NIU Athletics awarded Jacoby Trophy

By Eddie Garcia

DeKalb — NIU has been recognized with the school’s first-ever Jacoby Trophy, an award given to the top women’s athletic program in the Mid-American Conference.

The Huskies received the award May 31 after narrowly defeating Kent State by half a point to claim the trophy.

The award is solely based on wins — something NIU’s women’s programs accomplished a lot this past season. Nine of NIU’s 10 women’s sports programs finished in the top tier of the MAC during either the regular season or tournament play.

The volleyball team paved the way for the program’s success as the only team last year to claim a MAC tournament title, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 2001.

Sean T. Frazier, associate vice president and director of Athletics, spoke about the group of coaches. He said he is proud of what all coaches have accomplished in making the women’s athletic program what it is today.

“We have a great nucleus of coaches,” Frazier said. “We made some changes across the way throughout my four years here, but the individuals that have come in really put the stamp on the program. This is the first time in history that we receive the award, so we made history, and it is because we have folks in our community that really care about this program.”

The Jacoby Trophy will be on display throughout the 2017-18 school year at select events, including select game days, Coffee with Carlsen breakfasts and community events.

NIU coaches and staff came together at the “kick off tour” June 20 at Eduardo’s Restaurant, 214 E. Lincoln Highway, and talked about what the Jacoby Trophy meant for the program, future goals and accomplishments the program hopes to meet.

Adrian Myers, cross country head coach.

“We started from the bottom; now we are here,” Myers said. “We want to continue to win the Jacoby trophy, and I am happy we are playing a role in that now. It feels good to contribute to this award and to be a part of such great company. Every coach here basically competed for a MAC title this year, and it’s great.”

Myers said the program averaged 11th place in Jacoby trophy voting for 20 years, one position away from last place. He said NIU has reached a high level and thinks it will stay this way for a while moving forward.

Connie Teaberry, track and field head coach.

“We had seven girls go to the NCAA first round with [two girls] in the 3,000-meter steeplechase,” Teaberry said. “We had a girl in the hurdles, we had a girl in the triple jump, a girl in the high jump and a girl in the 800 [meter dash]. It might have been a tie for the most amount of girls that made it to the first round, and they did an excellent job, but that round is really hard, as we went up against some [very talanted teams]”

Teaberry said what most people don’t understand is the team goes year-round with indoor and outdoor events which can be physically grueling at times. She credited the athletes and coaches for staying grounded throughout the year.

Lisa Carlsen, women’s basketball head coach.

“When you talk about celebrating the Jacoby trophy, I believe the best thing is the collective effort of everybody and the camaraderie,” Carlsen said. “We found a way to do more with less. I think that all the coaches will tell you there is none of us that expect that trophy to go anywhere but here in DeKalb. That is our goal and will continue to be our goal to celebrate this [trophy] on an annual basis.”

Carlsen said she thinks the team is going to have a better year than it had last year based on everything they were able to accomplish a year ago.

Dawnita Teague – gymnastics assistant coach.

“I speak for [all coaches] in saying how proud we are of the women’s athletic department at NIU,” Teague said. “Winning the Jacoby trophy is a huge honor. This recognition shows how far we have come and our continued commitment to excellence. It is awesome to be surrounded with so many great support staff, administrators, coaches, athletes and supporters. Everyone’s effort has contributed to this award.”

Teague said her gymnasts feel and appreciate all of the support they have received from the school, and feels her team is moving in the right direction.

Kim Kester – women’s golf head coach.

“On the course, [the team] looks great, and we hope they make the transition even better because we definitely want to keep that Jacoby trophy here,” Kester said.

Women’s golf had two wins, two runner-up finishes and the best MAC Championship finish in school history this season. Kester is optimistic for next year even though the team is losing two starters from last year inclusing Lena Gautier, who paced the team during the spring season of play with the lowest scoring average.

Tanya Mahefu, women’s tennis head coach.

“We had a great year in women’s tennis,” Mahefu said. “We made it to the MAC tournament for the first time since 2012. We had the programs first-ever freshmen of the year. We had two players make first team all MAC, which was good for our program because we were the only program in the MAC to have two players selected to the first team. Lastly, we had two Academic All Mid-American Conference. Just watching what my colleagues have been doing all year has been motivating for myself and my team. We just want to continue contributing.”

The women’s tennis team is losing two contributing seniors but is looking to stay competitive this upcoming season.

Connor McKee, women’s soccer assistant coach.

“We had 12 girls make it to the Academic All MAC team and four MAC distinguished scholars,” McKee said. “We had a first team all-conference player and three players made the MAC tournament team. [Also], we capped it off with an appearance to the Mid-American Conference championship game for the first time in 10 years. To say we are optimistic about this [upcoming season is surely an understatement”

McKee said NIU women athletes got it done this season in competition, in the classroom and in all aspects of everyday life.

Christina Sutcliffe, softball head coach.

“This isn’t an award for women’s athletics; this is in award for NIU athletics in general, for the university and for the community,” Sutcliffe said. “We know [the trophy] is bigger than just [our team].”

The softball team has reached the postseason five consecutive seasons and made it to the MAC Championship game in four of those seasons.

Ray Gooden, volleyball head coach.

“To hear everyone’s stories about what we have been able to do and how little things have helped [them has been] awesome,” Gooden said. “It is a culture, it is a vibe, it is a feel that has been felt collectively since I have been here.”

Gooden said his team had a special year, but the goal now is to continue moving forward.