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Northeast Conference Announces 2015-16 Scholar-Athletes of the Year

6/27/2016


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Somerset, NJ -- In a record-breaking year in the classroom for Northeast Conference (NEC) student-athletes, five graduating seniors stood out in their relentless pursuit of academic perfection.

Bryant distance runner Brittany Sarza (Uxbridge, MA/Mount Saint Charles), St. Francis Brooklyn tennis player Dragana Dzigurski (Novi Becej, Serbia/Srednja Skolas Novi Becej), Mount St. Mary’s swimmer Haley Fournier (Ave Maria, FL/Palmetto Ridge) and Saint Francis U bowler Sarah Ross (Crescent, PA/Moon Area) all achieved perfect 4.0 grade point averages to share the 2015-16 NEC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. Saint Francis U tennis player Washi Gervais (Longueuil, Quebec/College Stanislas) compiled a near-perfect 3.99 GPA en-route to earning 2015-16 NEC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors.

For each of the past ten years, the NEC and its Faculty Athletic Representatives have bestowed the honor upon the male and female student-athletes who have exhausted their athletic eligibility, graduated and compiled the highest grade point average in the Conference at the conclusion of the academic calendar.  

“Congratulations to our Scholar-Athlete of the Year winners on their amazing accomplishments in the classroom,” said Noreen Morris, NEC Commissioner. “It takes an incredible amount of dedication and commitment to achieve a 4.0 or near 4.0 grade point average while competing at a high level. On behalf of the NEC Council of Presidents, we thank these five student-athletes for setting the bar so high and for representing the NEC with pride and dignity. I’m certain their tremendous success in college will now translate to their post graduation careers.”

Sarza, an Actuarial Mathematics major who minored in Business Administration and Finance, was a 12-time member of the NEC Academic and Commissioner’s Honor Roll. She was tabbed to the Bryant Dean’s List eight times and to the President’s list on seven occasions. Sarza was a member of the Honors Program and was a Master Peer Tutor during her time at Bryant.

A member of the Actuarial Association, she completed two actuarial internships during the summer of her sophomore and junior years with Voya Financial and Phoenix Life Insurance Company, respectively. Sarza is currently employed as an Actuarial Analyst at Lincoln Financial Group in Hartford.

Sarza finished 33rd at the NEC Cross Country Championship last fall and took ninth in the 1,500 meters at the NEC Outdoor Track and Field Championship this past spring.

“We are very proud of Brittany for being awarded this honor,” said Mitch Switzer, Bryant cross country and track & field coach. “She is a shining example of a true student-athlete who was able to achieve success on the track and in the classroom. For all four years, Brittany balanced the demands of an honors student with the demands of being a Division I athlete, all while holding a 4.0 GPA. She made the most of her four years here at Bryant and is sure to be successful in the next chapter of her life.”

A Communications major who minored in Spanish, Dzigurski recently became the first female athlete to be honored as valedictorian in the long history of St. Francis Brooklyn.

Dzigurski worked as a Peer Counselor for Career Development and for Student Activities while at St. Francis Brooklyn. She was also a member of the prestigious SFC Dunn Scotus Honor Society, Communications Honor Society Lambda Pi Eta, the International Students Club and the school choir.

The Serbian native originally learned English as a child while watching cartoons in her native country. Dzigurski plans to attend graduate school for Spanish, a language she fell in love with while studying abroad in Segovia, Spain and one of five languages she speaks. She aspires to be a translator at the United Nations.

Dzigurski was a mainstay for the tennis team, a four-year starter who competed at #4 singles in her senior year for the Terriers.

“I’m very proud of Dragana for being honored by the Northeast Conference,” said St. Francis Brooklyn women’s tennis head coach Alicia Browne. “Dragana is a true testament of hard work, commitment and determination. She has grown significantly over the past two years, and I hope she will continue to do so and take with her the importance of being fully present and giving back.”

Fournier graduated Summa Cum Laude majoring in Elementary Special Education with certification in both Special Education and Elementary Education. She distinguished herself by being named to the NEC Academic Honor Roll and Commissioner’s Honor Roll in each of her four years at Mount St. Mary’s, while being named to the Mount Dean’s List every semester. She was tabbed the NEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year in women’s swimming and diving this past winter.

Fournier received the Monsignor John L. Sheridan Award for being the college student who, through athletic and academic achievement, exemplified the spirit and dedication demanded by intercollegiate athletics, and who, through such activity fostered the ideals of Monsignor John L. Sheridan and Mount St. Mary’s University. She also earned the Gerald C. Orosz Memorial Prize for being the member of the senior class with the highest scholastic average in Education.

A member of the Pi Lambda Theta honor society, Fournier also volunteered in Best Buds and Special Olympics.

Fournier excelled in the pool, finishing second in the 1,650 freestyle at the 2016 NEC Swimming & Diving Championships. She broke Mount program records this past winter in the 400-meter (4:26.02) and 800-meter (9:04.91) freestyle, and was a member of the 400-meter freestyle relay squad that established a new school mark (4:02.72). Fournier ended her 2015-16 campaign with five individual race victories.

This August, Fournier will start her teaching career at Mason Classical Academy in Naples, Florida and will be the ESE (Exceptional Student Education) Specialist for grades K-6 at the school.

Ross, a Management major at Saint Francis U, earned a spot on the NEC Academic Honor Roll and NEC Commissioner’s Honor Roll all four of her years in Loretto.

Ross attended the NCAA Center in Sports Forum in June. She was elected into the Saint Francis SAAC Hall of Fame this past spring and was a member of the Flash Focus Leadership group.

Ross was voted to the All-NEC second team at year’s end and was named the NEC Bowler of the Week on November after she recorded the highest overall frame average (20.16) at the first NEC regular season meet. On the year, she posted a traditional average of 191.5 and 19.42 frame average.

“Sarah had an exceptional collegiate academic career along with being a critical part of our squad for four years,” said Saint Francis U women’s bowling head coach Tom Falbo. “Our university community and our Red Flash bowling team are fortunate to have seen so many bars set by her during her time with us. Her accomplishments in the classroom and tireless dedication to our team epitomize the definition of student-athlete.”

A Political Science and International Studies (Pre-Law concentration) major and Philosophy minor, Gervais comes off a stellar senior campaign on and off the court. He was named the NEC Men’s Tennis Player of the Year as well as the NEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the sport. The Quebec native earned distinction by being named to the SFU Dean’s List every semester, and the NEC Academic Honor Roll and NEC Commissioner’s Honor Roll in each of his four years. Gervais also claimed the Benham Scholar-Athlete Award and earned CoSIDA Academic All-District recognition this past spring.

He was a member of the SFU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee the last two years and served as the Vice President of the Pre-Law Club in 2014. Gervais interned with “Bill Shuster for Congress” in the spring of 2014.

Gervais earned a host of off-the-court honors, including the Political Science Fellowship Award (2016), the Political Science Department Award (2015), the Philosophy Department Award (2015) and the Margaret M. Tobin Award for Outstanding Library Research Award (2015). He was also a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society and the Saint Francis University Honor Society.

Gervais took his game to the next level this past spring, earning NEC Player of the Year honors after posting the highest win percentage in the league among #1 flight players and third overall in the conference with a 15-6 mark. He won all four of his league matches, and helped lead the Red Flash to their first-ever NEC Tournament final. Gervais was tabbed the NEC Player of the Month in February, and would go on to win a pair of NEC Player of the Week honors in the spring. The Quebec native also claimed first team All-NEC doubles honors with teammate Dylan Foo-Kune. Gervais closed out his career with 104 total wins, including 57 in singles play.

Gervais has continued his tennis career playing at the Futures level with plans to move up the professional ladder. Following his active playing career, he plans to attend law school to pursue studies in International Law.

“I could not be more proud of Washi for winning this prestigious award,” said Rob Castille, Saint Francis U men’s tennis coach. “He is the perfect student-athlete to be honored for his achievements on the court as well as in the classroom. The NEC has so many worthy candidates and has been an excellent model for student-athletes excelling in academics. For Washi to win this really speaks volumes about him.”

NEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year History

Year       Men                                        Women
2015-16    Washi Gervais, Saint Francis U             Dragana Dzigurski, St. Francis Brooklyn
                                                      Haley Fournier, Mount St. Mary’s
                                                      Sarah Ross, Saint Francis U
                                                      Brittany Sarza, Bryant
2014-15    David Lonnberg, St. Francis Brooklyn       Katie Fox, St. Francis Brooklyn
2013-14    Travis Denny, Robert Morris                Ellen Huffman, Wagner
2012-13    Mark Quaranta, Mount St. Mary’s            Una Japundza, Robert Morris
                                                      Carly Thibault, Monmouth
2011-12    Michael Foster, Mount St. Mary’s           Evgeniya Tyrtova, Fairleigh Dickinson
2010-11    Sean O’Reilly, Saint Francis U             Ali Kliment, Monmouth
2009-10    Filip Kisdobranski, St. Francis Brooklyn   Maggie O’Connell Dubois, Mount St. Mary’s
2008-09    Benjamin Evenden, Monmouth                 Kathleen Henry, Sacred Heart
                                                      Tara Maxwell, Robert Morris
                                                      Erin Reifsteck, Saint Francis U
2007-08    Ian Butcher, Saint Francis U               Katja Bavendam, St. Francis Brooklyn
2006-07    Moran Stern, St. Francis Brooklyn          Lisa Jaszka, Robert Morris
           Andrija Vrdoljak, St. Francis Brooklyn


About The Northeast Conference
Now wrapping up its 35th year, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 10 institutions of higher learning located throughout six states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to four of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Pittsburgh (#23), Baltimore (#27), and Hartford/New Haven (#30).  Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 22 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic access to 14 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, Mount St. Mary’s, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn, Saint Francis U and Wagner. For more information on the NEC, visit the league’s official website (www.northeastconference.org) and digital network (www.necfrontrow.com), or follow the league on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Google+, all @NECsports.