Montevallo announces athletic award winners


Seven of the top student-athletes at the University of Montevallo were honored with the announcement of the athletic department’s annual awards for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Montevallo recognizes the top performances each year with the Outstanding Male and Female Athlete of the Year awards. The male receives the Neal Shirley Award, while the female receives the Margaret Blalock Award.

The top male scholar-athlete receives the John Bennett Walters Award and the top female scholar-athlete receives the Jan Eagles Award. The President’s Award is presented to the team with the highest grade point average among Montevallo athletic teams.

One student-athlete in each gender is honored with the Sportsmanship Award as the athlete that best exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship, fair play and teamwork while representing the Falcons in a positive manner. The student-athletes who best signify the spirit, participation and support of all Montevallo athletic programs is selected for the DeWayne Peevy Spirit Award.

A pair of senior all-americans were honored as the Male and Female Athletes of the Year.

Men’s soccer standout Nathaniel Foster, a Bramtpon, Ontario native, was awarded the Neal Shirley Award after a season in which he led the Falcons with 18 goals, four assists and 40 points. He was named second team Daktronics All-America this season. Foster is a two-time NSCAA All-Region performer as well as being named to the All-Conference team three consecutive years. He was also named Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week twice during the season.

Women’s golf senior Emily Gibson, a Toronto, Ontario native, took home the Margaret Blalock Award for the second-straight year after surpassing her outstanding junior campaign. Gibson will leave Montevallo as the most decorated women’s golfer in school history. She was named the inaugural Peach Belt Conference Golfer of the Year last season and followed that up with another Golfer of the Year Award this season.

Gibson is currently the only Falcon to be named Player of the Year in any sport in the Peach Belt Conference and she has done it twice. She is also the first golfer in Peach Belt Conference history to qualify for the NCAA Championships. She recently qualified for the Tournament with a 12th place finish at the NCAA Super Regional and will be heading to Allendale, Mich. on May 11 to compete in the 2011 Championships. She was named a 2010 first team All-American for her prowess on the golf course and was named Peach Belt Conference All-Academic as well as Silver Scholar on the conference’s Honor Roll for her work in the classroom.

The John Bennett Walters Award and the Jan Eagles Award for the top scholar-athletes went to senior men’s soccer goalie David Esser, an Oak Mountain High School graduate, and senior women’s tennis player Calli Robinson of Adel, Ga., respectively.

Esser ended his career at Montevallo with a 3.72 GPA in finance. He was a three-year member of the Montevallo men’s soccer team and led the Falcons to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008 as the starting keeper. He played in and started 19 games that season and was named to the Gulf South Conference All-Tournament team. Robinson is a two-year member of the tennis team. She compiled a 3.84 GPA in communication studies. She played in and started all 44 matches in her two years at UM. She spent most of her time as the No. 2 or No. 3 singles player for the Falcons. She led the team in singles’ and doubles’ wins both her junior and senior seasons at Montevallo.

Senior men’s golfer Ruwaldt Viljoen, a Johannesburg, South Africa native, and junior women’s soccer midfielder Denise Mannion, a Manchester, England native, were the recipients of the Sportsmanship Award. Viljoen was second on the golf team in stroke average (76.9) and led the Falcons at the 2011 Peach Belt Conference Tournament. He was the 2010-2011 Montevallo Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President and helped the student-athletes voices be heard both on campus and in the Peach Belt Conference.  Mannion started and played in 16 of the Falcons 19 games this season, helping lead the Falcons to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. She has been a standout on the field since stepping foot on the Montevallo campus. She started all 20 contests her sophomore season and started 15 of the 20 matches her freshman season.

Senior women’s tennis player Hayley Gant, a Peachtree City, Ga. native, was given the DeWayne Peevy Spirit Award. Gant started her career at Montevallo as a women’s soccer player back in 2008. She spent two seasons playing as a midfielder on the soccer team before her eligibility ran out. This year the women’s tennis team was short on players and Gant stepped in to help fill out the roster. She appeared in 12 matches for the Falcons while also attending classes and the Thompson High School boys’ soccer team. She picked up her first career tennis victory on Feb. 12 against Stillman College as she helped win the No. 3 doubles’ match 8-2 with teammate Amy McGucken.

The President’s Award was given to the Women’s Tennis team who posted a 3.44 GPA in the fall semester.