WALTHAM, Mass. – Ten days after capturing the ultimate team honor as undefeated NCAA Division II national champions, Bentley University's Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) and Barbara Stevens received the two premier Division II individual honors during the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Awards Show Monday evening in Nashville, Tenn.
Battista, previously cited as the Capital One Academic All-America of the Year for Division II, was presented with the NCAA Division II Player of the Year award, becoming the first player in the program's history to be so honored.
Stevens received the Pat Summitt Trophy as the Russell Athletic/WBCA Division II National Coach of the Year. It's the second straight year, and unprecedented fifth time overall, that she's been selected for National Coach of the Year honors, and the first time that the award has carried the name of the legendary former Tennessee coach.
"What a fitting way for Lauren to cap off a dream season, being named WBCA DII Player of the Year," said Stevens. "Her contributions to the success of our team this season were immeasurable. As a six-foot forward, she had the versatility to play all five positions for us. She stepped up time and again throughout the season to do whatever her team needed her to do. Lauren is a special player, student and person. We couldn't be more proud of her!"
One of those times that Battista stepped up came in the waning moments of the national championship game against West Texas A&M with her team looking at a 61-60 deficit. She dropped in a straightaway three-pointer with 2:14 left, stole the inbound pass and followed with a lay-up for a 65-61 lead, one that the Falcons would never give up.
Battista, a three-time WBCA All-America and Capital One Academic All-America, finished her career as Bentley's all-time leader in a points (2,112), field goals (821), games (135) and games started (133). She was the MVP of the Northeast-10 Conference Championships all four seasons, was chosen for the NE-10 Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence award for women's basketball three times, and was the NE-10 Player of the Year twice.
As a senior, Battista scored a career-best 17.4 points a game and also averaged 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals. During the Elite Eight, she stepped it up to 19.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, three assists and 1.3 steals per contest.
Battista excelled in the classroom at all, earning a 3.95 GPA while majoring in marketing and liberal arts, and was a gold medal winner last summer at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. Last week, she was named the 2014 DII Woman of the Year nominee for basketball, as part of The Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) presented by Honda, and was also the Women's Division II Bulletin Player of the Year.
"I am incredibly humbled to receive the WBCA DII National Coach of the Year Award named after Pat Summitt," said Stevens. "This has been a remarkable season for our team, finishing 35-0 and winning the national championship. I am so fortunate to work with two outstanding assistant coaches, C White and Dan Hunt, and a group of players who set their goals high at the beginning of the season and reached every one of them."
Bentley's amazing season came on the heels of a 30-2 2012-13 campaign that ended with a disappointing two-point loss in the 2013 NCAA East Regional final. That blemish motivated this year's club and this year's team, with that in their memory, achieved perfection. The senior-laden team outscored their opponents by an average of 21.6 overall, won their six NCAA games with a margin of 13.8 points, and won the rebounding battle in 34 of 35 contests.
Stevens, previously named the Northeast-10 Coach of the Year for the 14th time and also the Women's Division II Bulletin Coach of the Year, became the sixth coach in NCAA women's basketball history to reach the 900 win plateau on Jan. 25 and finished the season fifth on the all-time victory list with 917. A 2006 inductee into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, her 37-year record of 917-246 includes 760-155 in 28 Bentley seasons.
This is the first year the physical award presented to the six Russell Athletic/WBCA National Coaches of the Year has borne Summitt's name. The legendary University of Tennessee head coach, who stepped down in April 2012, is the winningest basketball coach (men's or women's) in NCAA Division I history with 1,098 career victories. Summitt led the Lady Vols to eight NCAA Division I national championships and was named the Russell Athletic/WBCA NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year three times in her career.
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About the WBCA:
Founded in 1981, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association promotes women's basketball by unifying coaches at all levels to develop a reputable identity for the sport and to foster and promote the development of the game as a sport for women and girls. For more information on the WBCA, please visit wbca.org.