FLORENCE, S.C. – Francis Marion University held its 32nd-annual Athletic Banquet, Monday, April 22, in the university’s Edward S. Ervin III Dining Hall. Most Valuable Player awards were given in 14 sports. An outstanding cheerleader award and a student-athlete award were also presented.
Junior Rachel Arant (Rock Hill, S.C.) was presented the Gail Summersett Outlaw Outstanding Cheerleader Award for the second time in three years. A biology major, she previously won the award following the 1999-2000 school year.
Senior Mark Ford (Charlotte, N.C.) was presented the Conyers O’Bryan M.V.P. Award for baseball. Ford, a 5-8 second baseman, started all 53 games and batted .293 with seven doubles, three triples, two home runs, 30 runs batted, 17 stolen bases (in 23 attempts), and a team-leading 39 runs scored. He helped lead the Patriots a 26-27 record that included nine losses to Top 10 opponents.
Freshman Louis McCullough (Goose Creek, S.C.) was presented the Howard Stokes M.V.P. Award for men’s basketball. McCullough, a 6-6 forward, led FMU in scoring (16.1 points per game), rebounding (7.7 rebounds per game), and blocked shots (34). His scoring average was the second-highest average for a freshman in team history – second only to Allen Floyd’s 21.9 ppg average in 1971-72. He connected on 45.7 percent of his attempts from the field, including 35.3 percent from beyond the three-point arc, and 74.6 percent from the free throw line. He was a candidate for the Peach Belt Conference “Freshman of the Year” award as the Patriots posted a 4-23 record.
Senior Christy Thomas (Maryville, Tenn.) was presented the Carroll Player Jr. M.V.P. Award for women’s basketball. Thomas, a 5-7 guard, led the Patriots in scoring (13.2 ppg), assists (3.0 assists per game), steals (55), and minutes played (30.4 per game), while earning second-team All-Conference honors. She averaged 4.0 rpg and shot 39.4 percent from the field and 70.8 percent from the foul line. She ended her career 20th on the FMU scoring list with 1,153 points, and also finished among the top 20 in career steals (187). The FMU women ended their season with a 16-11 record, but missed earning a bid to the NCAA Division II national tournament for the first time in six years.
Freshman Ryan Plexico (Columbia, S.C.) was presented the Alice Baker M.V.P. Award for men’s cross country. Plexico was the top FMU runner in all seven meets last fall and recorded a team-best time for 2001 of 28:02 for 8,000-meters. He helped the Patriots to an eighth-place finish at the Peach Belt Conference Championship Meet with his 28th-place showing. He also placed 96th out of 129 runners at the NCAA Division II South Regional Meet. He also lettered on the track and field squad this spring.
Senior Yuka Nadai (Kobe, Japan) was presented the Most Valuable Player Award for women’s cross country. After being the second FMU finisher in the first four meets of the 2001 campaign, Nadai concluded her cross country career by leading all FMU runners in the final four meets. This included a 51st-place showing at the PBC Championships, where the Patriots finished 11th in the team standings.
Sophomore Fredrik Ohlsson (Goteborg, Sweden) was presented the Clifford Cormell M.V.P. Award for golf. Heading into the Peach Belt Tournament, he led the 10th-ranked Patriots with a 73.29 stroke average, and had played in all 21 rounds this season. He had posted six top-15 finishes, including a second-place finish at the AASU/Southbridge Golf Club Pirate Invitational. FMU owned a 108-36-3 record, including a pair of first-place team finishes this spring. The Patriots have finished in the top eight of every tournament this season.
Senior Kirk Bevington (Westerville, Ohio) was presented the Jerry W. Wilson M.V.P. Award for men’s soccer. Bevington, a 6-4 back, started all 18 matches and scored one goal, while anchoring a Patriot defense that allowed only 24 goals. In his final match, he set a new team record for matches started (79) in a career. He earned first-team All-Southeast Region honors as well as being named to the All-Peach Belt Conference squad. FMU ended the year with a 7-8-3 record.
Junior Amanda Liles (Cincinnati, Ohio) was presented the Jerry W. Wilson M.V.P. Award for women’s soccer. A 5-7 goalkeeper, Liles played every minute last season (school-record 1958 minutes), while helping lead the Patriot women to a 15-5-1 record and the PBC Tournament championship. Despite winning that title, FMU was overlooked for a berth in the NCAA Division II national tournament. Liles faced 190 shots, recorded 82 saves, and allowed only 22 goals for a 1.01 goals against average. She posted five shutouts, was selected to the All-PBC Team, and named to the All-Tournament Team at the Peach Belt Tournament.
Junior Laurie Niego (Chicago, Ill.) was presented the Bobbie Davis M.V.P. Award for women’s softball. A 5-8 right-handed hitting catcher, Niego led the 35-20 Patriots in hitting (.381), home runs (8), runs batted in (40), slugging percentage (.595), and on-base percentage (.459). She also scored 29 runs and recorded 12 doubles. She committed only one error in 238 chances for a .996 fielding percentage. During the season she put together a season-high 10-game hitting streak, and following the year was named to the PBC All-Conference Team. The team’s 35 victories equals the fourth-highest win total in the program’s history.
Junior Mark Bube (Nuernberg, Germany) was presented the Lorin Mason M.V.P. Award for men’s tennis. Playing at the No. 1 singles position, the two-time All-American has registered a 14-5 mark and is currently ranked 13th in Division II. He and his doubles partner, Sollie Nortje, are ranked ninth in the nation and own a 17-4 mark. Bube helped lead the 12th-ranked Patriots to a fourth-place finish at last weekend’s Peach Belt Tournament. Later this week, the 16-7 Patriots are expected to receive their eighth consecutive invitation to the NCAA Division II national tournament.
Junior Ana Carias (Lake Placid, Fla.) was presented the Gladys Hite M.V.P. Award for women’s tennis. She posted an 8-11 record this past season at the No.1 singles spot, and a 10-10 doubles mark, playing mainly at the No.2 position. The Patriots ended the year with an 8-15 record, 10 of the losses being to nationally ranked opponents, and were ranked 35th in the latest Top 40 poll.
Senior Charles Carter (Ninety Six, S.C.) was awarded the Most Valuable Player Award for men’s track and field for the third consecutive year. Carter won the high jump and long jump at this past weekend’s Carolinas Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, N.C., leading the Patriots to a fourth-place team finish. He also won the high jump at the South Carolina State Championships earlier this season in Columbia. He led the FMU team in points in 2002, and improved his own school record in the high jump to 6-10¾. He also owns the record in the long jump (23’4¾”), set during the 2000 season. He also played on the men’s basketball team during the 2001-2002 year.
Freshman Shayla Tarte (Summerville, S.C.) was presented the Most Valuable Player award for women’s track and field. She placed second in both the 100- and 200-meters and fourth in the long jump at last weekend’s Carolinas Track and Field Championships as the Patriot women placed third in the team standings. This capped off a very successful freshman year for Tarte who was among the points leaders on the Patriot squad. She established a new school record in the 400-meters (1:01.91) and the long jump (17-0), and was a member of the record-setting 400-meter relay team (50.58).
Junior Jen Melahn (Skokie, Ill.) was presented the Most Valuable Player Award for women’s volleyball. A 5-10 outside hitter, Melahn led the Patriots in kills (381) and total blocks (55). She recorded 23 service aces and averaged 1.81 digs per game, with a .135 kill percentage. Francis Marion recorded an 8-23 mark last fall.
Senior golfer Clinton Pinder (Johannesburg, South Africa) was presented the Patriots Academic Award. He owns a 76.29 stroke average for the nationally ranked (10th) Patriot golf squad. In the classroom, he is majoring in finance and owns a 3.92 grade point average. He is an FMU Scholar, a member of the International Student Organization, a member of Chi Alpha Sigma honor society, and has been nominated for Who’s Who Among Students at American College and Universities. He has been named to the PBC Presidential Honor Roll and the FMU Athletic-Academic Honor Roll each of the previous three years, and has been on the university’s President’s List all seven of his semesters at Francis Marion.
Of the 10 FMU athletic teams that keep won-loss records (excluding the cross country and track and field squads that compete in multi-team events), five registered winning records this past year, and five have appeared in national poll rankings.