GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) is proud to announce its Sportsmanship and Inspirational Award winners for the 2011-12 academic year.
Penn State Abington senior Kimberly Ochester (Philadelphia, Pa.) and College of Saint Elizabeth senior Shannon Tipton (Woodbridge, Va.) were both selected to receive the Sportsmanship Award. Gallaudet University sophomore Lisa van der Mark (Mijnsheerenland, The Netherlands), Penn State Abington freshman Shreya Soni (Philadelphia, Pa.) and SUNY Institute of Technology senior Sarah Couvillon (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) were each selected as Inspirational Award winners.
Kimberly Ochester, a member of the Penn State Abington women’s tennis team, has received the NEAC Sportsmanship Award for the tremendous act of sportsmanship she displayed during a match between Abington and Bryn Athyn College last season. The duel was played on Bryn Athyn campus and would mark the first-ever match for the school as a varsity sport, as the program was entering its first year of competition while sporting a roster mostly made up of underclassmen and players who were new to the game of tennis. This was evident very early on in Kimberly’s singles match, as she took immediate control of the contest and noticed her opponent had very little playing experience. Rather than piling it on and attempting to embarrass her opponent as some athletes may have, though, Kimberly instead decided to do something rare: she began to offer advice and tips to her opponent. Kimberly began sharing some simple safety tips, like how to properly store the tennis balls during a serve when she noticed her opponent leaving one ball on the ground beside her foot directly behind the baseline. Kimberly also quickly abandoned her power game early in the match, instead using her soft second serve to start the point before lobbing the ball back to her opponent shortly into the point to give her a better play on the ball.
Although she went on to easily win the match, Kimberly saw potential in her opponent. So, as is tradition in tennis, Kimberly met her opponent at the net to shake hands at the conclusion of the match, but instead of just saying “good game” and parting ways, Kimberly also asked if she wanted to meet for a bit and go over some tips and pointers. The idea was something that Kimberly had in mind towards the end of the match but was a little hesitant to go through with since she was unsure how her opponent would react, but she quickly realized she had made the right decision when her offer was gladly accepted. The two spoke for about 15 to 20 minutes, where Kimberly gave a variety of tennis etiquette tips that ranged from how the scoring works to which side of the court to start each game on and even how to enter and exit the courts while other matches are in progress. She also advised her to play to her strengths, citing an example from their match to prove her point. She also reminded her to be confident during her matches, reiterating advice that she shared to both her and her partner when they were competing against each other in a doubles match earlier that day.
Kimberly was glad to lend a helping hand to an up-and-coming player, but she sure didn’t do it for the attention. Playing on the courts furthest away from the Bryn Athyn campus, Kimberly didn’t think anyone was close enough to even see them play, let alone take notice of her actions. One person in particular did: Bryn Athyn athletics director Matthew Kennedy, who immediately sent an email to Penn State Abington athletics director Karen Weaver to express his appreciation for Kimberly’s actions.
Helping others is nothing new to Kimberly. Against her family’s wishes, Kimberly originally left Penn State Abington after her freshman year to help care for her father, who had recently been diagnosed with Leukemia. Shortly thereafter, while working with children at the prestigious Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis Center in Philadelphia, Pa., she was approached by a recruiter for CityYear, an AmeriCorps program that runs after-school programs to help tutor, mentor and do in-class support for underprivileged inner city youth. Seeing it as an opportunity to help others, Kimberly naturally decided to join the program, which would become a decision that changed her life forever, as she noted that the experience helped her find her purpose in life while motivating her to go back to school, complete her degree and eventually help serve the community as an aspiring inner city youth program director.
Fast forward to her match against Bryn Athyn, and it’s no wonder Kimberly was so willing to help out a couple of young, developing tennis players. As her head coach, David Sheaffer, noted: “Nobody will probably remember the results of this match 10 years from now, but Kim’s opponent or someone from Bryn Athyn may remember Kim’s act of kindness on that day for the rest of their lives, and that’s what truly makes it important.”
Her performance both on and off the court that day earned her recognition as that week’s NEAC Women’s Tennis Student-Athlete of the Week. The full story from that day can be found here.
Shannon Tipton, who also received the College of Saint Elizabeth (CSE) Sportsmanship Award this past year, was selected as a recipient for the NEAC Sportsmanship Award due to her consistent demonstration of good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in her daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. Shannon does not brag or boast on her success as a member of the women’s swimming & diving team, but rather encourages everyone no matter the level of competitiveness. Shannon’s most vibrant character trait is her willingness to forego personal glory so that others on her team can obtain recognition. She never takes sole responsibility for her success; she always gives credit to her team and to her coach.
During practices, Shannon never cheats on a workout and sees it through completion. She is not afraid to stand up and say something when she feels someone is being dishonest. She takes time separate of practice to help beginner swimmers master their stroke. She has even helped her teammates with their diving.
At meets, Shannon is always by the starting blocks, cheering on her teammates as well as others that she sees who need some encouragement. She makes it a point to cheer for every participant that is competing, which includes not only her teammates but her opponents as well. After every meet, Shannon thanks each of the officials for their time because she recognizes that without them, the student-athletes would not be able to swim.
A specific example of her sportsmanship was noted by the Director of Athletics at Cazenovia College, Rob Kenna. After swimming in the 500 freestyle event, she was cheering on one of the Cazenovia swimmers who just started swimming this year. Shannon even went as far as calling out her name. After the Cazenovia swimmer finished, Shannon gave her a high five.
Shannon has also demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports competition setting, as she is an active member in the CSE community and the surrounding communities at large. Off campus, Shannon has volunteered a large amount of her time to community service. She has provided free babysitting services for families in need and those of the Armed Forces. She volunteers her time at Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” and the “Change a Life Uganda: Quarters for Water” fundraiser. Shannon is also a peer tutor.
On campus, Shannon is actively involved in the Student Government Association, the “Students Take Action” Committee, Class of 2013, the Freshman Advisory Board, the Campus Ministry and the Student Ambassador program. Each of the aforementioned clubs and organizations are voluntary and Shannon has a strong leadership role in each of them. During her time with the “Students Take Action” Committee, Shannon participated in countless events such as Cram the Van, Habitat for Humanity, and a migrant dinner.
Shannon also spends any chance she can in her hometown church as a youth choir member and cantor. She performs many of her original pieces at festivals and competitions up and down the east coast, which have garnered numerous honors and awards.
Even in Shannon’s employment on campus, she has demonstrated good citizenship and made a significant impact in people’s lives. She has been a student aid in the music department, CSE Presents, the Honors Program and admissions office. During her employment with these specific departments, Shannon has interacted with diverse populations, including prospective students. Her kind and caring personality has made departments on campus want to employ Shannon, as many feel she is an excellent role model and a good representation of their department.
Shannon also is a swim instructor and lifeguard. During her time as a swim instructor, she has made an impact on young kids by teaching them how to swim, helping them to face their fears and showing them how to work in a team setting. She has even gone as far as teaching CSE students how to swim during open swim hours. Shannon’s responsibility as a lifeguard, student ambassador and cultural ambassador allow her to make a pleasant experience for all those involved.
Shannon has also excelled in the classroom. She has a 3.87 grade point average and has been on the CSE Dean’s List every semester. She is part of the honors program and has received the Elizabethan Scholarship upon her attendance to Saint Elizabeth, which is one of the intuition’s top scholarships. To honor of all of her hometown volunteering, she also received the Father Bader Service Award.
As a student-athlete attending a Catholic institution, Shannon lives out the mission of the College of Saint Elizabeth through her fairness and respect for others. She cares about her teammates, peers, coaches and staff members at CSE. She is selfless and helps anyone who is in need. She is a leader by example in the water, around campus and in the classroom.
Shannon, who is also a member of the CSE cross country team, recently volunteered at the St. Hubert’s “Walk for You and Your Best Friend” 5K-9 run. To view the full story of that event, click here.
Lisa van der Mark has been selected to receive the NEAC Inspirational Award for her perseverance both in the classroom and the pool at Gallaudet University despite her personal hardships. Lisa, who is deaf and legally blind, suffers from Ushers Syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder that is a leading cause of deaf-blindness due to a mutation of any of 10 genes. This is an incurable disease. Lisa has not allowed her personal setback to stop her from excelling in the classroom and with the Gallaudet women’s swimming team. She was named to the NEAC All-Academic team for the 2011-12 season and helped the Bison women’s swimming team place third overall at the conference championship.
She finished fifth overall in the 400-yard IM at the 2011-12 NEAC Swimming & Diving Championships. She was also a part of several team relays for the Bison this past year. Former head coach Bill Snape calls Lisa a “big contributor to the team in all of the hard events.”
“She just has a lovely attitude and is all about her team and is well-liked among her teammates,” Snape added. “And she is super smart!”
Shreya Soni also receives the NEAC Inspirational Award for her commitment to both her team and her country. Growing up in Philadelphia, Pa., Shreya dreamt about going to college, but right after she graduated from high school in 2006, she knew there was another goal she wanted to achieve, and that was to serve her country. Shreya joined the United States Army Reserve in 2006 for a year before being called to active duty in 2007 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After completing her service with the U.S. Army as a Motor Transpiration Operations, Shreya returned to stateside in 2012 and was determined to pursue her dream of becoming a professional corporate lawyer. Knowing that Penn State Abington was close by and was already an institution at the top of her list, she did not hesitate to apply and was gracefully accepted. From there, she majored in crime, law, & justice, which allowed her to build the skills of reasoning, critical thinking and the awareness of world issues of today’s society as well as the future.
Shreya was looking to stay in top physical shape when she left the military, but when she couldn’t find the motivation to do so on her own, she turned to another opportunity offered by Penn State Abington in addition to academics: athletics. At first, she tried out for the tennis team, but it ultimately didn’t work out for her, as she didn’t enjoy the individualism and wanted an environment that would personally challenge her more. That’s when Shreya heard that the women’s lacrosse team was recruiting, so she met up with then-head women’s lacrosse coach, Deb Andress (who recently stepped down from her post to focus on her family).
Despite the fact that Shreya never played lacrosse, nor had she seen or heard of the sport before, Andress assured her that she would help her become a better player.
“Her confidence in her coaching and her belief in me as an individual at the time, and later as a player, gave me the will to push myself to become not only a better player but a better individual for the team,” Shreya explained.
Andress was looking to fill in various rosters spots on the team at the time, one of which being the team’s goalkeeper. Shreya knew that the team desperately needed a keeper, as they had been practicing for three weeks without one. She finally was determined to take on the challenge and volunteered to be the goalkeeper.
“I was scared at first, but I knew I had a very important role on the field and I did not want to let my team down,” Shreya said. “I enjoyed my time on the field, from gearing up to getting bruises, as long as I saved those shots.”
Her teammates strongly supported her, regardless of what the scoreboard ever read.
“I didn’t expect such strong support from both my team and the coaching staff initially, but I came to appreciate what they had taught me, and whenever I had my down days, my teammates and both of my coaches were always there to motivate me,” Shreya said. “I never expected that I would learn so quickly and so much about lacrosse that it’s one of my favorite sports now.”
Shreya went on to have a strong season for Abington, starting in all 14 Nittany Lion contests and coming up with 108 saves. Her perseverance in the cage earned her four victories, enough to grant Penn State Abington its first opportunity to advance into NEAC postseason play. She was also named to the NEAC All-Conference Third Team, which is voted on and selected by the conference coaches.
“I am thankful to all the coaches who nominated and selected me for this prestigious award,” Shreya exclaimed. “But in reality, my true greatest award was given to me each time, not when my team won a game but rather when we fought back as a team and maintained our positive Lady Lions attitude.”
The Philadelphia native will now pursue her dream of being a corporate lawyer next year, as she will transfer to Penn State University Park campus, where she hopes to continue her passion for the game with the women’s club lacrosse team at the main campus.
The one thing Shreya can attribute to the experience of being a true student-athlete is that the opportunity to play is there for anyone to try.
“My team is my true strength and the confidence that I’ve obtained in being a player, along with the belief from my coaching staff, has made me who I am today as an individual.”
Sarah Couvillon has been named a recipient of the NEAC Sportsmanship Award for her efforts to overcome a traumatic and life-changing ordeal. In the summer of 2011, Sarah, a member of the SUNYIT women’s basketball team, was driving to a summer league basketball game. Prior to the contest, she had picked up one of her best friends, Zane, because he had never seen her play basketball before and finally had the chance to see her compete in a game.
That’s when tragedy struck. While driving on the highway en route to her game, a large bale of hay came out of nowhere and entered the path of Sarah’s car, forcing her to swerve her Ford Explorer to the left. Sarah doesn’t remember much else after that.
The accident left Sarah with a broken kneecap and an injury to her lateral phemoral condile. A large gash on her shoulder required extensive stitches and left a six-inch scar. The worst wound, however, came when Sarah discovered that Zane was killed in the crash.
Her life in a tailspin, the last thing on Sarah’s mind was whether or not she’d be able to make it back onto the basketball court for what would be her senior season. The day after the accident, however, SUNYIT head women’s basketball coach Jessica Skelton and several of Sarah’s teammates came to visit her in the hospital, including one teammate who made the four-hour trip from New York City to Glens Falls, N.Y. Sarah credited the overwhelming support from her team that day as a crucial factor and motivator for her to return in time for her final season.
Through extensive physical therapy, Sarah was able to accomplish her goal, getting cleared to play after SUNYIT’s first game of the 2011-12 season. She went on to play an integral role in what turned out to be the best season in the program’s history, as SUNYIT posted a league-best 22-5 overall record and earned the right to host the 2011-12 NEAC Championship after winning the NEAC North Division regular season championship. Despite near-constant pain in her rehabilitated left knee that limited her to average just 17.2 minutes per game, Sarah was still able to finish the season second on the team in both blocks and rebounds.
Sarah also honored the memory of her lost friend, wearing a necklace to commemorate Zane during the season and giving it to her mother before every game for safekeeping.
Sarah will finish up her degree this semester and hopes to work as a student-assistant for the women’s basketball team this upcoming season.
The NEAC Sportsmanship Award is presented annually (if applicable) to at least one female student-athlete, male student-athlete, female team, male team, and/or one institutional winner. The winning selections have consistently demonstrated good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in his/her/their daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. They have exemplified the values of respect, caring, fairness, civility, honesty, integrity and responsibility, while also demonstrating good citizenship outside the sports setting.
The NEAC Inspirational Award is presented annually (if applicable) to an individual(s) who has(have) endured personal hardship(s) that have led to bravery and/or dedication within athletics through participation, volunteerism, coaching, and/or administrating.
In 2006-2007, The NEAC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee worked together to create and foster a new sense of sportsmanship throughout the conference. They created the NEAC sportsmanship statement and slogan which is endorsed throughout the conference:
student-athletes of the North Eastern Athletic Conference uphold
sportsmanship by demonstrating leadership, positive attitudes, and
respect so that all collegiate participants will
maintain the integrity and character of the
conference. We strive to achieve these
ideals through a commitment to fair and honest
“Stay Classy NEAC!!!”
The North Eastern Athletic Conference has thirteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania State University - Abington, Pennsylvania State University - Berks, Pennsylvania State University -Harrisburg, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Institute of Technology, SUNY Morrisville State College, Wells College, and Wilson College. Associate members are: Hilbert College (M Lacrosse), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse) and Rutgers University - Camden (M Golf & M Tennis). The North Eastern Athletic Conference has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of men’s and women’s tennis.