Football Duo and Women's Swimmer are the Latest WNE Student-Athletes of the Week

Football Duo and Women's Swimmer are the Latest WNE Student-Athletes of the Week
SPRINGFIELD, Mass.--Senior offensive linemen Andrew Gatzogiannis (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and Nick Vanoudenhove (Enfield, Conn.) along with senior swimmer Nicole Birchenough (Lowville, N.Y./Lowville Academy) have been selected as the Western New England University Student-Athletes of the Week.

During Western New England's women's swimming home debut on Friday, Birchenough had a fantastic meet by helping the team win 130-91 over Western Connecticut State University. The team co-captain accounted for 20 points in the 200-yard butterfly, a race she won in 2 minutes and 33.58 seconds, and as the anchor leg in the winning 200-medley relay in 2:05.67. The criminal justice major earned an automatic qualification in the 200-fly for the New England Intercollegiate Swimming & Diving Association (NEISDA) Championships. She also recorded her season's best time in the 50-fly at 29.79 seconds. The Golden Bears won 10 of the 14 events and captured their second win in three dual-meets.

Gatzogiannis and Vanoudenhove share the department's weekly award on the men's side as the duo received New England Football Conference (NEFC) All-Conference Second Team Offense recognition. The starting tackle and guard, respectively, helped Western New England have one of the best offenses in the NEFC and in the nation in 2014. The Golden Bears led the NEFC regular-season with 4,435 total yards (the school record is 4,765), ranking 45th in NCAA Division III with a 444.0 average, 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). This is the first time Gatzogiannis and Vanoudenhove have been named All-NEFC.

Even more impressive is that Gatzogiannis, a mechanical engineering major, and Vanoudenhove, who studies marketing, were part of 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, Tyler Ward completed 132 of 209 passes for a .632 percentage and 1651 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.

The Golden Bears had a terrific season at 8-2 to improve on last fall's 4-6 mark, with two of the losses coming by a combined eight points, and spent five consecutive weeks (another program first) atop the New England Division III sports information directors' poll.