Student-Athletes Honored at 2019 Awards Celebration

2019 Laurie Priest Alumnae Association Scholar Athlete recipient, senior field hockey captain Mirjam Keochakian (center), with head coach Andy Whitcomb (left) and Jen Grow '94, from the MHC Alumnae Association (right).

Scholar-Athlete Reception / Year-End Celebration Highlight Video / Celebration 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 honored Athletes of the Year in each class, Department Lyon of the Year, Coach of the Year, the All-Lyons Team and several other awards.

Among the awards handed out was the 2019 Laurie Priest Alumnae Association Scholar Athlete Award, presented by Jen Grow '94, a former rower at MHC and current editor of the Alumane Quarterly for the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association.

This year's Laurie Priest Alumnae Association Scholar Athlete Award was presented to Mirjam Keochakian, a senior midfielder and captain on the field hockey team. A native of Hamburg, Germany, Keochakian played a critical role in helping 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 during her tenure. 

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

  • Mount Holyoke Leadership Award
  • National Science Foundation Grant for summer research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Center for Injury Research and Prevention (Summer 2018)
  • Presented Bicycle Injury Research Project at Senior Symposium on April 12, 2019
  • Under consideration for Minnie Ryan Dwight Prize for excellence in journalistic writing
  • Laboratory Teaching Assistant for Biology 230 (Fall 2017): supported ~20 students during lab and assisted in completing laboratory assignments
  • Biology Peer Tutor (Spring 2015-present)
  • Research Assistant for Patricia Brennan (Biology Professor) during Summer 2017
  • Organized a book drive for the Kisseman Foundation for Children (after school program that I volunteered at while abroad in Ghana) during Fall 2018
  • While abroad in Ghana: Volunteer field hockey coach for ~20 teenage players
  • 3x NEWMAC Academic All-Conference
  • 4x NFHCA National Academic Squad

During the 2018 season, Keochakian started all 18 games while recording three goals and one assist for seven points. She posted 41 shots, including 21 on goal for a .512 shot on goal average. She also boasted a team-high five defensive saves and was a NEWMAC Defensive Athlete of the Week honoree. Keochakian earned her second NEWMAC All-Conference honor and was named to the All-New England East Region team as well.

The former Deerfield Academy standout finished her Mount Holyoke career having played in 75 contests, including 74 as a starter. She amassed 18 goals with 19 assists for 55 points. She also notched 159 shots, 97 on goal, while adding four game-winning tallies. Keochakian also made nine defensive saves in her career while going 5-6 on penalty stroke opportunities. Among the team's record holders, she ranks 10th all-time in career assists and is 19th in all-time career points.

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 squash standout Mihiliya Kalahe Arachchige (Panadura, Sri Lanka/Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya Colombo 7). Kalahe Arachchige lost just one match during the regular season and finished the season with an overall mark of 23-2. Her only regular season loss came against the then-#1 team in the nation at the time, Trinity College. She advanced deep into the Holleran North Championship at the College Squash Association Championship, losing a very close match in the Final. Mihiliya was just one win away from earning Second Team All-American honors and finished with a final ranking of #22 – which is the best individual ranking for any Mount Holyoke player in program history. She contributed to the improvement of all her teammates by demonstrating a competitive fire on the court and by displaying her remarkable shot making ability in matches and at practice.  She also defended her Sri Lankan National Title during the winter break, returning to MHC to make the January matches.

Sophomore of the Year honors, presented to a second-year student-athlete who has significantly impacted their program, went to hunt seat rider, Sara Hearn (Tallahassee, Fla. / Leon) . showed poise and the drive to win and help her team throughout the season.  She can always be counted on for her flat and over fences riding. Sara participated in a number of shows throughout the year, including the Tournament of Championships, several regular season shows, Regionals and the Zone 1 Championships. She placed third or better in all 17 events she competed, including 12 first-place finishes. Named the Overall High Point Rider twice during the season and the Reserve High Point Rider once, she qualified individually for Intermediate Over Fences at this year's IHSA National Championships. Hearn was the Rookie of the Year recipient in 2017-18.

Diver and captain Samantha Nemivant (Scottsdale, Ariz./Notre Dame Prep) was named the Junior of the Year, given to a junior student-athlete who has significantly impacted their program. Nemivant placed no lower than 2nd place in dual meet competition this year, achieving 13 first place finishes and 3 second place finishes.  She placed 2nd on the 1-Meter and 1st on the 3-Meter at the Hamilton Invitational.  She won both boards at Seven Sisters. At NEWMAC she placed 6th on both 1 Meter and 3 Meter. For the third year in a row, Nemivant qualified for the NCAA Regional Meet and finished 12th on 3 Meter and 11th on 1 meter. She was the NEWMAC Diver of the Week twice - once in January and once in February. She also holds two college records, including the 1-meter record, which she reset this year. Nemivant was the Sophomore of the Year recipient in 2017-18.

Senior of the Year, presented to a senior student-athlete who has made a significant impact on their team, went to senior lacrosse player, Deyscha Smith (Boston, Mass./Academy of the Pacific Rim) who is one of the team's most improved players over her four years and most obviously in her senior season as she has set career-best numbers in nearly every category.  She went from scoring a goal and an assist in her entire first two years, to scoring over 50 goals and 20 assists (and counting) in her final two years.  Her coach notes that she is "quick, explosive, energetic, and a firecracker on the field.  She can fake out any goalie and has the highest shooting percentage of our leading scorers."  Smith has also done impressive things off the field as a member of the Athletic Communications Office were she served as the 2018-19 coordinator of the Lyons Tribune.

The Coach of the Year Award, was presented to head squash coach Erin Robson.  Nominated by a number of colleagues, Erin guided her squad to a 16-9 overall record. The Lyons finished ranked #22nd in the nation and earned the CSA's Most Improved Team Award for moving up six rankings from the previous year – more than any other squad in the country. MHC Had two student-athletes compete at the CSA Individual Nationals, including one who finished as the national runner-up for the Holleran Cup North Division. The team won its third straight and 11th overall Seven Sisters Championship title. Colleagues noted that "not only did her team improve in a big way, but it proved to be one of the most successful seasons in program history." 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 Amie Canfield, the Associate Director of Athletics, Communications. Nominated by multiple colleagues within the department, her co-workers say that Amie continues to put out quality programs and news stories every week, on top of adding in new features to help highlight our student-athletes. She has continually nominated our student-athletes for NEWMAC awards and as well as covering events accurately and coordinating scheduling seamlessly. She does many big and small things that allow us to highlight all programs within the 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.

Honorees from the 2018-19 All-Lyons Team, awarded on April 28, 2019.

A total of 40 Lyons took home Senior Athlete Awards. They each participated in their sport for at least three years, including their senior year.

2018-19 Team Award Winners

All photos courtesy of RJB Sports Photography.