WINTHROP, Mass. – While her presence was felt on both the basketball court and lacrosse field, Johnson & Wales University student-athlete Raquel Pederzani made just as big of an impact in the classroom and community. That trifecta made her a natural choice for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference NCAA Woman of the Year and the league's nominee for the national award as announced by GNAC commissioner Joe Walsh.
The NCAA Woman of the Year award program honors graduating female student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, service and leadership.
The program celebrates the accomplishments of female college athletes across all three NCAA divisions. Conference nominations are forwarded to the NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee, which identifies the top 10 honorees in each of the three NCAA divisions. From those 30 candidates, the selection committee then determines the three finalists in each division for a total of nine finalists.
"To be honored with such a distinguished award brings me excitement and appreciation," Pederzani said. "There are so many different people that I can thank for my successes; not just for making me a better player, but for making me a better individual, leader, and for developing my ability to adapt when adversity strikes. I have been challenged, but one thing I can say is hard work pays off and it's the little things when no one is watching that counts... that's true for academics, athletics, and even service."
A native of Coventry, RI, Pederzani graduated from JWU in the spring with a 3.94 grade point average in criminal justice. She was selected as a 2018 CoSIDA Google Cloud Women's Basketball Academic Third Team All-American on top of her All-District hoops honor. She was also the recipient of the 2018 Johnson & Wales Ron Bachman Award for Academics, Athletics, and Leadership as well as the school's RIAIAW award winner and a finalist for the national Josten's Award.
"Raquel is an amazing student leader who leaves behind a tremendous legacy at Johnson & Wales -- in sport, but more importantly, in the classroom, and throughout our campus community," Associate Dean of Students and Executive Director of Athletics Mel Graf said. "She has always represented the University and the GNAC with the utmost integrity and I can't think of a more quality candidate for NCAA Woman of the Year."
In total, she went to the NCAA Tournament four times – twice for women's basketball (including an at-large berth in 2016) and twice with JWU women's lacrosse. The two-year basketball captain holds the JWU all-time assist record in both sports.
On the court, she was a GNAC Women's Basketball All-Conference selection each of her four years, including first-team each of the last three seasons. This past year, she averaged 17.6 points and 4.2 assists on her way to becoming the program's all-time leader in points, assists, steals, three-pointers and free throw percentage. Pederzani broke the single-game school record with 41 points against Albertus Magnus and was featured on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays.
"Raquel was an unbelievable dynamic leader on our team and throughout the athletic department," JWU women's basketball coach Kim Dweck said. "She took it upon herself to set the example of how to be a competitor and showed teammates how to come together and become a strong unit. Raquel's ability to excel in two sports at the collegiate level gave people the opportunity to observe not only her maturity, discipline, and skill, but her passion to bring people along with her."
During the spring, she earned her second-straight GNAC Women's Lacrosse First-Team selection after registering 45 goals, 47 assists – setting the JWU single-season record – and 92 points. In addition to the assist record, Pederzani ranks second in school history for goals and points.
Outside of athletics, Pederzani was a four-year member of the JWU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), including two years as vice president. She also volunteered with the Caps of Love Organization, Project Smile, the Tomorrow Fund and local basketball clinics, among many other endeavors.