round of pool play and again in the ACHA championship final to tie the Lady Lions' marks for most national titles in a row (three) and overall (four).
ACHA DII men's hockey Assistant Coach Matt Cruickshank, who assisted Head Coach Ben Hughes in leading the Flames to the National Championship semifinals for the first time since 2017, was named the Male Team Assistant Coach of the Year. Women's beach volleyball Assistant Coach Jess Nelson, a former member of Liberty's indoor women's volleyball team, was honored as the Female Team Assistant Coach of the Year. She helped Head Coach Kaleb VanDePerre guide the Lady Flames to a sensational spring season highlighted by several wins over NCAA Division II and III programs.
Liberty graduate men's triathlete Mark Fairley had the Male Outstanding Performance Award at Clermont, Fla.
Flames graduate triathlete Mark Fairley, who finished runner-up in both U25 Elite Development races at the Clermont (Fla.) Draft-Legal Challenge in early March, was honored with the Male Outstanding Performance Award.
Division I women's hockey freshman forward Brityn Fussy, the Lady Flames' leading scorer on the season with 11 goals, including four game-winners, was selected as the Female Outstanding Performance Award winner after helping to lead Liberty to its third consecutive ACHA DI National Championship.
Senior men's swimmer Ben Klipp, who endured months of physical therapy after having full knee reconstruction surgery last year, was named Male Champion Award winner. He was named team captain in the fall and led by example while pursuing national contention in the 200 freestyle, 100 and 50 butterfly, and all three relay events.
Women's senior figure skater Angela Boscher was recognized as the Female Champion Award winner.
The Female Champion Award was given to senior figure skater Angela Bosher, a three-year co-captain who traveled to cheer on her teammates while recovering from a leg injury early in her career and returned to the ice to help teammates on and off the ice. She is going on to medical school to become a physical therapist.
Freshman triathlete Alysson Fernandez was named Female Rookie of the Year.
Allyson Fernandez, a former women's soccer player who only started competing in triathlons this year, was named the Female Rookie of the Year after winning her 20-24 age group at the A1A Triathlon in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Ethan Goodman, a freshman walk-on for Liberty's shotgun team, was selected as the Male Rookie of the Year Award. His podium finish at the Virginia State Sporting Clays Championships helped earn him a spot on the ACUI Clay Target National Championships, where the Flames and Lady Flames placed second as a team in Division III.
Former Division II men's hockey standout goalie Adam Partridge earned the Perseverance Award after returning from a hip injury to make the DIII team's roster as a forward. His hard work and dedication led to him receiving a letter as the team's head captain in January and he went on to rank among the team's leading scorers.
As well as performing at the best of their abilities in their respective arenas, Liberty Club Sports student-athletes thrived academically in their classrooms, with a total of 268 achieving grade-point averages above 3.5, including 111 who maintained GPAs of 4.0 or higher.
Senior shotgun team member Jacob Davis, who is graduating with a 4.0 GPA in biochemistry and molecular biology, was named the Male Academic Athlete of the Year. Meanwhile, senior digital media major Danielle Bergen, who started her Club Sports career on the ACHA Division I women's hockey team before competing in archery for the past two seasons, was selected as the Female Academic Athlete of the Year.
Winners of the Academic Integration Awards were chosen from students who went above and beyond their requirements of their fields of study to willingly serve the Club Sports department. Jacob Gachowski, an athletic training student who spent over 500 hours helping with clinic operations, data entry, and rehabilitation, was elected the male award recipient.
Junior archer Emma Suggs, a psychology counseling major who is pursuing a minor in graphic design, was tabbed the female winner. She placed first among Virginia collegiate compound participants in the USA Archery indoor nationals, after her work as the team's social media coordinator.
Dr. Jared Hornsby, a professor in the School of Health Sciences, won the Academic Partnership Award.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jared Hornsby, an Associate Professor in the School of Health Sciences who has been instrumental in connecting Club Sports with industry leading companies within the sports science realm, including 1080 Motion and Fatigue Science, was picked as the winner of the Club Sports Academic Partnership Award.
Noah Marrera, a manager for the men's lacrosse team last season, was honored with the Student Service Award after managing staff and creating systems to make the team run more effectively during off-hours. He also voluntarily took an emergency trip to Knoxville, Tenn., over the weekend of March 20-21 to pick up a Flames team member who had tested positive for COVID.
Division I men's hockey senior forward Ryan Cox, who is also involved in the Army ROTC program, was selected as the Community Service Award winner in honor of his volunteer work as a coach during skills sessions and a referee with the Lynchburg Youth Hockey Association.
Lady Flames figure skating Head Coach Dawn Harter was given the Club Sports Legacy Award for hosting several alumnae events on campus, giving them opportunities to reconnect with teammates, coaches, and friends.
Every Club Sports team recognized two or more spiritual leaders tasked to be team chaplains or captains off the field, with many leading Bible studies, team prayers and devotionals, or simply meeting with teammates to build relationships and encourage them. They invested time and energy into loving their teammates and biblically discipling them, assisting the department in meeting holistic development goals and fulfilling university's mission of Training Champions For Christ.