Cardinals Honor Athletes with High Flyer Night Celebration - Wheeling University Athletics (2024)

Wheeling, W. Va. - Friends, Family, and Student-Athletes gathered inside the Alma Grace McDonough Center on Thursday night for the Wheeling Athletics High Flyers Night. The banquet was held in person for the first time since the 2018-2019 season and celebrated another strong year for Wheeling University Athletics during the 2023-2024 season. The department handed out their 11 year-end awards along the way as they capped off a year that saw three conference championships, 26 All-MEC Award Winners, six All-Region honorees, and four All-Americans.

Aligning with Wheeling University's mission of Faith, Learning, and Service with and Among Others, it was a big year not just on the field but in the classroom as well. During the Fall semester, the Cardinals broke records in the classroom, with over 200 student-athletes being honored for their academic achievement. When the Mountain East Conference (MEC) released their Fall All-MEC Academic and Commissioner's Honor Roll, the department saw a record 142 student-athletes recognized. As the Fall 2023 President's List was announced, the Cardinals continued setting records as 220 student-athletes were recognized for the first time in the department's history.
Chief Operations Officer Dr. Diana Vargo would talk about this academic success and the pride the Cardinal student-athletes have shown in the classroom.

"The countless hours of planning and preparation by our Athletic Director, Coaches, staff, and Athletic Trainers ensure that the Athletic Programs here at Wheeling University are very successful," said Vargo, "Student-athletes today want to be well prepared, well adjusted, and secured as they grow into young adults, sports helps them do this. Thank you for getting the job done and helping represent Wheeling University so well."

The on-field accomplishments were as plentiful as the off-field accomplishments as the Cardinals competed throughout the year. 15 of the department's 19 varsity sports teams would compete in their respective conference championship tournaments, with three of those teams earning conference championship titles. Wheeling Volleyball would win the 2023 MEC Volleyball Championship and Wheeling Rugby also took home a pair of conference championships in the Big Rivers Rugby Conference (BRRC) during 15's and 7's season. Individually, the Cardinals had 26 student-athletes honored as All-Conference players, six All-Region players, and four All-American players, with Spring All-Conference honors yet to be released.

"You have to have a balance between your academic life, your social life, and your spiritual life and I truly believe that that faith component we have really grounds us and keeps us humble," said Hanna.

Then, it was time to give out the awards as 11 student-athletes were honored for their hard work throughout the 2023-2024 season. The awards ranged from Athletics to Academic to Leadership awards as the 11 award winners were the embodiment of what it means to be a Cardinal. The 11 award winners are listed below:

Fr. Charles L. Currie S.J. Scholar Athlete of the Year Award: Natalie Stoner (Softball)

Natalie Stoner has been a star in centerfield for the Cardinals during her time with the Wheeling University Softball team and earned the honor of being named the Fr. Charles L. Currie S.J. Scholar Athlete of the Year Award Winner. The award is given to the graduating senior who has combined athletic and academic excellence, having the highest GPA among the graduating athletic class. The Elementary Education Major not only had the highest GPA in the Athletic Department, but in the entire class of 2024 as she was also named the Wheeling University Class of 2024 Valedictorian. She will be giving the valedictory address at Wheeling's graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 4th, at 10:30 AM.

Female Intercollegiate Athlete of the Year: Karly Niesen (Volleyball)

Throughout her four years with the Wheeling University Volleyball team, Karly Niesen has been a leader on the court. Over her four seasons in a Cardinal uniform, Niesen has been an All-MEC honoree in each of her four seasons, and was named the MEC's Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons. She is also a three-time All-Region honoree in both the Division II Conference Commissioner's Association (D2CCA) and the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) and a two-time All-American. Just this past season, she became the third Wheeling setter to ever reach the 4,000 career assist milestone as she has been a demonstrated leader for the Wheeling Volleyball program.

Male Intercollegiate Athlete of the Year: Mike Andersson (Men's Lacrosse)

Mike Andersson has had a historic career with the Wheeling University Men's Lacrosse team and is continuing that into his senior season. Just last night against Davis & Elkins, he became the program's all-time leading scorer with his 161st career goal and already holds both the single-season and single-game goal records. During his career, he has won All-GMAC honors in two of his first three seasons and was the GMAC's leading scorer a season ago. Andersson has also helped the Wheeling Men's Lacrosse team improve their record in each of his four years, and led them to the GMAC playoffs for the first time since the 2018 season this year.

Female Newcomer of the Year: Grace Moorley (Women's Swimming)

When it came to big time performances, Grace Moorley would come through when it mattered most for the Wheeling University Women's Swimming team. Moorley would earn the MEC's Women's Swimming Freshman of the Year award this season and was the only freshman at the MEC/GMAC Championships to take home an individual title. Moorley swam in several different events throughout the year, and would ultimately win the MEC Championship in the 200-Yard Freestyle, with a time of 1:56.67. Along with her MEC title, she was also honored as an Honorable Mention All-MEC swimmer with the Wheeling 800-Yard Freestyle Relay team to round out the event.

Male Newcomer of the Year: Jake Powell (Wrestling)

After transferring in from Youngstown State, Jake Powell immediately took the reigns as a leader for the Wheeling University Wrestling team. In his first season in the red and black, Powell would wrestle as the team's primary heavyweight and went 23-11 across his 34 matches. He entered the MEC Tournament as the #4 seed in the 285-lb weight class and finished fourth at the event. He added to his accomplishments as he earned Academic All-American honors, having the highest GPA on the Wheeling Wrestling team this past season at 3.82. He has been a leader in helping to rebuild the Wheeling Wrestling program and looks to continue his success into the future.

Cardinal Sportswoman of the Year: Nicole Lincicome (Women's Golf)

Nicole Lincicome has been a leader for the Wheeling Women's Golf program since she came on campus in 2021. The junior has had her share of on-course accomplishments, winning two All-MEC awards in her career while being the Cardinal's top finisher at this year's event, placing 17th in the field. Along with her on-course success, she has also been a strong student in the classroom, while displaying sportsmanship to her fellow players on the course throughout the season.

Cardinal Sportsman of the Year: Josh Blankenship (Rugby)

Josh Blankenship has been a captain for the Wheeling University Rugby team over the last two seasons and is currently leading them at the CRC National 7's. Officials routinely talk about how much they like Josh and how he is able to handle situations as they arise on the Rugby pitch. On the pitch, he plays a big role in the Cardinal's defensive success, and has helped them to eight shutout victories during the 7's season and two BRRC Championships this past year.

Female Difference Maker of the Year: Jacqui Hinesmon (Women's Basketball)

Jacqui Hinesmon entered the year as the most veteran member of the Wheeling University Women's Basketball team and used that leadership to guide the team. She was a vocal leader on the court, helping the team to their best start in program history, when they went 8-0 to start the season. As they advanced to the MEC Tournament, Hinesmon continued to lead the team as they took the #5 seed and battled in their quarterfinal matchup. She finished the year averaging 7.5 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, and shot 50.6% from the floor.

Male Difference Maker of the Year: Kenny Jinks (Baseball)

Since joining the Wheeling Baseball team last season, Kenny Jinks has been a workhorse in the Cardinal's starting rotation. He earned Honorable Mention All-MEC honors for his work last season and helped lead the team to the MEC Tournament for the second time in program history last season. He currently sits at 4-3 with a 4.86 ERA through 10 games, nine starts, and leads the team with 59 strikeouts during the season. With two more regular season starts ahead for Jinks, he looks to build on those accomplishments and bring home another All-MEC honor and possibly an MEC Championship this season.

Female Inspirational Athlete of the Year: Olivia Kqira (Women's Soccer)

When Alderson Broaddus sadly closed its campus, Olivia Kqira was looking for a home and she found one in Wheeling University. In her first season with the Cardinals she came in just weeks before the start of Fall camp and made herself a leader on the Cardinal defense. She finished as an Honorable Mention All-MEC player for Wheeling, making 128 saves while finishing with a 75.3% save percentage. Kqira also permanently etched her name in Wheeling Women's Soccer history, setting the new single-game saves record when she tallied 18 against Frostburg State.

Male Inspirational Athlete of the Year: Ethan Banks (Men's Swimming)

When he stepped on campus four years ago, the Wheeling University Men's Swimming program was just getting started. He was the highest scorer for the Wheeling Men's Swimming team at the 2021 MEC/GMAC Championships and got the program started after years of being stalled. Four years later, he has been a leader for the Wheeling Men's Swimming program, helping them get to their biggest roster since the 2016-2017 season. Banks has been through the ups and downs of the program and has helped bring Wheeling Men's Swimming back to its former glory.

The next Wheeling University Athletic event is scheduled for Friday, April 26th, when Wheeling Rugby competes in day one of the CRC National 7's against Fordham at 10:20 AM.

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Cardinals Honor Athletes with High Flyer Night Celebration - Wheeling University Athletics (2024)
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