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WAC Announces 2013-14 Joe Kearney Award Winners

WAC Announces 2013-14 Joe Kearney Award Winners
DENVER - Seattle U women's soccer player Stephanie Verdoia and Bakersfield swimmer Mitchell Huxhold are the 2013-14 Western Athletic Conference Joe Kearney Award winners. It is the first time a student-athlete from either school has won the award. Verdoia is the first women's soccer player to ever win the award, while Huxhold is the first men's swimmer to win the award since the 1997-98 season. Named in honor of former WAC commissioner Joe Kearney, the awards are given annually to the top male and female student-athletes in the WAC and are voted upon by the athletics' directors and senior woman administrators at each member institution.

As a junior last fall, Verdoia was voted the WAC Offensive Player of the Year after leading her team to an undefeated conference season, the WAC tournament title, and the program's first ever appearance in the Division I NCAA Soccer Championship. She led the WAC in nearly every offensive category during the 2013 season including shots (85), points (42), assists (12), and goals (15) and ranked second in game-winning goals (5). Besides earning all-WAC and all-tournament honors, Verdoia was also named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-America Third Team after receiving first team academic all-district accolades.

“Stephanie is one of the most special, unique young women I have had the privilege of working with in my 17 years as a head coach,” said Seattle U's Julie Woodward. “Her character, consistency and commitment she displays each and every day on the soccer field, whether it is practice or a game, is extremely impressive. She is constantly challenging herself and her teammates to become better athletes and soccer players. She has really changed the face of this program and put us on a different level. She has received so many awards and accolades, and it comes as no surprise. It is no coincidence she uses these same principles and applies them to her academics, her relationships and life in general. She is a pretty amazing person and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with her."

Huxhold was voted the WAC's Swimmer of the Year as a junior after setting conference records in both the 500 and 1650-yard freestyles at the 2014 WAC Swimming & Diving Championships. His time in the 1650 broke a league mark that stood for 27 years and his own school record by 29 seconds. Huxhold qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 1650, 500 and 200 freestyles, becoming the first Bakersfield men's swimmer to qualify for the Division I championships. He finished 16th in the 500 free to earn All-American honors in that event.

“Mitchell came to us as a recruited walk-on three years ago from the San Diego area,” said Bakersfield head coach Chris Hansen. “Within the first week of practice his freshman year, I knew we had something special. That summer he made the Olympic Trials and has been working extremely hard to make his goal of making the NCAA Championships. He came just shy of that goal his sophomore year but came through big time as a junior, finishing the championships as an All American and having the ninth fastest time in the country in the 1650 free. He is the definition of a dedicated athlete. His hard work got him to where he is now."

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