Friday, July 24, 2015

FOV Cavalier of the Year #7/#8

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday (a bit late this year) 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. Today's athletes: Denny McCarthy and Tara Vittese.

Denny McCarthy - Men's golf

Team accomplishments:

-- 18th at NCAA championships
-- Winners of Northern Intercollegiate tournament

Personal accomplishments:

-- Qualified for US Open
-- 29th at NCAA championships
-- Member of winning US team at World Amateur Team Championships
-- Honorable mention NCAA all-American
-- PING 3rd-team all-American
-- VaSID 1st-team all-state

Keeping UVA fans interested in golf events thus far has been Steve Marino, a 2002 graduate.  He'll soon be joined - nay, has already been joined - by the recently graduated Denny McCarthy.  McCarthy certainly did reasonably well this year in his collegiate exploits, helping the Hoos outperform their ranking at the NCAAs and finish 18th.  He also was one of the top golfers at the World Amateur Team Championships and helped the US defend the Eisenhower Trophy there.

Not to be outdone by other UVA luminaries in the extra-curriculars, though, McCarthy went out and qualified for the US Open at Chambers Bay.  And while winning the whole thing would've been worthy of a Carl Spackler narration, McCarthy performed admirably, finishing tied for second-highest on the leaderboard among amateurs (by one stroke).  He ended up in the top one-third of the field and made the cut (which several former majors champions did not do), and if you asked what Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie, Bubba Watson, Lee Janzen, Darren Clarke, and Tiger Woods all have in common, it's finishing behind McCarthy at the Open.

I don't know if that last one's still a thing, actually.  Regardless, an impressive major debut.  McCarthy surely has some PGA Tour wins in his future, and fans of UVA and golf can look forward to following him around the tour.

Tara Vittese - Field hockey - Midfield

Team accomplishments:

-- Top seed in ACC tournament

Personal accomplishments:

-- ACC Freshman of the Year
-- NHFCA 1st-team all-American
-- 1st-team all-ACC
-- VaSID state player of the year, rookie of the year
-- Two-time ACC player of the week

Admittedly, UVA's field hockey team is in a relatively rough stretch right now.  Despite being this year's top seed, they still haven't won an ACC tourney game in who knows how long, and missed out on the NCAA's this year.

That said, the ingredients are right there to come screaming back.  Tara Vittese is the youngest of a whole family of UVA field hockey players, and well on her way to being the best of the bunch.  She's the fifth UVA player to take ACC Freshman of the Year honors (and second in a row, hence the bright future for the team), and everyone saw this coming because she's also the first UVA freshman ever to be named a preseason all-American.  She didn't disappoint, keeping the honor in the postseason too.

Vittese also smashed the freshman assist record with 17 (formerly 11), a total not seen in UVA field hockey since 1999 when Carrie Goodloe had 19.  I'd call her one of the top up-and-coming players in the country, but really she's just one of the top players in the country, period.  Being only a freshman, she has a ton of room for growth, which is scary for the rest of the league.

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