The Duke recognizes remarkable players, coaches and teams for their successes over the past year.
By Adam Lindner | Asst. Sports Editor
The 2016-17 academic year is quickly drawing to a close, but not before we take one last look back on Duquesne athletics’ brightest performers over the past nine months.
Conference Champions: Football (shared NEC title with Saint Francis University)
Conference Runners-Up: Men’s Cross Country, Swimming
Now, it’s time to announce the second annual Duke Awards as given out by The Duquesne Duke:
Best Men’s Team: Football
Slightly edging out Cross Country to earn this year’s title of “Best Men’s Team,” Duquesne’s Football team followed up last season’s strong 8-4 campaign with another impressive trophy year. The Dukes went 8-3 this season and won a share of the NEC title with Saint Francis. Since the Red & Blue fell to SFU in the regular season, the Red Flash were awarded the tiebreaker over Duquesne and represented the NEC in the FCS playoffs. Nonetheless, seniors Dillon Buechel and Christian Kuntz led the Dukes to a second consecutive NEC title, and freshman running back A.J. Hines was outstanding.
Best Women’s Team: Swimming
Improving upon last season’s third-place finish, Duquesne’s Swim team finished second in the A10. Throughout the course of this season, the Dukes demonstrated extremely consistent success. A victory at the Richmond Duels, that hosted the likes of conference foes Richmond, Davidson and George Mason, and a second-place finish at Cleveland State’s Magnus Cup that included 13 other schools highlighted the year for the Dukes. The addition of a Diving team next season will augment Duquesne’s status as a perennial contender within the A10.
Best Male Athlete: Christian Kuntz — Football
The star linebacker ends his illustrious Duquesne career as the NEC’s all-time sack leader. This year, he led the NEC in sacks (11.5) as well as tackles for loss (24.0). The NFL Draft hopeful also forced three fumbles and was named the NEC Defensive Player of the Week twice. Kuntz leaves the Bluff as one of the most renowned football players in program history
Best Female Athlete: Jenny DelSignore — Cross Country
A Track & Field athlete for Duquesne as well, DelSignore performed impressively enough during the Cross Country campaign to garner Female Athlete of the Year honors. The junior had a pair of first-place finishes, with wins coming in the Duquesne Duals and in the UB Stampede Invitational at the University of Buffalo. At the A10 Cross Country Championships, she finished seventh with a time of 17.30.3 (5k). DelSignore was twice named the A10 Cross Country Women’s Performer of the Week.
Coach of the Year: Dave Sheets — Swimming
In his 15th year at the helm of Duquesne’s swimming program, Sheets led the Dukes to the program’s best finish all-time with a second-place finish in the A10. In 2015, the Dukes finished third in the A10 for just the third time. The other two times came in 2008 and 2009. During his tenure, Sheets has managed to transform the Duquesne swimming program from a perennial cellar-dweller into a consistent contender. The implementation of a diving component to the already successful swimming program further boosts the championship profile of Sheets’ swimming program.
Best Seniors: Dillon Buechel and Amadea Szamosi
Buechel shined in his last year on the Bluff, throwing for 2,865 yards and 23 touchdowns. Buechel ranked in the Top 20 nationally in several passing categories, including passing yards (17th), passing TDs (16th), and yards per completion (13.77, 17th). In addition, he tied the school record for touchdown passes in a game with six in a 54-35 win at Jacksonville. Buechel was named to the All-NEC First Team and ends his career as a Duke as a three-time NEC champion.
In Szamosi’s final season, she averaged 13.0 points per game for the Dukes, the second most on the team, while shooting .457 from the field. She also led
the team with 8.3 rebounds per game. In her time at Duquesne, Szamosi helped the program to reach three WNITs and one NCAA tournament in 2015-16.
Newcomer of the Year: A.J. Hines — Football
The freshman tailback from Wilson, North Carolina had unprecedented success in his freshman season with the Dukes. On 242 carries, Hines rushed for 1,291 yards, 13 touchdowns and a phenomenal 117.4 yards per game. Hines was named the NEC’s Player of the Week six times and was awarded the STAT FCS Jerry Rice Award, presented to the most outstanding freshman at the FCS level. Hines is the first NEC player to ever receive the award.
Breakout Team of the Year: Bowling
In the program’s inaugural season, the bowling program became an instant competitor in the NEC. Led by freshmen Kelsey Hackbart and Cassidy Powers, the Dukes won their first-ever championship with a victory at the Golden Bear Invitational. Duquesne beat numerous ranked teams throughout the course of the year and received national attention for their efforts.
Best Postseason Run: Men’s Cross Country
Following a successful campaign, the Red & Blue qualified for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, held in University Park, Pennsylvania. The Dukes finished seventh out of 22 teams, and sophomore Cordon Luoco finished 24th out of 157 of the region’s best runners.
Most Memorable Play: Mike Lewis II’s half-court buzzer beater vs. UMass
Seven seconds before halftime in Duquesne’s game vs. UMass on February 15, Lewis hit a floater to extend the Dukes’ lead to 14. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Lewis stole the ball from UMass guard Luwane Pipkins and hit an incredible on-the-run, across-the body heave from half-court. Lewis would finish with 31 points in Duquesne’s 96-66 victory. The sequence was featured as the #2 play of the night on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Night segment on February 15.