Friday, June 7, 2013

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.  The full list of nominees 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; 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), Diego Restrepo (2010), and Mike Scott and Morgan Brian (2012); today's athlete's are Joe Harris and Caroline Miller.

Joe Harris - Men's basketball - Forward

Team accomplishments:

-- Reached NIT quarterfinals
-- Wins over VT, Maryland, UNC, and Duke (so basically every team we care about beating, finally all in one season)

Personal accomplishments:

-- First-team all-ACC
-- Coaches' all-ACC team
-- USBWA District III first team
-- NABC District 2 first team
-- VaSID first-team all-state
-- Team scoring leader

This basketball team had a little bit of a leadership gap entering the season with the graduation of Mike Scott.  It didn't take long to fill.  Joe Harris is one of the few remaining members of Tony Bennett's first big recruiting class, but he's proven himself the most accomplished.  In this, his junior year, Harris took the reins of the team, and, during one stretch in February, rattled off a string of career-best scoring performances.  This culminated in a 36-point explosion in a win over Duke, maybe the best individual game by a Hoo in recent memory.

Harris's efforts didn't go unnoticed. Various entities named him among the best basketball players in whatever they defined as a region, and both ACC writers and coaches named him one of the best five players in the conference.  It was no hype-generated selection; Harris didn't get much (if any) of a sniff in preseason all-conference voting, but earned 67 of 73 possible first-place votes by season's end.  He actually picked up his game and his stats in conference play, averaging 18.4 ppg against ACC opponents, more than his total against OOC teams.

Perhaps better yet (though this has little bearing on this year's voting other than that Harris is not even a senior) he's the only member of the ACC first team that will return next year.  It might be tough for Harris to outdo his statistical accomplishments, as they were pretty eye-popping, but with a year of leadership under his belt, it ought to be a great year next season regardless.  Don't get me wrong: Mike Scott was a great player.  But Tony Bennett inherited him.  Harris, though, is the foundation of what we hope is something great at the JPJA.

Caroline Miller - Women's soccer - Forward

Team accomplishments:

-- ACC champions
-- NCAA round of 16

Personal accomplishments:

-- MAC Hermann Trophy finalist
-- NSCAA first team all-American
-- ACC Offensive Player of the Year
-- 1st-team all-ACC
-- ACC All-Tournament team
-- Two-time ACC Player of the Week
-- One-time NSCAA National Player of the Week
-- VaSID State Player of the Year
-- Team and ACC scoring leader
-- UVA's second all-time in scoring
-- UVA's top female athlete of the year

This is tough hardware to top.  Simply put, Caroline Miller was easily the ACC's best offensive player - and one of the elite in the whole country.  The MAC Hermann Trophy is women's soccer's Heisman, and names only three finalists; Miller is UVA's first finalist in history.  Once you're a top-three player in the country and the ACC's best, most of the rest of the accolades fall right into place.

That Miller ends her career as UVA's second-leading scorer all-time is remarkable considering she wasn't even a full-time starter until her junior year.  She simply had an explosion of pointage this year and last, and has parlayed it into a professional career as well.  And then, of course, all this was rewarded by the school itself with a selection as the school's best female athlete of the year.

There's really not much I or anyone can say to top what's listed above.  That's the kind of stuff that should speak for itself; when UVA has one of the best players in the country, you know it.  The team was one of UVA's best and Caroline Miller was even more so.  Definitely, and easily, one of this year's strongest Cavalier of the Year resumes.

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