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Remembering the best of RF sports in 2006-07

May 3, 2007

Another year has passed for Falcons athletics and that means it's time for the annual Student Voice Eggy Awards.

As with every year, this one had plenty of high and low points, but for the sake of the history of these awards, we're going to stick with the high points. I have also added a new category from last season's awards.

This year's Eggy selection process was a little more tedious than last year's as well. I have had the luxury of getting input from numerous sports journalists on campus. They include fall Student Voice sports editor Sarah Packingham, WRFW sports director and play-by-play voice of Falcons men's hockey Paul Winkels and the WRFW radio team of Mark Haley and Nick Hassel, who announced for the football team and men's and women's basketball for the past few seasons.

After handing out ballots and listening to cases made for many worthy candidates, the final choice for these prestigious awards was mine.

On a side note, I was thinking maybe we should change the name of these awards to something different in the future. If readers have any suggestions feel free to shoot me an e-mail and I'll see what I can do for next year.

So, without further ado, I present the 2007 Eggy award winners.

Rookie of the year

Nate Robertson was a unanimous choice amongst the panel of experts. The 6-foot-7-inch forward stepped into the Falcons starting lineup in the first game and never looked back. He was named to the Div. III news all-freshman team and also earned honorable mention on the all-WIAC team. Robertson led the Falcons in scoring, 14.6 per-game, rebounding, 6.8 per-game, blocked shots, 43, and steals, 28.

Male athlete of the year

Everyone on the panel agreed junior forward TJ Dahl was the choice for this award. The NCHA player of the year was spectacular from start to finish this year, compiling 52 points to lead the men's hockey team and the NCHA. Dahl also reached a milestone by breaking the career 100-point mark at UWRF. Dahl is currently 20th on the all-time list with 112 points and could very realistically end up as a top five scorer in school history. Dahl received numerous accolades this off-season including being named to the USCHO.com West All-America team, the AHCA-RBK All-America team and All-NCHA first team.

Female athlete of the year

This was the toughest decision for the panel as four different candidates were named on the five ballots. The only player receiving two votes was senior Andrea Geehan. Besides this award, the middle-hitter for the volleyball team was named honorable mention to AVCA All-American team and first All-AVCA Midwest Region team and All-WIAC. Geehan finished her UWRF career in third place in kills with more than 1,400.

Coach of the year

This was one category where I had very strong feelings on who should win, but was overruled by the rest of the panel. I believed softball coach Faye Perkins, whose team surprised many in the WIAC this season with a third place regular season finish. They were predicted for seventh. Perkins also got her 400th career win this season. But the eventual winner, who received three of the five votes, was men's hockey coach Steve Freeman. With the Falcons first win of the season, a 6-4 victory over Lawrence University, Freeman secured his 200th coaching victory. The WIAC coach of the year led his team to a 21-win season and an NCAA berth as well. Freeman is always a very deserving candidate for this award and has now received the honor in back-to-back years.

Best team performance (single game)

The game recognized for this award was chosen by four of the five panelists, and I was shocked it wasn't unanimous. The men's hockey team's win at Stout in the regular season finale was huge for obvious reasons. It completed the vital home-and-home sweep to bring the NCHA regular season championship banner to Hunt Arena for the first time since 1996. The overtime victory, clinched by Dustin Norman's goal, was thrilling for everyone that made the trip to Menomonie, Wis., and those who caught Paul Winkels' dramatic call on WRFW.

Best team performance (season)

The men's hockey team had one of the best seasons in recent memory, winning their first NCHA championship in 11 years and getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Many members of the team earned post-season accolades, including four players being named to two different All-American teams, six All-NCHA selections, the NCHA coach of the year, Freeman, and player of the year, Dahl.

Most improved team

This was another tough award as three different candidates received votes including the swimming and diving team, the softball team and men's basketball team, the latter of which eventually came out on top. The team improved by four wins from the previous year and beyond that were much more competitive overall, losing four games by three points or less and seven games by six or less. The team's improvement was also recognized by the powers that be, as head coach Jeff Berkhof had his interim tag removed and was named permanent head coach.

Club sport team of the year

This is a new category I decided to add this year. I can safely say this team is very deserving of this award in only its third year of existence. The men's lacrosse team finished this season 11-2, the previous two seasons they were 2-8 in Great Lakes Lacrosse League play. They started their spring season with a 14-7 exhibition win over rival Stout at the Xcel Energy Center. The team carried that momentum to an 8-0 start to the regular season. The team also finished the year off with a fifth place finish in the league tournament.

Surprise story of the year

One of the few loses the men's hockey team suffered this season took place off the ice when junior standout goaltender AJ Bucchino signed a pro contract with the Augusta Lynx of the East Coast Hockey League. All those who frequent the Hunting Grounds will miss Bucchino, but I for one wish him the best of luck and can't blame him one bit for chasing his childhood dream.

That wraps up another year of Student Voice Falcons sports coverage. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners.

Nick Sortedahl is a student at UW-River Falls.

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