Student-Athletes Honored at 2018 Awards Celebration

Kaitlin Braz '18 (right) is presented the 2017-18 Laurie Priest Alumnae Association Scholar-Athlete Award by the Executive Director of the MHC Alumnae Association, Nancy Perez (left).

Scholar-Athlete Reception / Year-End Highlight Video / Celebration Photo GalleryScholar-Athlete Photo Gallery

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass.  - The Mount Holyoke College Department of Athletics hosted its annual awards celebration on Tuesday evening in Chapin Auditorium. Individuals from all 14 varsity teams were honored. Athletic Director Lori Hendricks served as the event's emcee. This year's event featured a new look and style to the year-end celebration with the addition of several new awards, including Athletes of the Year in each class, Department Lyon of the Year, Coach of the Year and the All-Lyons Team.

Among the awards handed out was the 2016 Laurie Priest Alumnae Association Scholar Athlete Award. Re-named in honor of MHC's former Athletic Director, who stepped down in 2013 after 24 years, the award was presented by Nancy Perez, the Executive Director of the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association.

This year's Laurie Priest Alumnae Association Scholar Athlete Award was presented to Kaitlin Braz, a senior midfielder on both the field hockey and lacrosse teams. A native of Tolland, Conn., Braz helped the Lyons field hockey team to outstanding success over the past four years. During her career, the Lyons won the program's third NEWMAC Championship title and played in the NCAA Tournament three straight years. The team also played in the NEWMAC Tournament every season, including three straight Semifinal appearances and three consecutive championship games. 

A psychology and education major with a 3.90 cumulative grade point average, Braz has excelled both on and off the field during her career. Below are her significant academic contributions to date.

● Psychology Department Award for Academic Excellence in 2017, Mount Holyoke College 
● Sarah Williston Scholar (top 15 percent of my class sophomore year), Mount Holyoke College 
● 3x recipient The Sandra Klamkin Schocket 1958 Scholarship, Mount Holyoke College 
● 2x recipient Judy Friedman Scholarship, Mount Holyoke College
● 3x Scholar Athlete of Distinction, National Field Hockey Coaches Association
● 4x NFHCA National Academic Squad
● 3x NEWMAC Academic All-Conference in both field hockey and lacrosse
● IWLCA Zag Sports Division III Academic Honor Roll (only for juniors and seniors) 2017
● Nominated for an award at the Mount Holyoke College Celebration of Excellence: Leadership and Service Awards (April 18th, 2018)
● Research Assistant and Lab Manager for Professor John Tawa in the Behavioral Ethnic and Racial Studies Lab, applying to present at the Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation in May 2018. 
● Presented at LEAP Symposium on internship experience as a co-director of the Kids Cooperate program at Holiday Hill Summer Day Camp for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Braz has been a consistent force throughout her playing career on both varsity teams. With field hockey, she recorded 10 career goals and 13 assists for 33 points. She played in all 76 games of her career, including 42 starts, adding two game-winning goals with 113 shots. During the 2017 campaign, she had a breakout year, notching six goals and eight assists for 20 points as a starter in all 18 contest. At season's end, Braz was named to the NEWMAC All-Conference Second Team and the NFHCA All-Region Second Team.

In lacrosse, Braz was as equally fantastic, starting all 62 games of her career. She recorded 58 goals and 20 assists for 78 points, going 11-43 from free position. Braz notched 203 ground balls, becoming just the third player in program history to reach the 200 mark and the first since the NCAA moved to stricter guidelines for the statistic. She now ranks second in program history. Additionally, Braz recorded 99 caused turnovers, which ranks second all-time and had 66 draw controls. The 2018 season saw her post 19 goals and seven assists for 26 points. Her 67 ground balls not only led the team, but currently leads the NEWMAC as well, while her 40 caused turnovers is second among the conference's best.

This year's Rookie of the Year Award, given to an academic first-year student-athlete who has not previously participated at the NCAA level and has had immediate and significant impact on their program, was presented to first year hunt seat rider Sara Hearn (Tallahassee, Fla./Leon). Hearn recorded five first place blue ribbons, while earning top-five in all 17 rides she competed in. She was a key component of the Lyons success at this year's Tournament of Championships, helping the squad earn the series Reserve Champion honors following four very competitive shows. In addition to helping Mount Holyoke to its 10th consecutive Regional title, she also earned first place in fences at the Zone 1 Championships as the Lyons won the event and qualified for their 10th straight IHSA National Championship appearance.

Sophomore of the Year honors, presented to a second-year student-athlete who has significantly impacted their program, went to diver Samantha Nemivant (Scottsdale, Ariz./Notre Dame Prep). Nemivant became the first diver since 2006 to represent Mount Holyoke at the NCAA Division III National Championships. She placed 18th on 1-meter and 20th place finish on 3-meter. At Regionals, Sam powered her way to sixth on the 3-meter and seventh on the 1-meter, while placing ninth and seventh on the same boards at NEWMAC, respectively. Currently the 3-meter 11 dive record holder for the Lyons, she recorded nine first-place finishes combined on the season, while finishing no less than third during the regular season off either board over nine meets.

Field hockey midfielder Mirjam Keochakian (Hamburg, Germany/Deerfield Academy) was named the Junior of the Year, given to a junior student-athlete who has significantly impacted their program, after starting all 18 games for the Lyons with nine goals and nine assists for 27 points – which was second overall. She had three game-winning goals and posted three defensive saves. Highlights of her season included, a hat trick in a 6-1 win against Clark (9/16) and a game-winning tally with two assists in a 5-2 victory against Wheaton (10/14). She was named to the NEWMAC All-Conference First Team, the NFHCA All-Region Second Team and was honored academically by the NEWMAC and the NFHCA.

Senior of the Year, presented to a senior student-athlete who has made a significant impact on their team, went to hunt seat rider and captain, Mollie Kowalchik (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland). Kowalchik was the top rider at nearly every regular season show for 2017-18, recording 27 finishes in the top-five, as well as 12 first-place ribbons. She helped the Lyons earn the Reserve Championship Series honors at the Tournament of Champions and also earn their 10th consecutive Regional Title. Mollie's outstanding efforts helped Mount Holyoke win the Zone 1 Championship and qualify for IHSA Nationals for the 10th straight season. The Zone 1 High Point Rider, she will represent the Lyons for the nation's top riding honor, the Cacchione Cup at Nationals. Both Kowalchik and Hearn will be competing for the Lyons at Nationals, beginning Thursday in Harrisburg, Pa.

The Coach of the Year Award, was presented to head volleyball coach Iris Carpio. Nominated by a number of colleagues, she helped the Lyons post a 10-12 record, snapping a 25-game losing streak in the NEWMAC, while several players were among the conference's-best in a number of categories.  The Lyons also saw the team's first National Academic All-District First Team honoree since 1992. Her colleagues have this to say about her: 'she took the same team that was there last year and brought it to a level it hasn't reached in over a decade,' 'Her upbeat attitude and spunky personality have added great color to our department!' 'She has a great attitude and her team results speaks for the type of coach she is." The Coach of the Year Award is given to a coach and staff who has shown either remarkable improvement or a noteworthy season.

Rounding out the awards was the Department Lyon of the Year, awarded a staff member who works directly with or within the department of athletics and has made significant contributions that academic year. This year's recipient was assistant athletic trainer, Micah Dion. Nominated by multiple colleagues within the department, his co-workers say that his work ethic, personality and affability are second to none. His care for our student-athletes is palpable and goes above and beyond on a daily basis. He has been a collaborative partner and his dedication to Mount Holyoke goes beyond just his "assigned" team, but encompasses the entire department.

Also new for the 2017-18 season was the All-Lyons Team, which is a team comprised of one representative from each team, chosen by the coach/es from that team. It is awarded to that student-athlete who best exemplifies the mission of their team, including but not limited to commitment, sportsmanship, leadership, unselfishness, work ethic and teamwork, while also being an impact player. Below are the representatives chosen for all 14 teams.

A total of 37 Lyons took home Senior Athlete Awards. They each participated in their sport for at least three years, including their senior year.

2017-18 Team Award Winners

All photos courtesy of Derrick Redd, MHC Athletic Communications Department.