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2019 Woman of the Year finalists named

Nine finalists have been named for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year Award. Each of the nine finalists will be honored at an awards dinner Oct. 20 in Indianapolis, where the 2019 Woman of the Year will be announced.

The nine finalists — including three from each NCAA division — demonstrated excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.

Finalists were selected from a group of 30 Woman of the Year honorees, who will be recognized during the event. That group of 30 includes 10 honorees from each NCAA division and represents a range of sports. Schools nominated a record 585 college athletes for the award.

Following are biographies of the Woman of the Year finalists, including excerpts from their personal statements in the nomination materials:

Chelsea Abreu

School: Adelphi University
Conference: Northeast-10 Conference
Sport: Lacrosse
Major: Business management: marketing
Hometown: Huntington, New York                                                              

“Being a student-athlete has given me a platform to provide a positive example to young women. … I firmly believe that my purpose in life is centered on helping others achieve their personal best, and I will continue to uphold these traits as a leader in my community.”

Chelsea Abreu spent two years as Adelphi’s lacrosse team captain while serving throughout college as a member of the university’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, including as a member of the executive board, which worked with the student government to express the needs of student-athletes on campus. Abreu volunteered extensively with Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer, which involved fundraising efforts to help hospitals grant wishes while funding innovative research to fight pediatric cancer. As team captain, she took a leadership role in her team’s adoption of Lexi, a 5-year-old with a rare mitochondrial disease. Abreu also volunteered with the local Boys and Girls Club and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, where she organized community service opportunities for children in the parish.

A business management major, Abreu excelled academically, earning a place on the dean’s list and the Northeast-10 Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll every semester. As a result of her academic distinction, she was named a Willumstad School of Business Leadership Scholar and collaborated with university leadership on a consulting project. Abreu also was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma international business honor society, serving as vice president of alumni relations. In 2019, she was named Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year at Adelphi.

The lacrosse midfielder led her team to two NCAA national championships (2017 and 2019), one national champion runner-up (2016), and two conference championships (2016 and 2017). In 2019, Abreu appeared in all 22 games during the season and ranked fourth in the conference in draw controls won, with 106. Abreu also was selected to participate in the 2019 Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association All-Star Game and was selected as an IWLCA Third Team All-American in her final season.

Virginia Elena Carta

School: Duke University
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Sport: Golf
Major: Environmental sciences and policy
Hometown: Udine, Italy

“I would like in the future to contribute to the design and implementation of interventions for local development in which the resolution of environmental issues goes hand in hand with the economic and cultural growth of communities.”

Former Duke golfer Virginia Elena Carta immersed herself in community service during her time in college. In 2018, she founded Birdies for Babies, a charity aimed at fundraising for the neonatal and pediatric intensive care units at Duke Children’s Hospital. Since its conception, the charity has raised more than $35,000. Beyond her charity, Carta volunteered at the hospital, organizing activities for children being treated there. On campus, she served as a board member for the Duke Climate Coalition, a student organization that researched alternative energy solutions and presented them to governing bodies on campus.

Carta graduated with distinction in 2019 after defending her honors thesis on the topic of sustainable agriculture and development of local communities. She received the 2019 Sara LaBoskey Award, given annually to a graduating senior in recognition of personal integrity and academic excellence. She also received the 2019 Heidrick Family Leadership postgraduate scholarship, presented to student-athletes who demonstrate growth in leadership and who enhance the community around them, and the 2019 Weaver-James-Corrigan and Jim and Pat Thacker postgraduate scholarship, which is awarded to select student-athletes pursuing graduate degrees who have performed with distinction in the classroom and their sport while demonstrating exemplary conduct in the community. In 2018, Carta was named a Rhodes Scholarship finalist. She is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental policy at the University of Cambridge.

Carta, a member of the Italian national women’s golf team, helped lead Duke to its 2019 national championship and two Atlantic Coast Conference Championships (2017 and 2018). She was also the 2016 individual NCAA champion and holds several NCAA records, including greatest margin of victory (8 strokes); lowest winning score after 72 holes (16-under par); and lowest aggregate score after 72 holes (272). In 2019, Carta received the Duke Athletics Lifetime Achievement Award and the Duke George Grody All-Around Student Athlete Award, presented to a student-athlete who has exemplified excellence in the classroom, on the playing field and in the community.

Monica Feeley

School: Vassar College
Conference: Liberty League
Sport: Field hockey
Major: Biology; psychology
Hometown: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

“My time as a student-athlete at Vassar College shaped me into an empowered woman and forged my path to be a confident professional.”

Monica Feeley, a former field hockey student-athlete at Vassar, made broad contributions to her campus and local communities. In 2016, she co-founded and subsequently served as vice president of the Vassar chapter of the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, which works with abused and underprivileged children who have been removed from their homes in Poughkeepsie, New York. In addition to volunteering as a coach in a local youth field hockey league, Feeley volunteered in the emergency section of the foster care home at the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, where she spent time with neglected and abused children who had been removed from their homes.

Feeley, who double majored in biology and psychology, was named four times to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division III National Academic Squad for her outstanding academic performance (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018). In 2018, Feeley received the Marshall Pregnall Memorial Prize, awarded to an outstanding junior majoring in biology. After being inducted in 2018 to Psi Chi, the international honors society in psychology, she was inducted in 2019 to Sigma Xi, the international honors society of science and engineering. She spent three years as a research assistant in microbiology, conducting research on the influence of the gut microbiome on behavior in Callosobruchus maculatus, a species of beetle. In 2019, Feeley received second-team Google Cloud Academic All-America At-Large honors.

Feeley was a first-team NFHCA All-American (2018) and garnered three first-team all-Liberty League honors (2016, 2017 and 2018). In 2018 — after leading her team to a conference championship — she was named the Synapse Sports Defensive Player of the Year. Feeley was also a 2019 Division III Honda Athlete of the Year finalist and a 2018 NFHCA All-Star.

Marin McCoy

School: Swarthmore College
Conference: Centennial Conference
Sport: Soccer
Major: Biology
Hometown: Denver

“By lifting up and expanding access to women, queer, low-income and nonwhite individuals, I believe sport can embody a transformative and equitable society.”

Former Swarthmore women’s soccer captain Marin McCoy leveraged her position as a leader to focus on inclusiveness and wellness in her community. In 2019, McCoy co-founded the Swarthmore Body Project, a body-positive group on campus that helped students talk about body image and face societal pressures in healthy ways. She volunteered with Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, where she was a STEM and body movement instructor working mostly with girls of color from low-income families. She dedicated extensive hours of service as a sexual health advisor on campus and a Speak2Swatties peer mentor, where she fought to remove stigma surrounding mental illness. McCoy also interned at Rainbow Alley, a drop-in center for LGBTQ youth.

A biology major, McCoy was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society in 2019. In 2018, she earned second-team Google Cloud Academic All-America honors. She is a three-time Academic All-Centennial team member (2016, 2017 and 2018) and three-time member of the Centennial Conference honor roll (2016, 2017 and 2018). McCoy is also a two-time member of the Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area team (2017 and 2018).

On the soccer field, McCoy led her team to two conference championships (2017 and 2018) and four NCAA tournament appearances. She was a two-time Centennial Player of the Year (2017 and 2018) and earned United Soccer Coaches first-team All-America honors in 2018. McCoy holds school records in  goals (57), assists (35) and all-time points (149). In 2019, McCoy received the Gladys Irish Award, presented to a woman who, through her commitment, dedication and the pure enjoyment of the sport, has achieved the highest level of excellence. She also was the 2017 recipient of the Eleanor Kay Hess Award, which honors a woman who exemplifies love of athletics, leadership, hard work, fairness and objectivity.

Angela Mercurio

School: University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Conference: Big Ten Conference
Sports: Indoor and outdoor track and field
Major: Biochemistry; women’s and gender studies
Hometown: Kitchener, Ontario

“Because of the confidence I gained as a student-athlete who persevered and succeeded through countless setbacks, I can find my place and voice within the many other roles I seek out for myself. I can look toward a future as a women’s health care provider where I combine my passions and experiences together to fight adversity and provide the best care for women and children in my community and the world.”

Angela Mercurio, a two-year track and field team captain at Nebraska, represented her team for four years on the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She worked for three semesters as a teaching assistant in biochemistry and microbiology. In 2018, she interned at the YWCA, where she assisted in planning curriculum for science, technology, engineering and math programs for girls. Mercurio volunteered abroad in India at a medical clinic in 2017. She also volunteered at a local free medical clinic, the People’s City Mission, throughout the course of her time in Lincoln. In 2019, she received the Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award, presented to student-athletes in recognition of academic achievement, mentoring and leadership.

While pursuing a double major in biology and gender and women’s studies, Mercurio completed a 300-hour research project about the effect of cellular kinases VRK1 and VRK2 on foreign DNA transfection and BAF localization. She is a five-time U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic honoree (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) and three-time Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award recipient (2017, 2018, 2019). In 2019, Mercurio was awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, Big Ten postgraduate scholarship and was named an inaugural recipient of the Rose Bowl Game Keith Jackson Postgraduate Scholarship. She is also a two-time second-team Google Cloud Academic All-American.

In competition, Mercurio was the 2019 Big Ten Conference individual champion in the indoor triple jump, and she is a three-time second-team USTFCCCA All-American. Mercurio also has represented Team Canada twice in international competition, including the 2015 Panamerican Junior Athletics Championships and the 2017 World University Games.

Hannah Orbach-Mandel

School: Kenyon College
Conference: North Coast Athletic Conference
Sports: Swimming and diving
Major: Economics
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

“I am proud that my experiences do not define me by how they hurt me, but by how they helped me grow into a strong woman, one not afraid to use her voice and lead.”

In addition to being named captain of the Kenyon swimming and diving program her senior year, Hannah Orbach-Mandel served for four years as a member of the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She volunteered for three years at Wiggin Street Elementary School, where she worked with third graders struggling with math, English and reading. Orbach-Mandel also volunteered with the Salvation Army and National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Orbach-Mandel graduated summa cum laude with high honors in economics and was selected to represent the economics department as a speaker at the 2019 baccalaureate ceremony. In 2019, she was inducted into the Kenyon chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, a national honors society, and in 2018, she was inducted into Pi Mu Epsilon, a mathematics honor society. A four-time College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America Scholar All-American (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), she also earned two Google Cloud Academic All-America honors (2018, 2019). She is a 2019 recipient of an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.

A 25-time CSCAA All-American, Orbach-Mandel won three individual NCAA national championships: the 400-yard freestyle relay (2019), 800-yard freestyle relay (2019) and the 400-yard medley relay (2018). She is also a eight-time individual North Coast Athletic Conference champion. With her individual success, Orbach-Mandel helped guide Kenyon to three team conference championships and three second-place team finishes at the NCAA Division III championships. Orbach-Mandel set four school records and holds three conference records. She is a two-time recipient of the school’s Shawn M. Kelly Memorial Award, which is presented to the swimmer who elevated Kenyon swimming to its highest team level with the most inspirational relay contributions. In 2019, she received the school’s Overcoming Adversity Award, presented annually to the swimmer or diver who most successfully overcame significant adversity.

Krissy Ortiz

School: Lynn University
Conference: Sunshine State Conference
Sport: Golf
Major: International business management
Hometown: Guaynabo, Puerto Rico

“Spirit, service and strength: three simple words that have a deeper meaning to me. The values of Lynn University have played a major role in my life and have helped shape the person I am today. During my time as a student-athlete, I came to realize that I would have to learn and develop spirit and service first, before I could develop strength as a leader and athlete.”

Former Lynn golfer Krissy Ortiz embraced her university’s values of service and spent three years on her campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, including serving as co-president, and two years on Division II’s national SAAC. As a member of the national SAAC, she also spent one year on the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct and serves on the Division II Management Council. Ortiz spent four years volunteering at a local retirement home, including planning bingo nights and “senior prom.” She also volunteered for several local initiatives, including beach cleanups and programs that feed the homeless and the underserved in her community and abroad. In conjunction with Make-A-Wish, she planned and executed wish reveals for two children.

A four-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association Scholar All-American, Ortiz made the Sunshine State Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll every year. Ortiz, who majored in international business management, also earned third-team Google Cloud Academic All-America At-Large honors in 2019. 

Ortiz led her team to one conference championship (2019) and a regional victory in the NCAA tournament, where the team ultimately finished ninth overall at the championship. She currently holds the school record for most rounds played in a career (118), and she previously also held the lowest 54-hole score (210) until 2019. In addition, she posted the fourth-lowest career stroke average, tied for sixth in career tournament victories and is ninth in career top-10 finishes. Ortiz is one of nine golfers in school history with multiple tournament victories in a season. She also has represented Puerto Rico on its national golf team.

Ginny Thrasher

School: West Virginia University
Conference: Independent
Sport: Rifle
Majors: Biomedical engineering
Hometown: Springfield, Virginia

“Being a student-athlete taught me an important lesson: It is possible to do it all, but also harder and more gratifying than one can imagine.”

Ginny Thrasher, a former rifle student-athlete at West Virginia, spent two years as a member of her campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Thrasher spoke at 80 events nationally as a representative of shooting sports and also gave a talk at the school’s inaugural TEDxWVU event. She was named a Ms. Mountaineer finalist, an honor recognizing the university’s most involved students, and delivered more than 80 additional presentations focused on science, technology, engineering and math throughout the state as an ambassador for the university. She also volunteered at the West Virginia University Recovery Center.

Thrasher graduated with a degree in biomedical engineering and was the only engineering student selected to the West Virginia Order of the Augusta, which recognizes the university’s top eight graduating seniors. She is a 2019 recipient of the Big 12 Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award and was named a 2019 West Virginia Outstanding Senior. Thrasher is a four-time recipient of the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association All-Academic Team honors and three-time member of the Academic All-Big 12 At-Large Team. In 2018, Thrasher was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist.

Thrasher is a three-time CRCA All-American. She won individual national championships in both smallbore and air rifle in 2016, and she led West Virginia to two team national championships (2016, 2017), two national second-place finishes (2018, 2019) and four Great American Rifle Conference championships. She also earned five individual conference titles. The first gold medalist at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Thrasher has competed internationally several times representing the United States. She was the 2016 USA Shooting Athlete of the Year and a 2016 AAU James E. Sullivan Award finalist, as one of the top amateur athletes in any sport. She remains a member of the U.S. national shooting team and hopes to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games.

Hailey Tucker

School: Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Conference: Great American Conference
Sport: Basketball
Major: Communication arts: mass communication
Hometown: Bartlesville, Oklahoma

“I’m so blessed to be a summa cum laude graduate of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, where I grew not only as an athlete, but as a woman as well. … I give all thanks to my professors, coaches and community for believing in me and pushing me to be the best woman that I can be.”

Former Southwestern Oklahoma State women’s basketball player Hailey Tucker spent one year as vice president of her campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Tucker dedicated significant portions of her time to community service at youth organizations and schools throughout her time in college, including four years serving a reading program at a local elementary school, volunteering at a local school carnival fundraiser and working with Special Olympics.

A two-time second-team Google Cloud Academic All-American (2018, 2019), Tucker was a 2019 recipient of Southwestern Oklahoma State’s Who’s Who award, which is presented to the school’s highest academic achievers. She also earned two Great American Conference Distinguished Scholar honors (2018, 2019). The communication major spearheaded the creation of a sports broadcasting program in her college at Southwestern Oklahoma State and worked as a sideline reporter for the school’s football program.

On the court, Tucker was a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American in 2019, the Great American Conference Female Athlete of the Year (2019), a two-time conference Player of the Year in basketball (2017, 2018) and the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association Central Region Player of the Year in 2018. Tucker led her team to two regular-season conference championships (2018, 2019) and a conference tournament victory in 2019. The school was national runner-up in the Division II tournament in 2019. Tucker is the Southwestern Oklahoma State all-time leader in career blocked shots, career steals and career 3-point field goals. She also ranks second in program history in career points, career rebounds and career free throws.