Needham, Johnson highlight Fairfield Athletics Award winners




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Image: Athletics AwardsFairfield University student-athletes past and present were honored at the annual Athletics Awards Banquet held at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn on May 3. Basketball players Derek Needham and Taryn Johnson were named the Fairfield University Male and Female Athletes of the Year, respectively, while men's basketball player Maurice Barrow and women's tennis player Monica Yajima were named the Male and Female Freshman of the Year, respectively.

Needham, a sophomore, led the men's basketball team to a school-record 25 victories and advance to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). He led the team in scoring and assists for the second-straight season, averaging 14.1 points and 4.5 assists per game. He scored 10 or more points in 26 of his 33 games and tallied 20 or more points four times. He was named to the All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) First Team and become the most recent member of the Stags' 1,000-point club.

Johnson, a junior, led the women's basketball team in both scoring and rebounding during the 2010-11 campaign. She averaged 12.8 points and 8.1 rebounds in 30 starts for the Stags. She posted six double-doubles and scored 20 or more points on four occasions. She led the MAAC with a field goal percentage of 50.0. She earned All-MAAC honors and was selected to the All-Met team.

Yajima was a key to the women's tennis team's success in 2011. She led the team in singles, doubles and combined victories, helping the Stags to a second-straight MAAC Regular Season Championship and a spot in the MAAC Championship final. Yajima had a 26-4 overall record in singles play, which included a 5-0 MAAC record. She was 24-13 overall in doubles as well. Barrow started the final 27 games for the men's basketball team, placing fifth with 6.2 points per game and ranked second with 5.7 rebounds per contest. He recorded two double-doubles and just missed a third with nine points and a career-high 16 rebounds against Siena in a nationally televised game. He also earned a spot on the MAAC All-Rookie Team.

In addition, cross country's Ben Heslin received the William Wallin Award, presented to the student-athlete who best demonstrates the highest levels of sportsmanship, character, and leadership on and off the field. Heslin, a team captain for three years, capped off his senior campaign by running the fastest time ever by a Stag at Van Cortlandt Park at the Iona Meet of Champions. Off the course, Heslin is a three-time MAAC All-Academic selection, a resident advisor, and the co-president of Fairfield University's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

The Alumni Association Scholar Athletes of the Year were men's lacrosse player Sean Bannon and field hockey player Marit Westenberg. Bannon, a senior, developed into one of the top midfielders in the nation, as illustrated by his 2011 Preseason All-America honorable mention by Inside Lacrosse. In the classroom, he is a double major in finance and marketing. A Rhodes Scholar candidate this year, Bannon is also a two-time All-ECAC Academic Team selection and was one of 20 student-athletes selected as a candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for men's lacrosse. Westenberg, a junior, led the field hockey team in scoring with 11 goal, including four-game winners, and six assists for 28 points. Westenberg was named to the All-America East Team as well as the conference's All-Academic Team. The international studies major also garnered a spot on the National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-Region team.

The ECAC Certificate of Appreciation was presented to Head Coach John Slosar for his three-decades of service to the Fairfield University baseball team. Slosar, who is retiring at the conclusion of the 2011 campaign, joined the Stags staff as an assistant in 1975 before taking over the program in 1985. He has been in the dugout for more than 1,200 games, has posted twelve 20-win seasons, notched four MAAC South titles and was named MAAC South Coach of the Year three times.

Four Stags legends were officially inducted into the Fairfield University Alumni Association Athletic Hall of Fame. The 2010-11 induction class consisted of women's basketball player Gail Strumpf-Cheney '01, softball player Ellen Sarosy-Kiernan '03, men's lacrosse player J.T. Groarke '99, and women's soccer player Pam Cluff '01. Read more about the inductees.

Fairfield's student-athletes as a whole were recognized for their work in the community as they received an award from the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. The Stags donate many hours to community service and outreach by participating in charity walks, read-a-loud programs, city beautification projects, and clinics. The year was highlighted by the SAAC talent show in which all 20 varsity programs put on performances to help raise funds for Grace Evanko and her family.

It was also announced that three student-athletes - Lauren Balmert, Sergio Lara, and Ryan Olander - will attend the NCAA Career Forum in Indianapolis during the month of June. The forum is a four-day event through which student-athletes explore and learn about career opportunities in sports with an emphasis on collegiate athletics.

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Media Contact: Jack Jones, (203) 254-4116

Posted on May 4, 2011