Tech announces 10 finalists for 2013-14 Outstanding Female Athlete

Tech announces 10 finalists for 2013-14 Outstanding Female Athlete

By Tennessee Tech Sports Information Office

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – In search of the university’s Outstanding Female Athlete for 2013-14, the Tennessee Tech Athletics Awards Committee has announced a list of 10 finalists for the honor. The winner will be announced Sunday.

The finalists include three members from the softball team, two from cross country/track, one each from soccer, volleyball, and golf, and a two-sport athlete who played soccer and basketball.
Criteria for the award are based solely on the athletic accomplishments of each student-athlete during 2013-14. The 10 finalists, in alphabetical order, are:

Rebecca Cline, Senior, Spring Hill, Tenn., Cross Country/Track & Field
Rebecca Cline’s final season on the Golden Eagle cross country team was her best, as she paced Tech in all six meets in 2013. Her two best finishes were eighth overall at the JSU Foothills Invitational and 12th overall at the Evansville Invitational. For her efforts, she was named the team MVP.  During the track & field seasons, she established four new individual career-best times, including one during the indoor season (3,000m) and three (800m, 3,000m, steeplechase) during the outdoor schedule. A versatile athlete, she ran in three events indoors and five different events outdoors, posting the team’s best time in all five categories.

Diamond Henderson, Junior, Kennesaw, Ga., Basketball
Following a fantastic sophomore campaign, Diamond Henderson had a challenge in front of her, a challenge to be able to produce at the same level or better as a junior. She stepped on the court to start the 2013-14 season and accepted that challenge and excelled. After averaging 15.8 points per game as a sophomore, Henderson increased her offense to 19.7 points, while shooting an impressive 46.3 percent from the field. She also shot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc, connecting on a career-high 25 3-point field goals. During her junior year, Henderson finished with 592 points, over half of her career total of 1,112 points. Her 1,000th point came against Eastern Kentucky, making her the 27th member of the Golden Eagle 1,000-Point Club. Also during the 2013-14 season, Henderson scored a career-high 37 points against Jacksonville State. She dished out a career-best seven assists versus Eastern Kentucky and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds against SIU Edwardsville. Along with her offense, Henderson averaged a career-high 3.5 rebounds per game, doled out a career-best 96 assists, and made a career-high 38 steals. Her statistical prowess helped her land a spot on the All-OVC First Team for the second straight season. Henderson was honored by College Sports Madness as a member of its Ohio Valley All-Conference Second Team, and earned an OVC Player of the Week honor as well from both the OVC and College Sports Madness. The Golden Eagle coaching staff honored Henderson with the team’s Top Offensive Player Award. Most recently, Henderson was named the Katherine Brown Female Athlete of the Year by the Cookeville-Putnam County Sports Council.

Ellie Iaciofano, Senior, Loveland, Ohio, Soccer/Basketball
A two-sport athlete, Ellie Iaciofano capped off an extraordinary soccer career with an impressive 2013 campaign on the pitch for the Golden Eagles. A team captain for the third consecutive season, the Loveland, Ohio native served as the biggest offensive threat for TTU, leading the team with four goals, four assists and 12 points to climb the all-time Tech career ranks in a slew of major offensive categories. Iaciofano moved into a tie for sixth place on the all-time career list with 15 scores, tied for fifth with 11 assists, and tied for fifth with 41 points. On the hardwood, Iaciofano played in 28 games for the Golden Eagles, averaging 8.2 minutes per contest, giving Tech size and speed in the paint.

Danielle Liberatore, Freshman, Peotone, Ill., Softball
Only a freshman, Danielle Liberatore burst onto the scene inside the circle for the Golden Eagles, serving as the team ace with a Tech high 28 starts and 19 complete games. As the year progressed, the Peotone, Ill. native supplanted herself as one of the best starting pitchers in the OVC, dominating the conference with a 10-2 OVC record and a miniscule 1.96 ERA, while surrendering only 56 hits in 82 conference innings. The 5-foot-10 southpaw ended the regular season with eight consecutive conference wins, leading her to a spot on the OVC All-Newcomer Team. And, when the stage magnified in the conference tournament, Liberatore shined. The freshman hurler pitched all 20 innings in the tournament for TTU, posting a 2-1 record and only allowing four earned runs throughout for an ERA of 1.40. Liberatore played a monumental role in Tech’s dramatic comeback win to knock off the No. 1 seed and host of the tournament, Jacksonville State, giving up only two earned with 10 strikeouts in a complete game victory to stave off elimination on May 10. The double-digit strikeout performance was one of five on the year for Liberatore, including a pair of 13-punch out showings against Radford on Feb. 23 and Morehead State on May 3. Her total of five 10-plus K contests was the fourth most in program history. Overall, Liberatore led the Golden Eagles in all three pitching triple-crown categories, accumulating 15 wins, a 2.89 ERA, and 143 strikeouts.

Candace Parson, Junior, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Basketball
This past season, Candace Parson put together her most complete year to date. She started 28 of 29 games, averaging 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. She finished fifth in the conference in shooting percentage, 10th in rebounding, and fourth in offensive rebounding. She averaged 26 minutes per game and shot 50.2 percent from the field. Her 6.4 rebounds per game led the Golden Eagles in the 2013-14 season. Parson grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds against Memphis on Dec. 14. She also recorded five double-doubles during the season and scored a career-high 20 points against TSU on Feb. 3. Parson was awarded the Frank Porter Award from the Golden Eagle coaching staff.

Natalie Penrod, Senior, Alexandria, Ky., Volleyball
During her senior season, Natalie Penrod led the team in kills per set at 2.65 and points scored per set at 3.0 despite playing in just 18 of 26 matches due to illness and injury. She finished the season averaging 1.59 digs per set and 0.4 blocks, while tallying 187.5 points on the season. She also served as a liaison between the coaches and the team this past season and her ability to carry over her leadership to the court helped her earn the Coach's Award for 2013.

Whitney Robertson, Freshman, Clarksville, Tenn., Golf
It didn’t take long for Whitney Robertson to establish herself as one of the better golfers in the Ohio Valley Conference, as the freshman enjoyed large amounts of success in her first year as a Golden Eagle. The Clarksville, Tenn. native was named to the OVC All-Newcomer Team after leading the Tech squad in scoring average with a mark of 78.12. She became the first Tech women’s golfer to earn OVC All-Newcomer honors since current assistant coach Carla Hazelwood in 2006, the first year the honor was presented. Robertson collected four top 10 finishes on the year, carding a low round of 72 at the MTSU Blue Raider Invitational on Oct. 21. The youngster saved arguably the best golf of the year for the OVC Championships as she put together an impressive card of 77-73-78=228 to finish fourth among the 50 participants. Robertson claimed her first career All-Tournament honors, finishing just 12-over and leading the Golden Eagles to a fifth place finish in the OVC Championships. She helped Tech to four top five finishes on the year and recorded the lowest scoring average for a season since 2009-10 when Diana Carson finished with a mark of 78.11.

Angi Sakamoto, Junior, Waipahu, Hawaii, Softball
An offensive force to be reckoned with all season long, Angi Sakamoto compiled a stellar 2014 campaign on the diamond. The Waipahu, Hawaii native was one of two Golden Eagles to be named to the All-OVC Second Team, finishing second on the club with a .294 batting average, while leading Tech with eight home runs and 38 RBI, both of which put her in the top five in the OVC. Sakamoto also showed off her wheels for TTU, setting the bar with 12 stolen bases out of 13 chances. It would be hard pressed to find a better clutch performance when the lights were brightest, as Sakamoto hit .364 with a team-leading two home runs and seven RBI in the OVC Tournament en route to taking home All-Tournament honors. The left-handed hitter came up with the game-winning hits in each of TTU’s tourney victories while facing elimination, breaking a 3-3 sixth inning tie with a two-run single to knock off UT Martin on May 8, before smacking a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against No. 1 Jacksonville State to complete Tech’s dramatic three-run comeback that sent the host team in the tournament packing. The junior outfielder also put together a season-long 17-game hitting streak from late March to late April.

Madison Taylor, Sophomore, Mt. Juliet, Tenn., Softball
Leading the team in most offensive categories, Madison Taylor put together a remarkable 2014 season for the Golden Eagles. For starters, the Mt. Juliet, Tenn. native showed her durability as she was one of just two players to start in all 59 games. Taylor led Tech with a .300 batting average, 19 extra-base hits, 11 doubles, a .488 slugging percentage, 25 walks, and a .411 on-base percentage, while also socking five home runs and driving in 24. When the intensity grew, Taylor stepped up, hitting .444 in the OVC Tournament with an impressive .545 on-base percentage. The 5-foot-2 outfielder showed off her ability to come up in the clutch, taking home College Sports Madness OVC Player of the Week honors after helping lead Tech to a 4-1 record in the Frost Classic hosted by Chattanooga from Feb. 21-23. She drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning or later in three of the Golden Eagle victories, while also hitting a home run in a 1-0 victory in TTU’s other win in the tournament.

Atlanta Westbrook, Sophomore, Columbia, Tenn., Track & Field
A sophomore transfer from Columbia, Tenn., Atlanta Westbrook enjoyed a very successful first year as a Golden Eagle. Competing in four different events, Westbrook kept improving in each as the season went on. She ran a season-best indoor 400m race at the OVC Indoor Championships with a time of 1:01.76. She then carried over those impressive improvements to her jumping events. During the outdoor season, Westbrook became the new school record holder of the triple jump on April 12 at the Western Kentucky Hilltopper Relays. She jumped an impressive 37’8.5”. Westbrook also leaped a personal-best 17’7” in the long jump, good enough for third in school history.

The Outstanding Female Athlete Award was established in 1994, and 23 winners have been selected in the previous 20 years, including three years with co-winners. The previous winners are:

1994 - Beth Keylon (Softball)
1995 - Taunya Lovelace (Basketball)
1996 - Stacy Hughes (Softball)
1997 - Diane Seng (Basketball)
1998 - Diane Seng (Basketbal/VB/Track)
1999 - Diane Seng (Basketball/Volleyball)
2000 - Diane Seng (Basketball/Volleyball)
2001 - Janet Holt (Basketball)
2002 - Janet Holt (Basketball) and Lupita Hernandez (Tennis)
2003 - Stephanie Dallmann (Softball)
2004 - Lori Bayless (Softball)
2005 - Emily Christian (Basketball)
2006 - Bonnie Bynum (Softball) and Emily Christian (Basketball)
2007 - Bonnie Bynum (Softball) and Beth Boden (Softball)
2008 - Stephanie Fischer (Softball)
2009 - Stephanie Place (CC and Track)
2010 – Tacarra Hayes (Basketball)
2011 – Tacarra Hayes (Basketball)
2012 – Tacarra Hayes (Basketball)
2013 – Diamond Henderson (Basketball)