NMU reveals 2023-24 Wildcat Awards

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Northern Michigan University Athletics has unveiled the winners of their 2023-24 Wildcat Awards.

The winners, along with a summary of their accomplishments provided by NMU, are as follows:

Team of the Year
Women’s Soccer

The women’s soccer team won both the regular season conference title as well as the GLIAC conference championship, the first in program history. The Wildcats ranked second in the Midwest region, which allowed them to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. During the season, the team was ranked as high as eighth in the country. These accomplishments as well as compiling sixteen wins with only two losses and four ties made for a memorable season. Jon Sandoval was named the GLIAC Coach of the Year, Molly Pistorius earned the GLIAC Offensive Player of the Year, and Maria Storm garnered GLIAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. All of these accomplishments are just the tip of the iceberg that contributed to them being selected as the Team of the Year.

MVP of the Year – Female
Molly Pistorius – Women’s Soccer

Molly Pistorius filled the trophy case this season, including USC Second-Team All-American, USC First-Team All-Region, GLIAC Offensive Player of the Year, First-Team All-GLIAC, GLIAC All-Tournament Team, and a member of the 2023 CSC Academic All-District-Team. Molly started the season hot with a hat trick in the season-opener vs. Minnesota Duluth and would collect another hat trick the following weekend against Lewis. She led the team with 10 goals in the regular season along with 24 points. She tallied four more goals during the postseason to bring her season totals to 14 goals and four assists. Her 14 goals go down as the second-most in a single season in NMU history.

MVP of the Year – Male
Max Weisbrod – Men’s Basketball

Max Weisbrod was named the GLIAC Player of the Year along with All-GLIAC First Team honors. In addition, he was a member of the D2 CCA All-Midwest Region First Team, the NABC All-Region First Team, the CSC Academic All-District Team, and the GLIAC All-Tournament Team. Weisbrod started all 30 games he played in, finishing out the season averaging 17.2 points per game ranking him fifth in the GLIAC. He also had the helping hand, dishing out 4.4 assists per game, second in the GLIAC. Max recorded 24 games in double figures, with 20 or more points in 12, 25 or more points in five games, and over 30 points twice, including a career-high 35 points and seven triples in a 98-66 triumph over Michigan Tech on January 27.

Coach of the Year
Jon Sandoval – Women’s Soccer

Jon Sandoval guided the Wildcats to a program-first GLIAC regular season title with a 14-1-4 overall record, surpassing his mark of 13 wins last season while also recording the most wins in a season since 2006. The Wildcats’ conference record of nine wins, one loss, and four ties is also the most conference wins since 2011, surpassing the eight-win mark he reached in both 2022 and 2021. Under Sandoval, Northern was ranked in the national poll for nine consecutive weeks, moving up three spots from 11th to 8th to end the season in the United Soccer Coaches D2 Women’s Soccer Poll. In his four years as the head coach, Sandoval holds an outstanding 46-15-11 record and became the second-winningest coach in NMU women’s soccer history, including an ultra-impressive 26-1-7 record at home.

Scholar-Athlete of the Year – Female
Meghan Meyer – Volleyball

Meghan Meyer holds a 4.0 GPA after four years of academics at Northern. Meyer started all 30 matches this past fall, earning a spot on the All-GLIAC Second Team and the CSC Academic All-District Team. She totaled 264 kills with 55 blocks and an impressive .352 attack percentage. She also spent time as a Teaching Assistant in the Math Department.

Scholar-Athlete of the Year – Male
Casey Recrosio – Greco-Roman Wrestling

Casey Recrosio earned a perfect 4.0 GPA this past fall and maintains a 3.95 cumulative GPA. Casey is currently in the last semester of his Master’s program. Casey is also in the ROTC program and works in the Center for Student Enrichment.

Gildo Canale Outstanding Senior – Female
Makaylee Kuhn – Women’s Basketball

Makaylee Kuhn exemplifies a student-athlete with success in competition and in the classroom. Having started every game, Makaylee set a new career scoring record with 2,005 points. She was recently named a GLIAC Commissioner’s Award recipient, one of the most prestigious conference awards. Makaylee was also named to the All-GLIAC First Team for the fourth straight season and named a College Sports Communicators (CSC) Academic All-American and All-District member. She led the team in points, rebounds, steals, attempted free throws, and made free throws as well as recording eight double-doubles. Her accomplishments on the court are matched by her accomplishments in her graduate studies as she holds a perfect 4.0 GPA in Environmental Studies.

Gildo Canale Outstanding Senior – Male
Andre Ghantous – Hockey

Andre Ghantous played in all 34 games this past season for the Wildcats and led the team in points (32) and assists (23) and was second in goals (9). Some of his notable accomplishments this past season include a six-point weekend against Minnesota Duluth to open the year, scoring a shorthanded goal in his final game as a Wildcat in the CCHA playoffs, ending his career with more than 150 career points, and finishing tied for first in NMU history for career games played (170). He has been named to the CCHA Scholar-Athlete Team multiple times in his career and carries an impressive 3.75 GPA.

Breakthrough Athlete of the Year – Female
Jillian Thompson – Women’s Soccer

Jillian Thompson played in all 22 matches for the Wildcats this past season. Jillian recorded a remarkable 14 shutouts in net, the most in the nation in Division II. She had just 11 goals scored against her all season and received numerous GLIAC Defensive Player of the Week accolades. After redshirting in her first year at NMU, this season was her true freshman year and she earned Second Team All GLIAC honors.

Breakthrough Athlete of the Year – Male
Daniel Lopez Aponte – Men’s Swim & Dive

Daniel Lopez Aponte showed up in a big way in the 400 individual medley (IM) at the NCAA Championships this season. Daniel started by breaking a school record in the 400 IM prelims, becoming the first man at NMU to record a time under 3:50. He then followed that up by earning First-Team All-America honors in the finals, finishing sixth in the nation.

Newcomer of the Year – Female
Carlotta Santi – Women’s Swim & Dive

Carlotta Santi made an immediate impact for the ‘Cats in the pool, where as a freshman she earned two Second-Team All-America honors, first in the 800 free relay before earning her second honor in the 400 medley relay. Santi showed up in the GLIAC Championships just prior as well, putting up 54.5 points to help her team claim bronze.

Newcomer of the Year – Male
Jaziel Sainz de Vilmorin – Men’s Soccer

The GLIAC Freshman of the Year was awarded to NMU forward Jaziel Sainz de Vilmorin. Jazi (ha-zee) made an immediate impact on the Wildcat roster, with his first career goal coming as a game-winner at home in the 86th minute on September 15. He would go on to finish fourth in points on the team. Jazi played in all 16 matches for the Wildcats, including earning a starting spot in 11 of the ‘Cats final 12 matches. He finished his freshman campaign with over 1,000 minutes of playing time.

Humanitarian of the Year
Minnie Bittell – Lacrosse

Minnie Bittell has consistently demonstrated that she continually looks out for the great good. Minnie is the founder of ‘Cats Connect, a mental health subcommittee of SAAC where she has created a platform for athletes to discuss mental health issues in a safe space. She has been instrumental in bringing other mental health initiatives to campus like Morgan’s Message, the Hidden Opponent, and Helinski’s Hope. Minnie first shared her desire to develop ‘Cats Connect during her junior year after the loss of an athlete in April of 2022. Minnie has been the driving force for starting the difficult conversations and bringing awareness to the unique mental health issues that surround athletes.

Humanitarian of the Year
Ruby Joseph – Wrestling

Ruby Joseph has consistently demonstrated a profound dedication to service and social responsibility throughout her endeavors. As a programming and office assistant at the Student Equity and Engagement Center, president of Hunt Halls Government, and representative for the Housing Government, she has consistently gone above and beyond to initiatives to foster inclusivity and advocate for student welfare. Furthermore, her willingness to volunteer her time for research projects such as the addiction study in the Brain and Behavior Psychology Lab and her involvement in a graduate study to be published in a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal shows her unwavering commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and addressing pressing societal issues.

Best Moment of the Year
Women’s Soccer wins the GLIAC title at home

The women’s soccer team had an incredible year with a regular season record of 13-1-4. On November 2, 2023, the Wildcats took the field to face Michigan Tech in the regular season finale. The ‘Cats scored just four minutes into the game from Stephanie Trujillo and then held on for the remainder of the match to capture the regular season GLIAC title. As the final horn sounded, the bench cleared as the coaches and athletes celebrated this moment on the field with fans and athletes of other Northern teams. With the win, the Wildcats not only secured the conference championship, but it was also the first in program history.

Community Engagement Award

A new award this year is being presented to the team that has logged the most service hours over the academic year. SAAC representatives log the hours with the advisor and those hours are divided by the number of athletes on the team generating a raw score. The lacrosse team completed a total of 280.5 recorded service hours for a score of 9.35 to lead them to the first annual Community Engagement Award. Congratulations to the coaches and athletes on continuing to give back to the community in so many ways.

Brian Franks “Too Strong” Award
Alissa Caltagirone – Wrestling

Alissa’s freshman year in college was a testament to her resilience as she navigated a series of formidable challenges. She was challenged with a back injury that had plagued her since her junior year of high school when she fractured her lumbar vertebrae. She spent almost a year in a cast that, once removed, meant she had to relearn her balance and regain the necessary flexibility. Many athletes would have given up after this type of setback. However, Alissa persevered and ultimately succeeded in returning to competition. This year, her back injury reappeared and required months of rehabilitation with physical therapy and injections. With all of this, she refused to be discouraged from her pursuit of excellence in wrestling. She overcame this adversity and achieved remarkable success including outperforming nationally-ranked opponents and qualifying for nationals as a freshman. She was recently named a NWCA Scholar All-American.

Best Play of the Year
Max Weisbrod buzzer-beater vs. Lake Superior State

Trailing for much of the game, it came down to a well-drawn-out play after a time-out to determine the outcome of the Men’s Basketball game vs. Lake Superior State in Marquette in January. With ice in his veins, Max Weisbrod stepped up to hit the buzzer-beating shot to push Northern past the Lakers in a 72-71 victory. He scored 25 points in the game on 9-14 (64.3%) shooting. His clutch shot stunned the Lakers and gave NMU a crucial conference win. It was a key moment that helped the ‘Cats win the GLIAC regular season title.

Biggest Upset of the Year
Women’s Basketball vs. Ferris State

In the second round of the GLIAC Tournament, the Wildcats were facing the top-10 nationally-ranked Ferris State Bulldogs for a spot in the GLIAC Championship game on the line. This game was a true team win with many players stepping up at key moments and contributing to the win. The combination of consistent defense and multiple offensive threats helped the Wildcats hold Ferris to 56 points, pulling out a 63-56 victory, This upset not only advanced Northern to the GLIAC championship game, but it exemplified what can be accomplished when a team pulls together to fulfill a goal.

Female Performance of the Year
Jacy Weisbrod – Women’s Basketball

Being a proficient and consistent long-range shooter is difficult, but there are times when a player gets a hot hand and can’t miss from three-point range. That is exactly what happened with Jacy Weisbrod in the NCAA Tournament against Kentucky Wesleyan. Her performance of not one, not two, not three, but nine made-pointers on just 14 attempts not only helped the team secure the win and move to the Round of 32, but it also tied the NMU single-game record for made threes in a game. Additionally, it was the third-best 3-point performance in Division II this past season. Jacy was named to the All-GLIAC Second Team in her first season with the ‘Cats.

Male Performance of the Year
Russel Sprecher – Men’s Golf

On October 15, 2023, Russel Sprecher shot a remarkable bogey-free round of 62, setting a new NMU individual 18-hole record. This surpassed the previous benchmark of 66 set back in 2015. His performance that day, with seven birdies and an eagle, shaved 13 strokes off his score from the previous day and moved him up the leaderboard from tied for 16th after day one all the way to the top at the conclusion of day two with a combined score of 137. This is an incredible golf accomplishment and one that will not likely be touched at NMU.

Record-Breaking Performance of the Year
Ellyse Wolfrath – Track & Field

In the first race of her junior season, Ellyse Wolfrath broke the 60-meter hurdles school record with a time of 8.67. Her record would not stand for very long as Ellyse went on to break her record, not one time, but three more times throughout the season, reaching a pinnacle time of 8.52 seconds at the Maverick Premier on February 10. Ellyse was named a Second Team All-American, a USTFCCCA All-Region member, and took second place at the GLIAC Championships.

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