Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FOV Cavalier of the Year, #9/#10

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide: that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight.

Over the next two weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. Last year's winner was Danny Hultzen; today's athletes are Sarah Tacke and Robby Andrews.

Sarah Tacke - Softball - Right field

Team accomplishments:

- First-ever selection to NCAA Tournament
- School-record 13 victories

Personal accomplishments:

- NFCA first-team All-Region
- Team BA and RBI leader
- ACC Player of the Week for 9-15 March
- Second-team all-ACC

Of the tremendous team accomplishments - conference and national championships, #1 rankings, Final Fours, and the like - achieved by UVA athletic squads this year, being a lowly regional third seed seems small in comparison. But by making the tournament for the first time ever, the softball team gave UVA a distinction: All 25 sports currently sponsored by UVA have now received bids to their respective NCAA national championships at some point in their history.

Helping to captain the team to their highest point of achievement ever is Sarah Tacke, the best hitter on the team by a long margin. Top fielder, too: Tacke had more assists and putouts with no errors than any ACC outfielder. Her batting and slugging averages were good enough for 4th and 3rd in the ACC, respectively. Tacke has been the team's leading batter for two years running and leading slugger for three; captaining the team to its first-ever NCAA tournament is a terrific cap to a terrific career and well worth a COTY nomination.

Robby Andrews - Men's track and field - Middle distance

Team accomplishments:

- 9th-place finish in Program of the Year Award

Personal accomplishments:

- Indoor 800 meter national champion
- Outdoor 800 meter runner-up
- Anchored UVA's first Penn Relays championship relay (4x800m) since 1943
- ACC's Indoor and Outdoor Performer and Freshman of the Year
- NCAA Outdoor All-American (800m)

It's impressive enough to be the ACC's undisputed top track athlete and sweep the ACC's indoor and outdoor awards for Performer and Freshman of the Year. So would a national championship be sufficient icing on the cake? The man he beat - by one-hundredth of a second - is no slowpoke: Oregon's Andrew Wheating, the second-place finisher, spent his summer of 2008 in Beijing, running in a little competition they hold every so often called the Olympics.

Andrews surprised the field there; after again topping Wheating to bring home UVA's Penn Relays (about as prestigious a track event as you'll ever see) 4x800 title, he won't be a surprise any more. Track & field coach Jason Vigilante is one of UVA's bright young coaches, and like swim coach Mark Bernardino, he's elevated UVA's track program to top-ten status in the country. Andrews is perhaps his brightest star and has UVA on (forgive plz) the right track.

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