Thursday, June 7, 2012

FOV Cavalier of the Year: #1/#2

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the 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 the 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.  In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.

Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. 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 to emphasize 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. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athlete's are Josie Owen and Will Bates.

Josie Owen - Women's lacrosse - Attack

Team accomplishments:

-- 17th consecutive NCAA tournament selection
-- ACC semifinals

Personal accomplishments:

-- Tewaaraton Award nominee
-- IWCLA All-American
-- All-ACC team
-- ACC all-tournament team
-- CoSIDA academic all-district

If the goal of this award is to celebrate the kind of high-achievement scholar-athlete that the University of Virginia churns out on a pretty routine basis, we could hardly have picked a better example to start the process with than Josie Owen.  Named a team captain, she led the women's lacrosse team in goals and assists (42 and 35, respectively), shooting percentage (.538), and even draw controls with 46.  Owen was also among the team leaders in ground balls and caused turnovers, despite playing offense and not defense.

Naturally this got her plenty of recognition.  Owen was an easy choice for ACC all-everything; she was second in the ACC in assists and in points per game, the only player to appear in the top eight in both, and you can throw draw controls into her top-eight listings as well.  Quite possibly the most well-rounded star in the conference.  This is the kind of thing that made her one of the 25 players in the country nominated for the Tewaaraton Award - lacrosse's Heisman.

And we wouldn't be UVA if we didn't take pride in accomplishments in the classroom, either; in the fall, Owen was named an IWCLA academic all-American in the fall, and earned all-district academic honors from CoSIDA (the sports information directors' association.)  With her versaility on the field and success in the classroom, Josie Owen might just be the most well-rounded of this year's nominees.

Will Bates - Men's soccer - Forward

Team accomplishments:

-- 31st consecutive NCAA tournament selection (longest active streak in the nation)
-- ACC semifinals (and eliminated Wake Forest for like the fiftieth time in the last five years to get there.  UVA soccer : Wake soccer :: Duke lacrosse : UVA lacrosse.)

Personal accomplishments:

-- Team-high 14 goals
-- First-team all-ACC
-- Second-team NSCAA all-region

Maybe the best measure of a player's value to a team is what happens when he's forced to watch from the sidelines.  Will Bates earned those accolades and scored 14 goals this season despite sitting out the final six games of the Hoos' 21-game season with a year-ending injury.  Without him, UVA lost to Boston College and couldn't muster even a single goal in their final two games.

With him, the UVA soccer team was tough to stop.  At times - if I dare use this word pertaining to soccer - explosive.  Bates scored the game-winning goal in the 84th minute against Maryland, who at the time was #2 in the country and undefeated, and assisted on the other in a 2-1 win.  He was ACC player of the week for that.  His 14 goals were not only team-leading, they were the most in a season by any Hoo since Yannick Reyering also scored 14 in 2005......and this was with less than three-quarters of a season, mind you.  Nobody has scored more than 14 since Alecko Eskandarian was stalking opposing goalies and scoring a whopping 25 in 2002.

There's no doubt at this point that Bates has established himself as the dominant Cavalier soccer player of his time, and when you do that you're an obvious choice for a COTY nomination.  Let's hope next year we get to see him healthy and unimpeded.

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