Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
The Duke recognizes remarkable Duquesne players, coaches and teams for their successes over the past year in the third annual Duke Awards.
Men’s Team of the Year: Football
If it weren’t for a gut-wrenching 28-27 loss to Central Connecticut State on Nov. 11, the Duquesne football team would be celebrating its fifth Northeast Conference title in seven seasons, and would have represented the NEC in the FCS playoffs for the second time in the past three years. However, junior Dukes place-kicker John Domit missed an 18-yard field goal attempt as time expired, effectively forfeiting the NEC title to the Blue Devils on Duquesne’s Senior Day at Rooney Field. Nevertheless, despite the team’s end-of-year disappointment, Head Coach Jerry Schmitt’s squad still managed to rattle off seven straight victories from Sept. 9 to Oct. 28, outscoring its opponents — including four NEC foes — 261-118 in that span.
Women’s Team of the Year: Swimming & Diving
Following back-to-back second place finishes at the Atlantic 10 Championship in 2016 and 2017, the Duquesne swimming & diving team finally prevailed in 2018, securing the program’s first-ever A-10 title. The Dukes beat Richmond in the process, which had won seven consecutive A-10 titles prior to this year’s event.
Coach of the Year: Dave Sheets, Swimming
If Duquesne athletics as a whole are blessed with anything, it’s exemplary coaches. Dan Burt (women’s basketball), Jody Fetterhoff (bowling) and Al Alvine (women’s soccer) all did enough in 2017-18 to be considered for Coach of the Year. In his 17th season as Duquesne’s head swim coach, however, Dave Sheets delivered something to the Bluff that it had previously never seen: An Atlantic 10 Championship swimming & diving title. An A-10 title for the Dukes was only a matter of time, and Sheets finally came through.
Male Athlete of the Year: Tommy Stuart
A graduate transfer in 2017 from Boise State, Stuart had one year on the Bluff to live up to big expectations. He did just that in Duquesne’s first season since 2012-13 without Dillon Buechel behind center, leading the Dukes to a 7-4 record to go along with 2,405 total passing yards. Stuart did something in 2017 that Buechel never did during his time at Duquesne, too, winning the 2017 NEC Offensive Player of the Year Award. A starter in all 11 of the Dukes’ 2017 contests, Stuart completed 66.7 percent of his passes, threw 27 touchdowns to only eight interceptions, and averaged 218.6 yards per game through the air for the Red & Blue.
Female Athlete of the Year: Linnea Faccenda
Although the Duquesne women’s soccer team fell in the A-10 semifinals to top-seeded La Salle 2-1 in double-overtime on Nov. 3, the 2017 season was one to remember for the Dukes. Senior midfielder Linnea Faccenda contributed greatly during her final season on the Bluff, earning A-10 Midfielder of the Year honors following the season. Faccenda finished her career at Duquesne third all-time in points scored with 51.
Senior Athlete of the Year: Kylie Isaacs
On Sept. 10 at the Carnegie Mellon University Invite, Isaacs broke Rachel McGowan’s all-time Duquesne victory record with her 148th career win. Then, one week later at the Greater Cincinnati Invitational, Isaacs won her 78th career singles match, becoming the all-time winningest Duquesne tennis player in program history. With the A-10’s tennis tournament currently underway in Orlando, Florida, Isaacs has already left her mark on DU.
Newcomer of the Year: The Nike Swoosh
No disrespect to Duquesne’s bevy of impressive first-year athletes, as there were several Dukes well deserving of The Duke’s 2017-18 Newcomer of the Year Award. However, Duquesne’s decision to switch its official athletic outfitter from Adidas to Nike beginning in the fall of 2017 is an extremely impactful decision for the school moving forward. Duquesne’s first season sporting the swoosh will be the cornerstone for the school’s athletic uniforms moving forward, and while many Dukes teams didn’t sport the flashiest or most detailed jersey sets this past season, many of the school teams’ uniforms did look sleeker than they previously did with Adidas. Plus, the men’s basketball team’s newfound affiliation with LeBron James’ Nike brand — thanks to Coach Keith Dambrot’s strong relationship with the NBA star, dating back to their days together at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio — is sure to benefit both the school and the program in marketing and recruiting efforts.
Most Improved Team: Men’s Basketball
Following a 2016-17 campaign that saw the Duquesne men’s basketball squad finish 10-22 and 3-15 in Atlantic 10 play, the future of the program looked extremely bleak, leading to former Head Coach Jim Ferry’s dismissal. One calendar year later, Keith Dambrot has instilled brand new life into the Duquesne program, engaging with a fan base that hasn’t seen the NCAA tournament since 1977. The 2017-18 Dukes finished .500 overall at 16-16, and finished No. 9 in a 14-team conference that Duquesne was projected to finish last in.