By Mike Deak
WINONA LAKE – A new set of awards were announced recently by Grace’s athletic department.
The Lancers released the first-ever Grace Athletic Leadership Awards (GALA). The awards were revealed in a series of social media videos over the past two weeks.
Grace’s Student Athlete Council, comprised of a panel of 21, voted for a majority of the award winners. An end-of-the-year banquet was originally planned to highlight the GALA ceremony for all student-athletes, but the event was canceled due to COVID-19. The first banquet will be planned for spring 2021.
A list of all the 2019-20 GALA winners is below:
Coach of the Year
Nominees: Denny Duncan (women’s golf); Scott Moore (men’s basketball); Jake Poyner (cross country)
The winner: Scott Moore – Moore led Grace to a 19-win season in his first year as head coach and an appearance at the NAIA National Championships. He was voted the Crossroads League Coach of the Year.
Best Athletic Career
Nominees (men): Charlie Warner (men’s basketball); Tommy Hickerson (men’s track)
The winner: Charlie Warner – The senior hoopster dropped 16.6 points a game and helped bring Grace back into the national conversation. Warner scored over 17 points a night as a junior, and more impressive, has been among the top scholar athletes in the country with a multitude of academic honors.
Nominees (women): Vironnica Drake (women’s basketball); Alexa Hill (volleyball)
The winner: Vironnica Drake – Another superstar basketball senior for Grace, Drake finished as the all-time leading women’s scorer in program history. Her 1,981 career points surely would have eclipsed 2K with the NCCAA tournament that Grace was set to have hosted. Drake also broke the single-game scoring record with 46 points against Bethel in 2019.
Best Dressed Team
Nominees: Men’s Soccer, Women’s Golf, Women’s Tennis
The winner: Men’s Soccer – Following in suit with their suave head coach, Arron Patrick, the men’s soccer team often dressed to impress on road trips as well as on campus.
Lancer Award for School Spirit
Nominees: Men’s Soccer, Volleyball, Men’s Basketball
The winner: Men’s Soccer – Not much can be argued for an international fundraiser that brought both money and awareness for area COVID-19 relief. The soccer program’s exposure became international as it raised over $20,000 for COVID-19 relief this spring as it ran 24 hours a day in relay fashion, getting several other Lancer programs involved as well as members of the greater Warsaw community.
Best Game Face
Nominees: Gabbey Harrington (volleyball), Sacia Hanson (women’s soccer)
The winner: Gabbey Harrington – Harrington was one of the emotional leaders of the Grace volleyball program. Her energy motored her to second on the team in kills (201) and helping the team to four straight wins in the Crossroads League as well as a later upset of St. Francis during the league tournament.
Story of the Year
Nominees: Cross Country, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Golf
The winner: Men’s Soccer – with all due respect to an NCCAA Championship by the women’s golf program and a huge fall by both cross country programs, men’s soccer took the cake. The Lancers had a big season that ended in heartbreak, but took the torch as the spirit of the campus with its COVID-19 fundraiser.
Glenn C. Messner Award
Nominees: Kyle Smith (men’s soccer/track), Martin Schiele (men’s basketball/track)
The winner: Kyle Smith – Smith helped Grace’s soccer defense to an impressive 1.5 goals against per game average, more impressive considering the fast pace the team employed throughout the season. Smith made 15 appearances as a sophomore and nine starts.
Yvonne Messner Award
Nominees: Alexa Hill (volleyball), Brooke Treadway (women’s basketball), Cassidy Wasson (women’s soccer), Sydney Abbott (women’s golf), Suzanne Sickafoose (cross country/track)
The winner: Alexa Hill – Hill represents the only person to win the Susan Hellings Award twice, exemplifying character on top of volleyball skill. And skill Hill had, finishing with over 4.500 assists for her career on top of a mountain of conference and national regards.
Nominees (men): Charlie Warner (men’s basketball), Henry Cerruti (men’s soccer), Houston Haney (baseball), William Shafer (track)
The winner: Charlie Warner – Warner picks up his second award, representing the award named for his former coach in Jim Kessler, who retired from coaching Grace in 2019.
Nominees (women): Corinne Villalobos (women’s soccer), Deb Michalski (volleyball), Anna Marshall (women’s golf), Kyannah Stull (women’s basketball), Olivia Scarbrough (softball)
The winner: Anna Marshall – The senior rock for the NCCAA National Champions was among the top five for the program this season. She posted a three-day score of 256, including an 85 that was used to score the team’s day three score of 331, helping the team stay two strokes clear of Erskine for the title.
Male Athlete of the Year
Nominees: Haden Deaton (basketball), Isaac Brown (track), Marcelo Talamas (soccer)
The winner: Marcelo Talamas – Talamas was head and shoulders the top scorer for the Lancers with 15 goals, but was also tied for lead in the Crossroads League with eight goals. Talamas tallied both goals in an emotional 2-0 win over Goshen, part of a three-game stretch where he was the team’s only scorer (five goals). The junior has potted 25 goals in his three years with the Lancers.
Female Athlete of the Year
Nominees: Lyne Camara (track), JJ Aalbue (soccer), Vironnica Drake (basketball)
The winner: JJ Aalbue – Aalbue joined her sister, Liz, on the Lancers and immediately became one of the top players in the country. The freshman led the nationally-ranked side in goals (17) and assists (18) and potted six game-winning goals in the process. Aalbue had back-to-back hat tricks in wins over Indiana Tech and Cleary and then netted the only goal in a national tournament win over Benedictine.
GALA Champions of Character
Nominees: David Anderson (baseball), Rachel Montgomery (women’s basketball), Charlie Warner (men’s basketball), Jacob Abrahamson (men’s golf), Olivia Shaw (women’s golf), Jayna Armstrong (women’s tennis), Pavle Popovic (men’s tennis), Tyler Brueckman (men’s soccer), Sacia Hanson (women’s soccer), Kaitlyn Heffner (softball), Deb Michalski (volleyball), Jessica Zvers (cross country), Tommy Hickerson (men’s track and field), Alexis Williams (women’s track and field)
The winner: Sacia Hanson – The combo midfielder/forward for the Lady Lancer soccer program was one of the emotional leaders for a team that made the NAIA national tournament. The highly-ranked team saw Hanson, a junior, record a goal and assist against Indiana Tech then offer two helpers in a 2-0 win at Goshen. Her best effort may have come in the opening round of the NAIA tournament, posting two assists in a 5-3 win against Friends of Kansas.
GALA Servant Leaders
The winners: Ethan Brooks (baseball). Melissa Goss (women’s basketball), David Holden (men’s basketball), Kami DeJean (cheer), Noah Wright (men’s golf), Olivia Shaw (women’s golf), Jayna Armstrong (women’s tennis), Pavle Popovic (men’s tennis), Korry Hamlin (men’s soccer), Liz Aalbue (women’s soccer), Hannah Harless (softball), Deb Michalski (volleyball), Jessica Zvers (cross country), Drew Jones (cross country), William Shafer (track and field), Alexis Williams (track and field)