The Duke staff recognizes the players, coaches and teams who dominated the past year in collegiate sports.
By Andrew Holman | Assistant Sports Editor
The 2015-16 season is winding to a close, but it was a year to remember for many of the 16 athletic teams that don the Red & Blue.
Conference Champions: Women’s Soccer, Football
First Place: Women’s Rowing Varsity 8 “A” Entry at the Head of the Ohio
Atlantic 10 Runners Up: Women’s Cross Country, Women’s Basketball, Swimming
Now it’s time to deliver the first ever Put ‘Em Up awards as given out by The Duquesne Duke.
Best Women’s Team: Women’s Basketball
Under head coach Dan Burt, the Dukes team finished with a 28-6 record and received a bid to their first ever NCAA Tournament. They went on to win their first ever March Madness game, defeating Seton Hall in the first round. Although they fell to National Champion UConn in the second round, the Dukes were the only team to lead the Huskies throughout their entire tournament run.
Best Men’s Team: Duquesne Football
The Dukes ended their season with a NEC Conference Championship and a tight 52-49 defeat to William and Mary in their first ever FCS Playoff Appearance. Dillon Buechel and Chris King led the offense while Christian Kuntz and Zach Zidian anchored a stout defense. Head coach Jerry Schmitt bolstered the Dukes from a 6-6 record in 2014 to an 8-4 record in 2015.
Male Athletes of the Year: Derrick Colter and Micah Mason – Men’s Basketball
The senior backcourt led the Dukes men’s basketball team to their first postseason appearance since the 2010-11 season. The tandem averaged a combined 36.3 points per game and added 8.9 assists per game while each averaging over 35 minutes.
Female Athlete of the Year: April Robinson
In her final season on the Bluff, Robinson tallied 14.9 points, 6.4 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game while leading her team to their first ever NCAA Tournament. Robinson earned quite a bit of recognition inside the Atlantic 10 including A-10 Co-Player of the Year and First Team All A-10 as well as a national attention after being listed as a Top 10 finalist for the 2016 Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year Award.
Senior Athletes of the Year: Deva’Nyar Workman and Chris King
Workman had an impressive senior campaign, averaging 14.3 ppg and 9.2 rpg. Workman was a huge reason for the success of the women’s basketball squad in 2016 with her ability to make plays on both ends of the court.
King capped off an incredible career in the Red & Blue with 81 receptions, 1,136 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in his final season. King earned first team All-NEC Conference honors in 2015 and is pursuing a spot in the National Football League next season.
Freshman Athlete of the Year: Katie O’Connor – Women’s Soccer
O’Connor made a near flawless transition onto the collegiate season. The freshman led her Atlantic 10 Championship team with 10 goals and six assists in her rookie season. O’Connor was named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team, winning A-10 Rookie of the Week twice in 2015.
Breakout Athlete: Jill Vacanti- Women’s Lax
Jill Vacanti’s 2015 freshman campaign was impressive in itself, but Vacanti’s sophomore season is deserving of a great deal of recognition. She finished 2015 with 20 goals and 14 assists. Through the first 13 games of 2016, Vacanti already has 36 goals and 5 assists. The combination of Vacanti and teammate Kaelin Shaw will make the Dukes a dangerous team when they host the A-10 Tournament in May.
Breakout Team: Swimming
After placing fifth in the Atlantic 10 in 2015, Duquesne swimming placed second in the conference in 2016 under head coach David Sheets, marking their best ever finish. The Dukes also finished in the Top 50 of the mid-major rankings for the first time ever. The Red & Blue finished 2nd at the Magnus Cup Invitational and set several school records over the course of the season.
Best 1-2 Punch: Kylie Isaacs and Julianne Herman – Women’s Tennis
Isaacs and Herman have dominated their opponents and created the best 1-2 punch on campus leading the women’s tennis team to a 15-5 record as they head into the A-10 Championships. Isaacs finished the season 29-3, and her freshman teammate Julianne Herman finished at 22-5. Together they went 18-1 in doubles play. Herman was a record seven-time A-10 Rookie of the Week winner, and Isaacs was named A-10 Player of the Week five times.
Best Tournament Run: Women’s Soccer
The women’s soccer team entered the A-10 Tournament as the No. 7 seed and went on to capture their first ever Atlantic 10 Championship and first ever bid to the NCAA tournament. A balance of outstanding freshman and experienced upperclassmen made the Dukes, under head coach Al Alvine, a mighty force down the stretch.
Best Comeback Performance: Women’s Lax vs. Richmond
On April 10, 2016 the Dukes took on the Richmond Spiders in an important A-1o regular season matchup. With just over 10 minutes to play, the Dukes found themselves down 6-3 in a low scoring battle. A goal by Vacanti made the score 6-4, which is where it stayed until the 3:09 mark when Tess Drotar cut the deficit to just one, scoring off a huge caused-turnover by Meredith Micho. Then, with just 2:13 left on the clock, freshman Haley Matthai knotted the score and sent the game to overtime. Head coach Mike Scerbo drew up a pair of impressive plays to tie the game and steal away the victory in overtime on another goal by none other than Vacanti.
Coach of the Year: Dan Burt – Women’s Basketball
What sets apart Dan Burt from many of the other coaches across the country is his recruiting. He brings quality competitors from both the local area and from a number of different countries to come play here at Duquesne. Burt’s tremendous recruiting and remarkable coaching abilities led the Dukes to their first ever NCAA Tournament victory and put the program in great shape going forward.