The PARDees, Lafayette’s senior student-athlete awards ceremony, were held Thursday evening at the Williams Center for the Arts. More than 100 student-athletes and their families celebrated the close of the Class of 2013′s competitive careers.
Four seniors stood out from the pack. Tony Johnson (Folsom, Calif.), Deanna DiCroce (Doylestown, Pa.), Blake Fink (Westhampton, N.J.) and Emily Valeo (Norristown, Pa.) took home the top honors as selected by head coaches and athletic administrators.
Johnson and DiCroce were honored with the Charles L. Albert ’08 Award, given to the senior male and female student-athletes judged to be the most outstanding athletes. The endowed award was established in 1966.
Johnson was an All-Patriot League Men’s Basketball First-Team selection as a senior and an All-Patriot League Second-Team honoree in his junior campaign. In 2012-13, he finished second in Patriot League Player of the Year voting after averaging 13.3 points and 4.8 assists per game while also leading the conference in field-goal percentage.
A National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 13 Second-Team selection, Johnson helped lead the Leopards to three Patriot League Tournament title games in four years. He leaves Lafayette ranked sixth in career assists and fourth in steals.
“Tony was the top point guard in the Patriot League over the last couple of seasons and one of the top point guards on the East Coast,” said men’s basketball head coach Fran O’Hanlon. “He was a consummate leader, having been selected as a co-captain in his junior and senior years. I believe Tony is one of the best players in Lafayette’s history.”
DiCroce was twice named the Patriot League Field Hockey Offensive Player of the Year. She leaves College Hill with 53 goals, 44 assists and 150 points, ranking her second in the Patriot League in career assists and points and fourth in career goals. She was a four-time All-Patriot League First-Team honoree, a two-time National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-Mideast Region Team member in 2011 and 2012, and a second-team honoree in 2009.
The center forward was a three-time selection to the Patriot League All-Tournament Team and was the tourney MVP in 2012. A team captain her final two seasons, DiCroce played on the USA Senior National Indoor Squad during her time at Lafayette.
“Deanna is a competitor and a top-level athlete,” said head coach Jennifer Stone. “She played a very significant role in the program’s success over the past four years, helping win Patriot League championships in 2011 and 2012, along with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012.”
Fink and Valeo received the Class of 1913 Trophy, an endowed award presented to the senior male and female student-athletes who have attained the greatest distinction both as an athlete and a scholar. The Class of 1913 Trophy has been presented annually since 1940.
Fink was a four-year starter in the men’s soccer program, scoring 10 goals to go along with five assists while starting 70 of 73 games. The government and law major maintains a 3.71 overall grade-point average and was selected to the 2011 and 2012 National Soccer Coaches Association of America Scholar All-America University Division All-East Region Teams.
After helping lead the Leopards to the 2012 Patriot League title, the forward was the team’s Academic Excellence Award recipient in 2012. He garnered Capital One Academic All-District laurels as a junior along with Academic All-Patriot League status. Fink is a member of the Omicron Delta Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, and is a recipient of the Edith A. Gorsuch Scholarship and the Henrietta S. Treen Scholarship.
“Blake is a tremendous student-athlete and has been an integral part of the Lafayette men’s soccer team for four seasons,” said head coach Dennis Bohn. “While being a mainstay in the starting lineup since he arrived on College Hill, Blake has also been one of the top academic performers in the Patriot League.”
Valeo was a four-year starter and served as a team captain her junior and senior years. She garnered regional All-America honors her senior year and was an All-Patriot League selection three times. The Maroon Club Scholar-Athlete Award winner in the fall of 2012, Valeo holds a 3.72 cumulative GPA while majoring in English.
She has served as a peer mentor in the Academic Tutoring and Training Information Center and is a four-time Patriot League Academic Honor Roll selection. She also clinched a spot on the National Field Hockey Coaches Association National Academic Squad.
The center midfielder is a member of the senior squad of the USA National Indoor Team, representing the U.S. in international tournaments while also participating in the U.S. high-performance training program and competing with and against other national team players. Valeo leaves Lafayette in a tie for the lead in career assists with 45 after starting 79 games. She set a single-season record in 2012 with 17 assists.
“Emily was a four-year starter and rarely left the field. She was undoubtedly one of the top players in the league and also in the country. She was a very significant piece to the success the program has had over the past four years,” Stone said. “She was who the team turned to when times got tough. Emily was a true leader who has genuinely achieved success in the classroom and on the athletic field.”
The ceremony, which featured a pre-ceremony red carpet and a reception afterwards, was hosted by Gary Laubach of the Lafayette Sports Network and Susan Averett, Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics and Lafayette’s faculty athletics representative.