Over the next 10 weeks, Pitt-Bradford athletics will bring you the Top 10 Moments of the 2012-13 school year.
Each week a new moment will debut, featuring insight from coaches, players, and Sports Information Director Scott Elliott. It all leads up to the No. 1 moment in Panther athletics, which will be revealed the week of Aug. 5.
Since the inception of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference, 27 Pitt-Bradford student-athletes have been named their sport's respective Player of the Year. The Panthers have dominated the individual awards of late, as 11 different student-athletes have earned the honor since the start of the 2010-11 school year.
To be awarded such an accolade is an acknowledgment from their opponents: all awards are voted on by opposing coaches and athletics directors.
This past school year, four Panthers received such distinction, and all four were women. Women's soccer players Maggie Boehler and Alisa Cornell were named the Co-Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively; Melinda MacKenzie was honored as the female Co-Swimmer of the Year; and softball player Sydney Mosby earned the title of Pitcher of the Year.
It marked the third time in school history four different Panthers won Player of the Year honors in the same year.
The women's soccer team highlighted the fall sports season with its run to the AMCC championship match, the first appearance in school history. Boehler and Cornell each played a big role for the Panthers.
Cornell, a three-year starter, was the AMCC's most dominating goalie in her final two seasons as a Panther. In 36 matches, she allowed a whopping 19 goals. In 18 conference matches, she surrendered a staggering five goals. Pitt-Bradford ranked as one of the top defensive teams in 2011 with Cornell leading the charge.
In the past, the conference only honored a Player of the Year, which was consistently awarded to an offensive player. The 2012 season represented the first year the AMCC recognized an individual defensive player, and Cornell was the runaway winner as she went 13-4-1 as a starter. The Panthers led the league in nearly every defensive category with her commandeering the unit.
Under head coach Mike Idland, Pitt-Bradford took a big step forward defensively in 2011. In 2012, the offense would catch-up, in part because of the freshman Boehler. Paired with Tess Follman, another freshman, the duo combined to help transform the Panthers into one of the top attacking units in the conference.
Boehler led the team with 13 goals and added four assists to finish with a team-high 30 points, second-most among all AMCC players. It was her goal in the AMCC championship match that put the Panthers out in front early. She also became the sixth player in program history to score four goals in a match when she accomplished the feat against La Roche. Her five game-winning markers led the league.
For Idland, it was testament to how far the program has come in a short time and a reflection of the caliber of talent in each of his recruiting classes.
"Here, we had arguably the top two players in the conference playing on the same team and spanning the classes: Alisa, a senior and key player in my first recruiting class at Pitt-Bradford, and Maggie, a freshman and standout player in my most recent recruiting class at the time," said Idland. "It made me feel good about the body of my work in the recruiting aspect of my job."
Cornell, like any good leader, deflected the attention to her teammates and how they make her job easier.
"I think it was an awesome feeling to be recognized, because of it being the first time it was awarded," said the Philadelphia native. "But it is really a testament to how good and strong our defense was and will be in the future."
"When you don't get many shots on net then it's more likely you will save the others. My defense never made me work too hard. They're awesome."
Boehler shared the same sentiments, highlighting the importance of her teammates.
"I feel honored to receive this award, and I am surprised I won it as a freshman," said the Pittsburgh native. "However, my success would not have been possible without my teammates, who also deserve a lot of credit."
"I could not have won this award alone."
The selflessness of both student-athletes paints a bigger picture. That attitude has paved the way for 26 wins in the last two seasons.
MacKenzie joined Boehler and Cornell in February after capping a stellar career in the pool with a dominating senior year.
It was only after talking with swimming coach Ed Bahan did I realize how far back MacKenzie and her coach go back.
"I have known and been watching Melinda swim since she was 9 years old when I was first introduced to her," said Bahan. "Her high school, age group coach is one of my best friends. I was thrilled when she chose Pitt-Bradford and knew that I was getting the opportunity of coaching her through her collegiate career."
MacKenzie quickly established herself as one of the conference's top long-distance swimmers. As a freshman, the Somerset, Pa., native won the 1,650 free swim at the AMCC championships. She finished second in both the 1,650 and 500 free as a sophomore, and one year later, went on to win both events as a junior.
This past February, as a senior, she opened the conference meet by repeating as the 500 free champion, shaving more than nine seconds off her time from the previous year. A day later, she comfortably won the 200 free for her fifth individual title, ranking her third all-time in school history. She narrowly missed out on a sixth, finishing runner-up in the 1,650 free.
With her performance, she joined Morgan Kinville (2006-10) as the only female in program history to earn Swimmer of the Year honors.
"Winning the award for Swimmer of the Year meant a lot to me," said MacKenzie. "Not only was it an honor for myself, it was an honor for the entire Pitt-Bradford swim team.
"After struggling to achieve my athletic goals as a freshman, becoming Swimmer of the Year as a senior was the perfect way to end my swimming career. This award was just one more amazing memory to add to my list of memories as a proud Pitt-Bradford student-athlete."
Bahan cites MacKenzie's career as one of the greatest moments of his own.
"Watching Melinda grow and change as a person and an athlete was one of the great privileges of my coaching," said Bahan. "Our program could not have had a better leader these past four years."
Mosby rounded out the group in early May, taking home the honor as the top pitcher in the conference. The junior right-hander was dominant, leading the Panthers to the AMCC championship game for the first time since 2007.
She led the conference with 15 wins, and her 2.05 earned run average in 126.1 innings pitched ranked second. The Sagamore Hills, Ohio, native struck out 118 batters, the second-best single season mark in program history, and she became the school's all-time career strikeout leader against Penn State Altoona on April 27.
Against conference opponents, she was even better, going 8-2 with a 1.32 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 58.1 innings pitched. Mosby credited her defense for her sterling numbers.
"Being named Pitcher of the Year was a great honor for me, but it wouldn't have been made possible without the great help of my defense behind me," said Mosby. "All year they made my job easier, and everything seemed to mesh this year.
"Hopefully that carries over to this year, and we win it all together."
Mosby is the third Panther softball player to earn one of the conference's top individual honors, but she is the first to be named Pitcher of the Year, a point head coach Tina Phillips highlighted.
"I was thrilled for Sydney and very proud," said Phillips. "She works so hard all year long to getting better and staying on top of her game, and she is a strong competitor and just wants to win.
"The team plays so confidently behind her, and we relied on her a lot this season in big games and in tough spots. As the first player to win this award, she continues to make her mark on the program, and I am excited to see what she has in store for this spring."
With Mosby leading the charge, the Panthers won 22 games in 2013, an improvement of 12 wins from the previous year. She also did it with her bat, leading the team in nearly every offensive category.
If she is able to repeat her junior season, Mosby could leave the program as arguably its best pitcher, and both she and Boehler will have a unique opportunity to repeat as Player of the Year. Only four Panthers have accomplished that feat: Matt Beacom (men's basketball), Cameron Lanich (men's swimming), Toby Abdul-Razaq (men's soccer) and Fernando Petrilli (men's swimming).
It was a special year for the quartet of Boehler, Cornell, MacKenzie and Mosby. It takes dedication, on and off the field, an innate drive and unrelenting will to rise to such heights. It's what expected as a Panther, and these four women are examples of that: to shine in the big moments.