Two-Sport Standout Kucharski Nominated for Prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year Award

Two-Sport Standout Kucharski Nominated for Prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year Award
INDIANAPOLIS--Western New England University two-sport standout Grace Kucharski (Avon, Conn.) has been nominated for the prestigious 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year Award, the national office announced on Friday.

There are 478 nominees for the most ever in the 25-year history of the Woman of the Year program. But more impressively, Kucharski is one of just 179 student-athletes representing Division III and one of only 55 from the sport of volleyball. The NCAA Woman of the Year Award honors the most outstanding graduating female student-athletes and champions four pillars of greatness: academics, athletics, service and leadership.

During the 2014-15 academic year, Kucharski became the second female student-athlete in Western New England history--and the first in eight years--to earn both field All-America and classroom CoSIDA Academic All-America recognition in the same season. The two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III Honorable Mention All-America choice also received Capital One Academic All-America® NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Third Team laurels from the College Sports Information Directors' of America (CoSIDA).

Her other 2014 postseason accolades included two-time AVCA Division III All-New England Region Team, three-time Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District I®, New England Women's Volleyball Association Division III Senior Classic, Commonwealth Coast Conference Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year, two-time CCC Libero of the Year and All-CCC First Team (4x all-conference), three-time Academic All-CCC Team, WNE Female Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and WNE Iron Woman Award (hardest-working player on the team). During the season, she was the CCC Libero of the Week (Sept. 9) and New York University Violet Classic All-Tournament Team (Sep. 20).

A defensive specialist, Kucharski finished her four-year collegiate volleyball career ranked ninth in New England NCAA Division III history with 2,118 digs, which are 831 more than the Golden Bear who stands in second place in school annals. She also holds school benchmarks for career (4.92) and single-season (5.05) dig average as well as the top four marks for digs in a season (466, 574, 586, 492). Besides 492 digs to finish second in the CCC last fall, she 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.

"Grace has had an incredible career at Western New England. She has contributed to this university in so many ways and established herself as one of the highest-achieving Golden Bears in school history," said volleyball coach Bret Stothart. "It is truly fitting she earn the prestigious nomination for (NCAA) Woman of the Year."

Added softball coach Lori Mayhew: "Grace is an exceptional student-athlete who excels on the volleyball court and on the softball field, but most importantly in the classroom. She is the epitome of a Golden Bear student-athlete."

During her senior softball season, she contributed to the No. 1-seeded Golden Bears' first-ever CCC championship without losing a game (3-0) in the conference tournament--including a convincing 4-1 win over defending champion Endicott College. Western New England finished 30-9 overall (14-2 CCC) after going 1-2 in the Williamstown Regional of the NCAA Division III Softball Championship--the program's first trip to the national tournament since 2006.

Kucharski posted career bests with a .362 batting average, .394 on-base percentage and .457 slugging to earn second-team all-CCC. She also was named to the NCAA Division III Regional All-Tournament Team at Williams College and academic all-conference for the third time. A 2013 National Fastpitch Coaches' Association Scholar All-America Team selection, she is expected to be recognized for this honor again when the 2015 squad is announced in the fall.

Kucharski enrolled in the prestigious Walt Disney Company College Internship Program in Orlando, Fla., that caused her to miss the 2014 campaign on the diamond, but she didn't miss a beat by improving on her honorable mention all-conference status attained during her 2013 sophomore season.

Kucharski achieved a bachelor's degree in business management with an emphasis in enterprise resource planning, graduating with a 3.91 grade-point average. She is a multiple recipient for the President's and Dean's Lists. She plans to attend graduate school.

Off the court and field of play, her other co-curricular activities have included Life Skills mentor, University admissions associate, United Way, Dig Pink, American Cancer Society, Relay for Life, Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Center fundraiser and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

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