PROVIDENCE, RI – It wasn't held in its normal fashion at the Schneider Auditorium on campus, but the Johnson & Wales University athletics department handed out its end-of-the-year award virtually on Wednesday.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the major awards. Those included: Female and Male Athlete of the Year, the Ron Bachman Athletic Award for Academics, Athletics, and Leadership, the Thomas Carmody Award for Character, Spirit, and Community Service, Female and Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Female and Male Rookie of the Year.
The Ron Bachman Athletic Award for Academics, Athletics, and Leadership is presented to the outstanding female and male senior student-athlete who has excelled both academically and athletically while demonstrating outstanding leadership on and off the field. The recipient of this award must carry a 3.40 cumulative GPA.
This year's female recipient Maria Coniglio from the women's volleyball team helped set the standard that all other teams at JWU will be measured. She started her career on the volleyball court with Honorable Mention All-America honors and only went up from there. A four-time, First-Team All-GNAC selection, she became one of only two JWU athletes to earn four All-America awards. She finished her career third in school history with 1,319 kills. A three-year team captain, Coniglio helped JWU to four GNAC championships, three-straight regional finals and the 2017 NCAA regional championship. A two-time Academic All-American, she was nearly perfect in the classroom with a 3.99 GPA in culinary nutrition.
The men's recipient has been a leader on and off the ice for the men's ice hockey team. Matt Bernot joined the Wildcats after two seasons at Skidmore College and has been one of JWU's top scorers since his arrival. Bernot played in 50 games at JWU and led the team with 20 points this year. A two-time academic All-NEHC selection, he has a 4.00 GPA in finance.
The Thomas Carmody Award for Character, Spirit, and Community Service is presented to the outstanding male or female senior student-athlete who exemplifies outstanding academic success; significant athletic contribution; commitment to community service; and loyalty, effort, and enthusiasm. The recipient of this award must carry a 3.00 cumulative GPA.
This year there was a three-way tie between Will Fritz from the baseball team, Tiffani Harrington from the spirit squad and Pete Medici from men's volleyball.
Fritz has been a model teammate on and off the field. On the field, he's played whatever position is needed and off the field coach head coach Kevin Casey said "Will had the uncanny ability to put others before himself, always lending a hand to a teammate when needed." Carrying a 3.16 GPA in culinary nutrition, Fritz has spearheaded the team's community service efforts with the Ronald McDonald house and Providence Waterfire.
Harrington embodies what it means to be a student-athlete. She helped elevate the cheerleading team to national prominence with a top-five finish at last year's National Collegiate Cheer Championships. Away from the mat, she's helped out with numerous community service projects, including Save the Bay and the Ronald McDonald House in addition to assisting with JWU's accepted student days as well as Homecoming & Family Weekend. Majoring in sports, entertainment & event management with a 3.33 GPA, coach Cassie Dib said "When I think of loyalty, effort, and enthusiasm on top of contribution to their academics, their team, and their community, I immediately think of Tiffani Harrington."
Medici has been there not only for his teammates, but also the Rhode Island community. He has been interning at South County Hospital and since the COVID-19 outbreak has been assisting doctors in the testing tent outside the hospital. On the court, Medici has been a valuable back row defender for the men's volleyball team, playing in 66 matches with 1.29 digs per set. Majoring in biology he carries a 3.36 gpa and has been highly involved in the team's work with Special Olympics. Head coach Scott Reslow said "Nobody worked harder and with more enthusiasm than Pete."
The scholar-athlete award winner is given to the senior female and male student-athletes who have the highest cumulative GPA. Women's ice hockey senior Taylor Davis has a 4.00 GPA in liberal studies and is currently pursuing her MBA. It was a hockey sweep as on the men's side Joe Noonan has a 3.88 GPA in liberal studies.
The 2020 Female Athlete of the Year was Kate Walker from the women's volleyball team. A Second-Team All-American – the third honor of her career – she was the ACA New England Region Player of the Year and a First-Team All-GNAC selection. The team's all-time leader in hitting percentage, she's been in the NCAA top three for hitting percentage the last three seasons. Walker is the sixth player in school history with 1,000 kills and set the career record with 234 blocking assists. As a sophomore, she became the school's first CoSIDA Academic All-American and repeated the feat two more times.
The winner of the 2020 Male Athlete of the Year went to wrestler Michael DiNardo. A three-time NCAA qualifier, DiNardo earned All-America honors this year after winning the NCAA Northeast Regional at 285 pounds. He earned the NEWA Most Dominant award as well as the Gorriaran award at the NCAA regional for the most pins in the shortest amount of time. After a 44-6 record this year, DiNardo finished his career second in school history with 151 victories and 75 pins.
The 2020 Female Rookie of the Year is Emily Hill from women's tennis. Hill was named GNAC Rookie of the Year after earning GNAC Rookie of the Week six times. She posted an 11-2 singles record with a 12-1 doubles mark.
This year there was a tie for Male Rookie of the Year between wrestler Hayden Brown and Nico Ciolino from men's golf. Brown won the NCAA Northeast regional title at 133 pounds, was a First-Team All-American, NEWA Rookie of the Year as well as a member of the National All-Freshman team. Ciolino was the GNAC Rookie of the Year, earned All-GNAC honors by finishing third at the conference championship and was on the Ping All-Region team.