NEC Announces 2019 Fall Scholar-Athletes, Academic Honor Roll & Commissioner’s Honor Roll - Northeast Conference Skip To Main Content


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The Official Site of the Northeast Conference


NEC Announces 2019 Fall Scholar-Athletes, Academic Honor Roll & Commissioner’s Honor Roll


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Somerset, NJ -- The Northeast Conference (NEC) today honored an elite group of student-athletes with the announcement of its 2019 Fall Scholar-Athlete award winners.

Among those honored were a pair of CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, an All-American, an NEC individual champion, an NEC Player of the Year, two NEC Defensive Player of the Year winners and a student-athlete with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

All scholar-athlete award winners must have earned a minimum of 60 semester hours at their institution, maintained a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.20 and participated with distinction as a member of a varsity team.

Along with the scholar-athletes, the NEC announced its Fall Academic Honor Roll, consisting of a record 1,108 student-athletes with a 3.20 or better grade point average. There were also a record 391 student-athletes named to the Commissioner’s Honor Roll with a 3.75 or better grade point average.

Wagner senior Jonathan Besselink (Kingston, Ontario/Holy Cross Catholic Secondary) repeated as the men’s cross country scholar-athlete award winner. In sparking the Seahawks to their first-ever NEC title, Besselink secured his second straight fifth place finish at the conference championship meet, clocking in at 25:46. The two-time All-NEC honoree went on to a top-50 showing at the NCAA Northeast Regional with a time of 29:53. Besselink, who hails from Kingston, Ontario, ended his cross country career as a four-time member of the NEC Academic and Commissioner’s Honor Roll. He has recorded a 3.92 grade point average while majoring in Business Administration.


Central Connecticut junior Angie Rafter (Danielson, CT/Killingly) is now a back-to-back winner of the women’s cross country scholar-athlete award. Rafter repeated as the NEC individual champion and NEC Outstanding Performer as the Blue Devils claimed their second straight NEC team title this past October. She won in dominating fashion, crossing the tape in 17:28.5, nearly 20 seconds ahead of the field. In doing so, Rafter became just the eighth two-time champion in league history. The three-time All-NEC honoree wrapped her season with a 71st place finish at the NCAA Northeast Regional. Rafter has now earned a spot on the NEC Academic and Commissioner’s Honor Roll in each of her first three years. The Danielson, CT native and English major posted a 4.0 grade point average in the fall to raise her cumulative GPA to 3.95. 


Sacred Heart senior defender Bridget Kelly (South Windsor, CT/South Windsor) is this year’s field hockey scholar-athlete. Kelly was named to the All-NEC first team after leading the nation with 15 defensive saves, six more than any other player. She was also voted to the NFHCA All-Mideast Region second team. Kelly played a pivotal role on a SHU defense that conceded just eight goals in NEC play as the Pioneers advanced to the conference semifinals. A South Windsor, CT native, Kelly majors in Exercise Science and has compiled a 3.77 grade point average. She is a member of both the NEC Academic and Commissioner’s Honor Roll.


Duquesne junior safety Spencer DeMedal (New Wilmington, PA/Wilmington Area) took home football scholar-athlete plaudits.  DeMedal became the first Duquesne player since Sam Martello in 2015 to collect CoSIDA Academic All-America honors and the first named to the first team since Mike Hilliard in 2003. He was also a finalist for the STATS FCS Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete award. A two-year starter for the Dukes, DeMedal ranked second on the squad with 62 tackles in 2019, and added an interception and two pass breakups. Over the last two seasons, those numbers balloon to 123 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, a pair of picks and ten breakups. Out of New Wilmington, PA, DeMedal is now a three-time selection to the NEC Academic & Commissioner’s Honor Roll. He majors in Biology and maintains a 3.96 grade point average.


Merrimack senior defender Mirko Nufi (Crema, Italy/Luca Pacioli) was the co-recipient of the men’s soccer scholar-athlete honor. Anchoring the league’s stingiest back line, Nufi was named the NEC Defensive Player of the Year as the Warriors captured the NEC regular season crown in their first year in the conference. Merrimack posted a perfect 9-0 mark against NEC rivals, allowing just two goals in the process. Nufi also served as the team’s PK specialist, converting all four of his opportunities, including three game-winners. The Crema, Italy native was also named to the USC All-Northeast Region team, and also earned USC Scholar All-American and All-Region honors. An Exercise Science major with a 3.81 grade point average, Nufi landed spots on the NEC Academic and Commissioner’s Honor Roll lists.


Saint Francis U junior striker Lucas Rosa (Atibaia, Brazil/COC Atibaia) shared men’s soccer scholar-athlete accolades. Rosa comes off a stellar season that saw him earn both NEC Player of the Year and College Soccer News All-America honors among a long list of accomplishments. He paced the circuit with 11 goals, 24 points and six game-winners, and tallied eight goals and 18 points during conference play to spark the Red Flash to a 7-2 mark against league rivals. Rosa, who hails from Atibaia, Brazil, also earned first team All-Northeast Region plaudits, and was named to USC Scholar All-America and All-Region teams. The Accounting major is now a three-time selection to the NEC Academic and Commissioner Honor Roll lists. Rosa has compiled a 3.84 GPA over his three years in Loretto.


CCSU junior defender Erica Bardes (Montvale, NJ/Pascack Hills) was the co-winner of the women’s soccer scholar-athlete accolade. Part of a star-studded defensive unit, Bardes helped the Blue Devils repeat as NEC champion after capturing the league’s regular season title with an 8-1-1 mark. CCSU recorded seven shutouts on the year, none bigger than the Blue Devils’ 1-0 win over Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with Bardes scoring the lone goal in the match in the 89th minute. For the season, she scored five goals, led the circuit with eight assists and ranked third in the conference with 18 points. The Montvale, NJ product earned first team All-NEC recognition, and was named to the USC All-North Region and USC Scholar All-East Region teams. Bardes is a history major who maintains a 3.94 grade point average. She is a three-time member of both the NEC Academic and Commissioner’s Honor Roll.


Fairleigh Dickinson senior goalkeeper Amanda Fitzgerald (Holbrook, NY/Sachem East) was recognized as the women’s soccer co-scholar athlete. Fitzgerald was named the NEC Co-Goalkeeper of the Year after a stellar season between the pipes for the Knights, who went 7-0-3 in the regular season and reached the NEC title match. The three-time All-NEC honoree led the league in save percentage (.860), ranked second in GAA (0.76) and posted eight shutouts. She wrapped her career with 29 wins and will graduate as the all-time program leader in saves (396), save percentage (.784) and shutouts (19). Fitzgerald, a Business Administration major who has appeared on the NEC Academic & Commissioner’s Honor Roll in each of her four years, carries a 3.91 grade point average.


Robert Morris junior setter Whitney Brown (Pittsburgh, PA/Avonworth) claimed scholar-athlete honors in women’s volleyball. Brown was voted to the All-NEC second team for her role in helping lead the Colonials to the NEC regular season championship and a 25-5 overall record on the year. She paced the conference with 10.06 assists per set, and also pitched in with 2.40 digs and 0.68 blocks per set, while recording a team-best 11 double-doubles. Brown enters her senior year ranked eighth on the RMU career list with 1,879 assists. A perfect 4.0 student, the Pittsburgh, PA native became the third female student-athlete in school history to be named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America team this past fall. Brown, a Biology major, has earned herself a spot on the NEC Academic and Commissioner’s Honor Roll in all three of her seasons in Moon Township.

2019 Northeast Conference Fall Scholar-Athletes, Presented by Certified FInancial Services
Sport                  Name                 School                  Cl    GPA    Major

Men’s Cross Country    Jonathan Besselink   Wagner                  Sr    3.92   Business Administration
Women’s Cross Country  Angie Rafter         Central Connecticut     Jr    3.95   English

Field Hockey           Bridget Kelly        Sacred Heart            Sr    3.77   Exercise Science
Football               Spencer DeMedal      Duquesne                Jr    3.96   Biology
Men’s Soccer           Mirko Nufi           Merrimack               Sr    3.81   Exercise Science
                       Lucas Rosa           Saint Francis U         Jr    3.84   Accounting
Women’s Soccer         Erica Bardes         Central Connecticut     Jr    3.94   History
                       Amanda Fitzgerald    Fairleigh Dickinson     Sr    3.91   Business Administration
Women’s Volleyball     Whitney Brown        Robert Morris           Jr    4.00   Biology 

About The Northeast Conference
Now in its 39th year, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 11 institutions of higher learning located throughout seven states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to a number of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Boston (#9), Pittsburgh (#24), Baltimore (#26), Hartford/New Haven (#33) and Providence (#53).  Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 23 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic access to 16 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU, Merrimack, 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 ( and digital network (, or follow the league on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, all @NECsports.