KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Thirty male and thirty female senior student-athletes who have displayed both on-field and off-field excellence have been selected as candidates for the 2008 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award in the men’s soccer and women’s soccer divisions. One of the players on the women’s side is Penn senior Natalie Capuano.
The award, given annually to senior student-athletes across nine NCAA Division I sports, has become one of the most prestigious honors in college athletics and is sponsored by Lowe’s, an Official Corporate Partner of the NCAA.
These individuals qualified based on their dedication and achievement in four areas: Classroom, Character, Community, and Competition. The Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award is distinctive from many other honors in that on-the-field performance is only one factor in determining candidacy -- a major emphasis is placed on off-the-field commitments and personal character.
Capuano has certainly made a name for herself on the field for the Quakers. A third-year captain -- the first in the program’s history -- she has been first-team All-Ivy each of the last two years, including a unanimous selection last year by the Ancient Eight coaches. This season, Capuano -- a sitting midfielder -- has already scored three goals, matching her total for all of last year.
“Natalie leads by example. She has been looked up to as a captain for three years and embodies the competitiveness that we expect in our program,” said Penn head coach Darren Ambrose. “She expects so much of herself and is always looking for ways to contribute to the success of the team. She has a tremendous work ethic and a tenacity unlike anyone else I have coached. Natalie’s attitude affects everyone around her and automatically raises the bar for her teammates. Her leadership has had a tremendous effect on our program.”
The 2008 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award candidates on the women’s side represent 26 different NCAA colleges and universities and 19 athletics conferences across the country. Five schools -- Clemson, Notre Dame, BYU, Duke, and USC -- boast two candidates each within this elite group of seniors. The Atlantic Coast Conference leads the pack with five candidates, while the Big East Conference is close behind with three. The men’s list follows a similar pattern with 28 schools representing 17 conferences. The University of South Florida holds the multiple-athlete honor on the men’s side with two candidates. The Big East conference dominates with five total candidates followed by the Big Ten, Pac-10, and Ivy League, which are tied with three each.
From the list of 30 candidates, a national media committee will select 10 finalists for the 2008 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award in both divisions in October. Those 10 names from each division will then be placed on the official ballot for a nationwide vote beginning October 9 and concluding November 19. Fan balloting will be coupled with votes from coaches and media to determine the recipient of the award. Winners will be announced during the 2008 NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championships in Cary, North Carolina, scheduled for December 5-7, and during the 2008 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championships in Frisco, Texas, scheduled for December 12-14.
“The caliber of individuals in this year’s senior class of soccer players made narrowing the field to 30 for each category very difficult,” said Bob Gfeller, Lowe’s senior vice president of marketing and advertising. “We are ecstatic to see how many talented senior student-athletes are electing to use their skills not only on the playing field, but also in the classroom and in the community.”
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the award was launched during the 2001-02 season in response to the trend of college basketball players leaving college early to turn professional.
The award was conceived by sportscaster Dick Enberg, who continues to serve as Honorary Chairman, and has recognized winners in men’s and women’s basketball for seven years. Lowe’s extended the award in 2006 to include baseball, softball, men’s hockey and men’s lacrosse, then in 2007 added men’s and women’s soccer. The award will also include the sport of football this fall, bringing the total awards program to nine NCAA Division I sports.