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June 15, 2011

Athletes of the Year

By: Jimmy Robertson


Senior • Quarterback
Hampton, Va.

Tyrod Taylor capped a glorious career by leading the Virginia Tech football team to an 11-game winning streak, an ACC championship and another appearance in the Orange Bowl.

Taylor threw for 2,742 yards and a Tech single-season record 24 touchdowns this past season, with only five interceptions. He also rushed for 659 yards and five scores as well.

His best game came in the ACC title game against Florida State. He completed 18 of 28 for 263 yards, with three touchdowns, and he also scored on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter of the Hokies’ 44-33 win.

Following the season, Taylor was named the ACC player of the year and was the recipient of the Dudley Award, given annually to the top player in the state of Virginia. He started all 14 games for the Hokies and guided them to the Orange Bowl – the Hokies’ fourth appearance in the game and their third in the past four years.

Taylor departs as Tech’s all-time leader in career total offense, career passing yards, career rushing yards by a quarterback and career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Perhaps more importantly, he leaves as Tech’s all-time winningest quarterback. He went 34-8 as a starter.


Senior Point guard
Baltimore, Md.

Delaney put the icing on the cake of a glorious career with a senior season that saw him earn first-team All-ACC honors for the second straight year. He averaged 18.7 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 42 percent from the floor, 41 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and 85 percent from the free-throw line. He led the ACC in minutes played at 38.2 per game. He finished second in the league in scoring, fourth in assists, sixth in 3-point percentage, fourth in 3-pointers made per game and ninth in field-goal percentage.

He scored 30 points or more in three games this season. His best effort came in the Hokies’ home win over Georgia Tech when he scored 33 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists. He scored 30 points in his career finale – a loss to Wichita State in the NIT.

Delaney departs Tech having earned All-ACC honors three straight years and having been named an honorable mention All-American by The Associated Press the past two seasons. He ranks third behind Bimbo Coles and Dell Curry on Tech’s all-time scoring list with 2,255 points and second behind Coles on Tech’s all-time assists list with 543.

Delaney does leave with the school record for free throws made (721), attempted (853) and percentage (84.5 percent) in a career.


Junior • Forward
Washington, D.C.

The women’s basketball athlete of the year really started her case for the honor down the stretch of the 2009-10 season, as Shanel Harrison averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds over the final seven games of her sophomore year.

The junior did not slow down in 2010-11, scoring in double figures in her first five games and in 22 games total. She notched her second career 20-plus point game with 25 points in a double-overtime victory at William & Mary on Dec. 18.

In two subsequent games, the Washington, D.C. native upped her career high by a point, dropping 26 at Charlotte on Jan. 2 and then setting a new mark with 27 points at Boston College on Feb. 3.

Harrison led the Hokies with 12.2 points a game and 5.5 rebounds a contest and picked up an ACC player of the week honor (Dec. 20), and she was named to a pair of all-tournament teams – the Caribbean Challenge and the Hilton Garden Hokie Classic.

She also improved her range this year, knocking down 26 3-point baskets as opposed to just eight in her first two seasons.

With a solid senior campaign, she has positioned herself to become the 23rd member of the 1,000-point club and could climb into the school’s top 10 all time in rebounds.


Hershey, Pa.

Chris Walizer anchored a young men’s cross country team last fall and was Tech’s top finisher in two races.

Walizer qualified for the NCAA Southeast Regional held at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., and finished in 58th place in the 10,000-meter run, completing the course in 32:12.2. He was the Hokies’ top finisher in that race.

He also competed in the Charlotte Invite and came in 27th place overall, running the 8K course in 18:52.8, and he came in 44th place at the ACC Championships held in Boston on Oct. 30. He was Tech’s top finisher in that one, completing the 8K course in 25:07.0 and leading the Hokies to a seventh-place finish.

Walizer’s other race came at the Appalachian State Invite on Oct. 15 in Boone, N.C. He came in 62nd in that race, running the course in 26:24.2.

For his efforts, he was named the team MVP at the annual All-Sports Banquet.


Midlothian, Va.

Sammy Dow was the most consistent runner on the Tech women’s cross country squad and finished as the Hokies’ top runner in two races this past fall.

Dow began the season with a fine performance in the Alumni Invite on Tech’s campus, finishing second in a time of 16:47.94. In that race, she ran unattached.

She finished fifth overall with a time of 17:23.4 at the Charlotte Invite held Oct. 1. She claimed 10th place in the Appalachian State Invite on Oct. 15 with a time of 17:56.4, and she was 32nd at the ACC Championships on Oct. 30, completing the 6K course in a time of 21:23.8. Her performances in Charlotte and at the ACC Championships were the best by a Tech runner.

For her efforts, she was named the team MVP at the annual All-Sports Banquet.


R-sophomore • Outfield
Anderson, S.C.

When a player does something not seen in Blacksburg in 15 seasons – in a year in which offensive power numbers were supposed to take a dive – he deserves to be the baseball athlete of the year honor

Andrew Rash, who was also selected to the 2011 All-ACC first team – becoming only the second Hokie ever to earn the honor (Austin Wates, 2010) – led the team in batting (.335), home runs (18), RBI (53), total bases (135), slugging percentage (.707) and on-base percentage (.416) and was tied for the team lead in hit by pitches (10). He was second on the team in runs scored (49) and tied for second in doubles (17).

Among the conference players at the conclusion of the regular season, Rash led all ACC players in home runs (by seven), total bases (by 12) and slugging percentage (by .102). He was also tied for fourth in RBI, tied for seventh in doubles, tied for 11th in runs and was 13th in batting.

Among the nation’s players at the end of the regular season, the Anderson, S.C. native finished sixth in home runs, 30th in total bases and was 14th in slugging percentage.

In regards to Tech, Kevin Barker hit 20 home runs and slugged .792 in 1996. Rash became the first player since Barker to hit more than 14 home runs in a single season and finish the year with a slugging percentage over .700.

Of note, Rash was not a “homer” home run hitter, as eight of his 18 were hit away from English Field. He also hit nine during conference play, which led the league. He had three two-home run games, again two of which were on the road – at Florida Atlantic on March 8 and at Maryland on April 23.


Sophomore • First Base
Haymarket, Va.

An unknown at the start of the season, the first base position on the softball team could be locked up for another two years thanks to the tremendous play of Courtney Liddle on the bag and at the plate.

A catcher during her freshman campaign, Liddle started 37 of her 47 games at first base and earned a number of honors for her efforts, including an ACC player of the week nod, a second-team Academic All-District selection, a first-team All-ACC honor and a spot on the first-team Mid-Atlantic all-region squad.

She increased her average by more than 100 points over her first year, batting .370 for the season, while hitting .476 during ACC contests. Liddle led the team in on-base percentage (.497) and tied for the team lead with 12 doubles and 31 walks.

Liddle also finished tied for second with 45 RBI and tied for third with six home runs, all this while missing 10 games during the heart of the season. She returned to hit .413 for the month of April, which included extending her career-long hitting streak to 10 games.

On the defensive side, she committed just five errors during the season and led the team with a .985 fielding percentage.


Senior • Midfielder
Marietta, Ga.

The Virginia Tech men’s soccer program featured a group of young players, so head coach Mike Brizendine relied on the senior leadership of midfielder Clarke Bentley to get the Hokies through the rigors of ACC play.

Bentley, a native of Marietta, Ga., certainly delivered. He started in all 19 games for the Hokies this season while serving as a team captain. He led the team in goals (6), points (15) and shots (32) and tied for the team lead in shots on goal (15).

Bentley finished the year a perfect 3-for-3 in penalty kicks, including a game-tying goal in an eventual 2-1 victory over N.C. State, and his goal against Clemson helped secure a tie. He also helped secure a win over Radford late in the season, scoring two goals in a 4-1 victory.

Bentley, who was one of just two players to play in every match for the Hokies (senior Koen Oost being the other), earned second-team All-ACC honors for his efforts this past fall.


Senior • Midfielder
Roanoke, Va.

The Virginia Tech women’s soccer team made its third-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, and again, Jennifer Harvey stood tall as the team’s leader.

Harvey started all 21 games for the Hokies, continuing an impressive string of career starts since she arrived on campus. She started 83 of the 86 games she played, which is tied for the most games ever played by a Tech women’s soccer player.

Harvey led the team in scoring with six goals this past season, and she finished third on the team in points with 15. Two of her six goals came via penalty kicks, giving her eight penalty kick goals in her career.

Her best game of the season came in Tech’s 4-1 win over Villanova in early September. She scored two goals in helping the Hokies overcome a 1-0 deficit. She also tallied goals in the Hokies’ victories over American and Clemson, both 3-0 Tech wins. She scored goals in the Hokies’ loss to Long Beach State and Texas A&M in the Aggieland Invitational Tournament in late August.

Harvey also got things done off the field. She was a first-team ESPN Academic All-American and graduated with a chemistry degree. She plans on going to medical school next fall.


Diving • Sophomore
Burtonsville, Md.

Logan Shinholser became arguably the most decorated diver in Virginia Tech history following an outstanding sophomore campaign that saw him win the ACC title and eventually earn All-America honors at the NCAA Championships in the platform event.

Shinholser won 13 titles this season, claiming victory in the 1-meter event on four occasions, the 3-meter event on six occasions and three times winning the platform event. He became Tech’s first ACC diving champion and the school’s first ever conference champion in the platform event, scoring a school-record 449.15 points at the ACC meet in late February. He also became the first Tech diver to claim a conference title in any event since 1965.

Shinholser won gold medals in the platform event and the 3-meter event at the NCAA Zone A Championships held in Annapolis, Md., in mid-March. He accumulated 792.50 points in the platform event and 790.05 in the 3-meter competition. He finished second in the 1-meter event behind teammate Ryan Hawkins at the same meet.

At the NCAA meet held in Minneapolis in late March, Shinholser finished eighth in the platform event to claim All-America honors. With that performance, he became the first Tech diver to earn All-America honors.


Junior • Freestyle, IM
Budapest, Hungary

Erika Hajnal continues to be an impressive performer for the Hokies, and though she came up a tad short of earning All-America honors again, as she did as a sophomore, she still was the only Tech female swimmer to qualify for the NCAA Championships. More impressively, Hajnal qualified in three events.

Hajnal, competing at the NCAA Championships for the third straight time, just missed All-America honors when she came in 17th place in the 1650 freestyle event – the top 16 earn All-America honors. Hajnal swam the event in a time of 16:08.38 and missed the All-America status by less than a second. She also competed in the 500 freestyle and the 400 IM at the meet.

Hajnal was a point-gathering machine at the ACC Championships for the Tech women, helping them to a fifth-place finish. Hajnal herself accumulated 44 points, finishing in the top six in the 400 IM (third), the 1650 freestyle (fourth) and the 500 freestyle (sixth). Her third-place finish in the 400 IM enabled her to earn All-ACC honors. For good measure, she swam a leg on the 800 freestyle relay team, which finished fourth.


Karlovac, Croatia

The Virginia Tech men’s tennis team quietly just keeps making the NCAA Championships each year, and that’s in large part because of players like Luka Somen.

Playing at the No. 1 position, Somen went 17-8, and he went 20-14 overall on the season. His 20 victories ranked second on the team behind Will Beck’s 25, but Beck played in the No. 4 or 5 spot in Tech’s lineup. Somen usually saw an opponent’s best player every time out.

Somen defeated two top-40 players this season. In a Feb. 11 match against Virginia, he beat then No. 27 Michael Shabaz 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 to score Tech’s lone point in a 6-1 loss to the Cavaliers. Two days later, he beat then-No. 36 Maros Horny of Maryland 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 to lift Tech to a 5-2 win over the Terrapins. He earned ACC player of the week honors that week for his efforts.

Somen’s other quality singles victories included Christian Blocker of Miami 7-6, 3-6, 1-0 (1); Akash Muppidi of BC 1-6, 6-1, 6-2; and then-No. 62 Damian Hume of Boise State 6-3, 7-5.

Somen also teamed with Corrado Degl’Incerti Tocci to win 11 doubles matches. The duo went 10-6 out of Tech’s No. 2 spot.

Somen was ranked No. 59 in singles by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association following the ACC Championships. He earned All-ACC honors for his efforts for the second consecutive season, and he advanced to the second round of the NCAA Singles Championship.


Cairo, Egypt

Yasmin Hamza has been a consistent player for the Tech women’s tennis team throughout her career, and this past season was no different. Playing mostly at the No. 1 spot, she recorded 21 wins, which was second on the team, and for the second straight season, she received the team MVP award at the All-Sports Banquet. Also, she received the ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award for the Atlantic Region and is in the mix for the national honor.

Hamza went 21-17 in her final campaign at Tech. That mark included an 11-10 record while playing at No. 1 and facing the ACC’s best. Her top victory came April 3 in Chapel Hill, N.C., when she upset 15th-ranked Zoe De Bruycker of the No. 3 Tar Heels 7-5, 6-4 to provide the Hokies with their lone point in a 6-1 loss.

Her other big victories included a 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 win over Martina Pavelec of Wake Forest; a 6-1, 6-4 win over FSU’s Francesca Segarelli; and a 6-4, 6-2 win over Julie Huschke of Maryland.

Hamza was ranked the No. 94 player in the nation according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings following the ACC Championships. She also teamed with Holly Johnson in doubles to finish ranked 50th nationally, as the duo won 17 doubles matches.

Hamza earned a spot on the 2011 All-ACC women’s tennis team for her play this past season – the only Hokie to do so.


Fincastle, Va.

The Virginia Tech golf team qualified for the NCAA regionals for the fifth straight season, and senior Marshall Bailey led the way for the Hokies, as the team finished in eighth place or better in every tournament this spring.

Bailey recorded six top-20 finishes in 10 events this season, including two top-five finishes – the best on the team in both categories. His best finish came in Puerto Rico earlier this spring when he shot 69 in the first and third rounds at the Puerto Rico Classic. His 7-under-par score enabled him to finish fourth out of 75 golfers.

Bailey shot 69 in individual rounds on four occasions this season, including the two times in Puerto Rico. He also shot a 69 in a round at the Marshall Invitational last fall and one in a round at the Furman Intercollegiate earlier this spring.

Bailey’s other top-five finish came back in the fall at the Brickyard Collegiate Golf Championship. He came in fifth out of 84 golfers, shooting 4-under-par for the tournament.

Bailey led the Hokies with a stroke average of 72.52 this season. He also paved the way for Tech in final-round average, shooting an average of 71.55.


Senior • Attack
Baltimore, Md.

The Virginia Tech lacrosse team enjoyed its best season in 12 years, winning 10 games and just missing the program’s single-season record of 11 victories, which came in 1999. A lot of that success came because of the play of senior Allie Emala.

Emala, who played attack, had her best season since coming to Blacksburg. She posted career bests in goals (43), points (59) and draw controls (60). The two-year captain led the team in scoring in nine games this past season and closed her career by scoring in the final 23 games in which she played.

Emala, who was a third-team All-American by, scored all three of Tech’s goals in its ACC Championship match loss to BC on April 21. She also scored a season-best five goals in the season opener against High Point and three goals in matches against then-No. 16 BC in the regular season, then-No. 11 Virginia and No. 1 Maryland.

Emala set a new draw controls record at Tech last year and upped her career total to 248 this year. With the help of her senior season production, Emala has also propelled herself to second all time at Tech with 138 career goals and 187 career points. She became just the third Hokie to earn All-ACC team honors.


Sophomore • Middle blocker
Mason, Ohio

The Virginia Tech volleyball team enjoyed arguably the best season in school history, winning 10 matches in the ACC and securing an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since the program was established. The Hokies won a tournament match before falling in the second round to three-time defending national champion Penn State.

A deep and talented roster, led by middle blocker Cara Baarendse, played a large role in the program’s success. Baarendse hit .376 on the season, which ranked second in the ACC and 24th nationally. Her hitting percentage was the second-best ever at Tech for a season.

Baarendse also finished eighth in the ACC in kills with 385, an average of 3.24 per game, and she was tied for second on Tech’s team with 14 service aces. She earned four all-tournament nods this past season, including being named the MVP of the Hilton Garden Hokie Invitational and the Western Kentucky Tournament. She hit .491 with 31 kills at Tech’s home tournament, which was enough to earn a spot on’s national Top Performers list for the week.

Baarendse, along with teammate Felicia Willoughby, was named All-ACC and an honorable mention All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.


Junior • 157-pounder
Westerville, Ohio

Tech wrestling coach Kevin Dresser went into the 2010-11 season fully planning on redshirting Jesse Dong, the 157-pounder who won the ACC title as a sophomore and won two matches at the NCAA Championships.

But in January, Dresser had a change of heart and inserted Dong into the lineup. The junior went on to win 20 of his 23 matches on the season, including a 15-1 record in dual matches, and he claimed yet another ACC title and advanced to the NCAA Championships.

At the ACC Championships, he earned the top seed at 157 pounds and beat No. 2 seed Kyle John of Maryland by a score of 6-3 in the finals. He also beat the No. 4 and No. 6 seeds in his weight class.

His best performance may have come at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in early January. In the championship match, the Hokies took on No. 1 Cornell and fell 25-10, but Dong defeated 10th-ranked D.J. Meagher at 157 pounds by a score of 5-2. He won four matches in that tournament, helping the Hokies defeat then-No. 17 Central Michigan, then-No. 2 Oklahoma State and then-No. 4 Wisconsin. He received the ACC wrestler of the week award for his efforts.

At the NCAA Championships, Dong defeated Matt Cathell of Kent State in the first round, but lost to No. 12 seed Paul Young of Indiana in the second round. In the consolation round, he beat John again, 7-5, but lost to Mark Lewandowski of Buffalo to end his season.