Grace Kucharski, Andrew McManus Named Senior Scholar-Athletes of the Year for 2014-15

Grace Kucharski, Andrew McManus Named Senior Scholar-Athletes of the Year for 2014-15
SPRINGFIELD, Mass.--College Sports Information Directors' of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America honorees Grace Kucharski (Avon, Conn.) and Andrew McManus (Rowley, Mass./Triton Regional High School) have been named the Western New England University Senior Scholar-Athletes of the Year for the 2014-15 academic calendar. Kucharski is a women's volleyball and softball standout while McManus anchors the football team's offensive line.

Kucharski, a senior defensive specialist, was Western New England's 2014 Iron Woman Award winner for a tireless work ethic. She used that determination to earn a slew of major accomplishments at the conference, regional and national levels in her senior year. She repeated as the Commonwealth Coast Conference Libero of the Year and on the all-CCC First Team, was named an AVCA coaches' All-America (the only CCC libero) and all-New England for the second year in a row, placed on the CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-America® Third Team and earned academic all-conference for the third straight season. The school's all-time digs leader who ranks ninth in New England NCAA Division III history with 2,118, also was a New England Women's Volleyball Association Division III Senior Classic participant.

The business management major (emphasis in enterprise resource planning) is just the second female student-athlete in WNE history to earn both field All-America and classroom CoSIDA Academic All-America recognition in the same season, and the first in eight years.

Besides 492 digs to finish second in the CCC this past fall, Kucharski placed first in the conference with a career-high 69 service aces. She wound up in fifth place on the all-time school chart with 249 aces.

A three-time CoSIDA Academic All-District® First Team selection, four-time All-CCC pick on the volleyball court and even an all-conference catcher in softball, Kucharski sports a 3.92 overall grade-point average. She has been a Life Skills mentor, University admissions associate and multiple Dean's List recipient. When not in the playing area, her community service activities include United Way, Dig Pink, American Cancer Society, Relay for Life, and Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Center fundraiser, and she has been a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Kucharski returned to the Golden Bears softball program this spring after missing the 2014 season because she was enrolled in the prestigious Walt Disney Company College Internship Program in Orlando, Fla. Heading into this weekend's NCAA Division III Softball regional tournament at Williams College, she has established career highs in batting (.356), on-base percentage (.391), slugging (.448) while tying her single-season mark in home runs with two.
Pictured, left to right: Softball coach Lori Mayhew, volleyball coach Bret Stothart, Grace Kucharski and Athletics Director Mike Theulen.
McManus received two significant academic awards at the national level this season: 2015 NFF Hampshire Honor Society by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame and CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-America® Division III Football First Team. He is the first Golden Bears football player named a CoSIDA Academic All-American® since Mike Valentine who also made the first team in 2011.

A two-time CoSIDA/Capital One Academic® All-District I First Team performer, McManus was a four-year starter and offensive line captain for the Golden Bears, helping WNE have one of the best offenses in the New England Football Conference and in the nation in 2014. The Golden Bears led the NEFC during the regular season with 4,435 total yards (the school record is 4,765), ranking 45th in NCAA Division III with a 444.0 average, a school-record 223 first downs (OLD: 220, 2007), 30 rushing touchdowns and red-zone TDs at 34-for-48. The team also was second in the conference with a school-record 48 TDs, 335 points (the WNE benchmark is 341) and 2,677 rushing yards (the team mark is 2,716).

McManus was an integral part of the Golden Bears' setting single-game school benchmarks in an 80-16 win at Maine Maritime on Sep. 27 for points (previous: 66 vs Maine Maritime, 2010), total yards with 769 (previous: 740 against Maine Maritime, 2013) and 64-point margin of victory (previous: 59-0 over Maine Maritime in 2013). Also in that game, signal-caller Tyler Ward tied a school record with four touchdown passes of 61, 6, 6 and 20 yards and he set a career high with 321 yards on just 15 completions in 21 attempts, and WNE saw two running backs each rush for over 100 yards.

McManus anchored an offensive line that allowed just 0.70 sacks per game to rate seventh in the nation. In his first year as a starting quarterback, Ward completed 132 of 209 passes for a .632 percentage and 1,651 yards while throwing for a school-record 16 TD passes--also breaking the old team record of 15, set in 1992 and 2007--against only three interceptions. McManus also helped pave the way for senior running back Kevin Cook to rush for over 4,000 yards to become the school's all-time leader and rank 16th in New England Division III history.

In the classroom, the mechanical engineering major had the second-highest grade-point average (3.86) both among seniors within the district and among New England-based offensive linemen in all NCAA Divisions I-II-III, NAIA and community colleges. McManus owns a 4.0 GPA in his major, is on a Presidential Scholarship at WNE and has been inducted to the Tau Beta Pi Engineering and Alpha Lambda Delta honor societies.
Pictured, left to right: Football coach Keith Emery, Andrew McManus and Athletics Director Mike Theulen.