The 2014-15 athletic year has all but come to a close, and that can only mean one thing: end-of-year awards. Beginning Monday, June 1, Inside NU will be handing out seven different awards to celebrate the top players, coaches and games of the year in Northwestern sports.
However, it's not just our decision; it's also yours. Today, Monday, May 25, we are releasing the nominees for all seven awards. At the bottom of each page is a poll, and that's where you can make your vote count. Voting will be open for a week, and will close at 11 p.m. on Sunday, May 31. Winners will be announced the following week. Without further ado...
The granddaddy of them all, Athlete of the Year goes to the most outstanding athlete in 2014-15 that Northwestern had to offer. Naturally, we give a bit more weight to the popular sports -- in a vacuum, there's no way a running back who ran for 1,100-plus yards and 10 touchdowns is on the same level as a wrestler or swimmer who came close to winning a national championship -- and taking that into consideration, we've come up with six potential winners of the award.
Here are the nominees for Inside NU's 2015 Northwestern Athlete of the Year Award:
Tyler Miller, Soccer: Miller had a phenomenal year in net for the Wildcats, leading a defense that topped the Big Ten in goals against this year. At just .58 goals against per match, Miller, who was selected to the US Under-23 National team, made the NCSAA/NCAA All-American second team. He's currently playing professionally in Germany, and we profiled him a while back. He was also a Senior Class Award finalist.
Nia Coffey, Women's Basketball: Coffey was an All-Big Ten First Team performer for the Wildcats this year. She had an impressive stretch of five straight double-doubles in conference play and averaged nearly 18 points and nine rebounds this year. And perhaps most importantly, the do-everything forward led Northwestern to its first NCAA Tournament in 20 years.
Jason Tsirtsis, Wrestling: In two years in Evanston, Tsirtsis has accumulated a 71-5 overall record, and is already a two-time Big Ten champion and two-time All-American. Although he didn't repeat as NCAA Champion after triumphing as a freshman, Tsirtsis had a very successful year, going 39-2 and finishing third in the nation in the 149-pound weight class.
Jordan Wilimovsky, Swimming: Perhaps the most decorated Northwestern athlete, Wilimovsky won the 10K swim at the 2015 Open Water National Championships to advance to the 2015 FINA World Championships. He also won the Big Ten championship in the 1,650-meter freestyle and earned two All-American honors. He also absolutely shattered the school's 1,650-meter free record, and is considered a contender for an Olympic spot for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Selena Lasota, Lacrosse: Reading her stats only tells half the story. We covered the other half. Nevertheless, Lasota scored an absurd 69 goals this year and helped lead a very inexperienced Wildcats team to the Elite Eight as just a freshman. Lacrosse America named her Rookie of the Year and an All-American.
Justin Jackson, Football: Despite an offensive line that struggled at times and a quarterback that was up-and-down, Justin Jackson churned out yards. He rushed for 1,187 yards and earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention status. Jackson averaged nearly 100 yards per game on the ground and also added 11 total touchdowns. He also did this. Absolute beast.
Henry Bushnell: Jackson is the big name, but he's not even in the running for me. I think it's a toss-up between Wilimovsky and Tsirtsis, and I'll go with Tsirtsis.
Zach Pereles: To me, this one's not even close. Jordan Wilimovsky is a top-tier swimmer, the class of the Big Ten when it comes to distance swimming, and he will represent both the United States and Northwestern on the international stage, plus he could be an Olympian in the future.
David Gernon: Being an Olympian is something a very select few people get to experience in their lifetime and for Jordan Wilimovsky to have the kind of year he did to be considered a contender for the 2016 Rio games is something to take note of. An easy choice for this one.
Josh Rosenblat: Sure, Wilimovsky may be the most successful Wildcat overall, but if we're talking about individual seasons at Northwestern, I have to go with Lasota. She carried an inexperienced squad throughout the season as they rode her talent all the way to the Elite Eight.
Kevin Dukovic: Perhaps the most under-appreciated athlete at Northwestern, Jordan Wilimovsky deserves this award. His accomplishments (listed above), speak for themselves.
Voting has ended. Check throughout the week, as we'll be announcing winners Tuesday through Friday.