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June 2, 2009

Year in Review: All-Maroons 2008–2009

Hundreds of you voted, and now that all the ballots have been tallied, we're pleased to announce the winners of 2008–2009 All-Maroons awards. Congratulations to all of the winners and all of the nominees for their outstanding accomplishments this year.

Maroon of the Year

For the vast majority of track and field athletes, All-American status represents an unfathomable goal, an unreachable distance, an impossible time, a bar that’s too high. But third-year Claire Ray operates on that level, and impressively in three events. At the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Marietta, OH, Ray made the top eight—All-American level—in three events: discus, hammer throw, and shot put, the last of which she placed fourth. A two-sport athlete, Ray was also selected to compete at the Indoor Championships. She throws well. She throws very, very well.

Team of the Year

Was there any question? Our voters didn't think so, and nearly 50 percent of them chose women's tennis as the Team of the Year. Why? Because first-year Jennifer Kung won the ITA Small College Championship back in October, then played at the International University Challenge of Tennis. Because the team lost only once to D-III competition during the regular season. Because the Maroons had match points against Emory, the team that has won every UAA championship, in two separate matches. Because first-year Kendra Higgins beat Emory's Lorne McManigle, the national champion, twice, and was beating her a third time. Because the team didn't drop a single match in the first three rounds of the NCAA Team Championships. Because Chicago played four first years, and finished fourth in the nation. Because head coach Marty Perry was the ITA Coach of the Year. Because Higgins and first-year Jennifer Kung played in the NCAA Singles Championship. Because Higgins and second-year Chrissy Hu won the NCAA Doubles Championship. Because we loved following them this year. And, best of all, because five of the team's top six will be back to do it all over again next year.

Coach of the Year

It should come as no surprise that men's and women's tennis coach Marty Perry is our Coach of the Year. Perry’s excellence can be seen in the success of the women’s team, which took fourth in the NCAA Team Championships. And that wasn't the end of the road for a couple women: Second-year Chrissy Hu and first-year Kendra Higgins won the NCAA Doubles Championship just a few days later. Much of the team's success can be credited to Perry's skill on the recruiting trail. This year, he brought in seven first years for the women's team, four of whom have already earned spots in the top six. For his efforts, Perry was named the ITA's National Coach of the Year in D-III women's tennis.

Rookie of the year

It better be worth it if you’re going to leave Vero Beach, FL, to spend the oppressively cold winter in Chicago. It has been worthwhile so far for Rookie of the Year Kendra Higgins, who used her punishing groundstrokes to exert dominance over her opponents again and again while playing at the top of Chicago’s lineup. When she switched to the number one singles slot midway through the season, she kicked it into overdrive—going undefeated in 10 contests against the nation's best competition. After leading women's tennis to the team NCAA semifinals, she racked up the honors: UAA Rookie of the Year, UAA MVP, and first-team all-UAA. In the individual NCAA tournament, she also took home the hardware, capturing the NCAA Doubles title alongside second-year partner Chrissy Hu, and providing Chicago women’s tennis with much to look forward to in the future.

Performance of the Year

After women's soccer played Calvin in the NCAA round of 32, the box score didn't even include first-year Emma Gormley's name. This is odd, given that Gormley's play in that game won her the Performance of the Year award. The backup keeper, Gormley didn't start the game—in fact, she didn't play a minute in regulation or in overtime—but she certainly finished it. Head coach Amy Reifert put her between the posts for the decisive shoot out, and in the third sudden death round, Gormley gave the Maroons a chance to win by tipping Calvin's shot off the crossbar. Then, as an astonished crowd looked on, Gormley walked out to the penalty spot, put the ball on the line, fired, and scored. Game over, Chicago advances. Gormley, the second-string rookie whose minutes played matched her jersey number—zero—was, in the end, the Maroons' unlikely hero.

Storyline of the Year

After back-to-back losses to Wheaton and Emory, soccer’s postseason chances looked slim. They would basically have to win the remainder of their last nine games—something they couldn’t quite do. They did, however, win eight of those games, including five against UAA foes. The remarkable streak was capped by three shutouts in the last four games by fourth-year keeper Polly Cline, and this was enough to secure the South Siders' invitation to the big dance. They took full advantage of their opportunity, clowning Wittenberg four-nil in the first round, then taking a dramatic penalty-kick victory over Calvin (see "Performance of the Year") to claim a spot in the final 16. While they were ultimately not enough for eventual champion Messiah, head coach Amy Reifert’s bunch turned their season around, making them the choice for the Storyline of the Year award.