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Lander Athletics Holds 2018 Golden Claw Awards

From left: Lander University student-athletes Eirik Groner, Chelsea Mitchell and Sophia Perkins.

The Lander Athletics Department held its annual banquet on Monday evening, April 23, at Finis Horne Arena. The event honored the University's student-athletes for their accomplishments during the 2017-18 campaign. Student-athletes, administrators, coaches and special guests attended the elegant event, which featured a red carpet entrance, heavy hors d'oeuvres and a special awards ceremony with presentations and video features.

Sophia Perkins, a junior volleyball player from West Columbia, S.C., received the Dr. Boyce M. Grier Award as the Lander student-athlete who best exemplifies sportsmanship, integrity, pride in the university and a positive attitude. Perkins, who led the team with 590 assists and 22 service aces, is member of the Lander Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and helped spearhead the new athletic banquet format. Perkins participated in multiple community outreach events with the volleyball team, including greeting students at local elementary schools and helping with YMCA events.

Eirik Groner, a junior tennis player from Oslo, Norway, received the M.V. Wells Award given annually to the Lander Male Athlete of the Year. Groner went 14-3 in singles play and 16-2 in doubles play during the regular season, helping the Bearcats rise as high as No. 2 in the national rankings. Groner earned first-team All-Peach Belt Conference honors and was selected as the PBC Player of the Week during the first week of February. A business major with a 4.0 GPA, Groner was a PBC All-Academic selection. He has gone 8-3 in 11 matches as Lander's No. 1 singles player.

Chelsea Mitchell, a junior women's basketball player from Laurel, Md., received the Dr. Samuel C. Hodges Award as the Female Athlete of the Year. Mitchell led the Bearcats to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and was a D2CCA All-Southeast Region Second Team and All-PBC First Team selection. Mitchell averaged 15.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, while leading the PBC with 107 steals. She led the Bearcats in points, steals, rebounds and field goals.

The men's soccer team received the Bell/Williams Award for the second consecutive year, given annually to the team that has the overall highest ranking based on team winning percentage, grade point average and campus and community involvement. The award was established in 2007 to honor two long serving University employees, Cheryl Bell, former women's tennis coach and former Associate Athletic Director/SWA and Betty Williams, former Faculty Athletic Representative.

A complete list of award winners for the 2018 Golden Claw Awards is listed below:

Bearcat Spirit Award: Daniel Weyer
Best Celebration: Baseball vs. Francis Marion
Play of the Year: Ashley Vinson walk-off home run vs. Newberry (softball)
Freshman of the Year: Thibault Chretien (men's soccer)
Breakout Athlete of the Year: Chelsea Mitchell (women's basketball)
Best Dressed Coach: JT Maguire (baseball)
Best Support Staff: Rixon Lane (sports media)
Best Dressed Athlete: Kyle Jenkins (baseball)
Bearcat Pride Cup: Volleyball
Bell/Williams Award: Men's Soccer
Dr. Boyce M. Grier Award: Sophia Perkins (volleyball)
M.V. Wells Award: Eirik Groner (men's tennis)
Dr. Samuel C. Hodges Award: Chelsea Mitchell (women's basketball)

Baseball: Mike Fitschen
Women's Basketball: Chelsea Mitchell
Men's Basketball: Rahu Purdie
Cheer & Dance: Miranda Pridemore
Women's Cross Country: Allie Reynolds
Men's Cross Country: Dylan Scott
Golf: Conor Richards
Women's Soccer: Victoria Lange
Men's Soccer: Jordan Skelton
Softball: co-MVPs, McKenzi Ferguson and Kelli McCormack
Women's Tennis: Eduarda Ferreira
Men's Tennis: Ozan Cildir
Volleyball: Reyonia Whipple

Baseball: Robbie Hoyt and Cole Weaver
Women's Basketball: Breshay Johnson
Men's Basketball: Nicklas Jonsson
Cheer & Dance: Keelie Burns and Noel Rivest
Women's Cross Country: Brooke Trotter
Men's Cross Country: Dylan Scott
Golf: Roberto Garagorri
Women's Soccer: Shannon DeSantis
Men's Soccer: Dean Cowdroy
Softball: Molly McNulty
Women's Tennis: Caroline Yodice
Men's Tennis: Eirik Groner
Volleyball: Reyonia Whipple

Baseball: Mike Fitschen
Women's Basketball: William Cantrell
Men's Basketball: Sergio Smith
Cheer & Dance: Latashianna Alexander, Jessica Davis, Arie Catherine O'Dell and Katelyn Tinsley
Women's Cross Country: Emily Fletcher
Men's Cross Country: Josh Chapman
Golf: James Bartlett
Women's Soccer: Shannon DeSantis
Men's Soccer: Ian Foulger and George Rose
Softball: Molly McNulty
Women's Tennis: Isabella Schulz
Men's Tennis: Eirik Groner
Volleyball: Reilly Kuenstler