DANBURY, CT - The Western Connecticut State University Athletic Department held its 16th Annual Awards Banquet on May 9.
Director of Athletics Lori R. Mazza presented several awards at the event, held at the Portuguese Cultural Center in Danbury, before a crowd of nearly 500 student-athletes, parents and WestConn staff members.
One of the new awards this year is the Colonials of the Year award.
The honor went to junior women's basketball standout Kaitlyn LaBonte. She is a junior forward from South Windsor, CT.
LaBonte is one of the most well rounded person to wear a Colonials' uniform.
She currently maintains a 3.89 GPA and has been named to WestConn's Dean's List every semester as well as to the Little East Conference Winter All-Academic Team each year that she has been eligible.
LaBonte expects to graduate in May 2018 with a pair of Bachelor of Arts degrees in Social Work and Political Science. She has excelled academically at the university while being a part of the WCSU Honors Program and Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society.
In the fall of 2016, Kaitlyn applied for the WCSU Hancock Student Leadership Program and was only one of seven students selected to the distinguished program.
Her commitment to volunteer work is extensive. Some of the events/organizations she has volunteered for are Autism CONNECTicut where she accompanied autistic children while they swam, Coping with Crafts, which helps children who have lost loved ones, and Swish for Sandy Hook, where she helped raise money after the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook. LaBonte also volunteered for the Manchester Police Athletic League Golf Tournament; Memorial Day Parade and Hanging of the Wreaths; she has been a Challenger Basketball Counselor; has been a South Windsor Youth Basketball Assistant Coach; has given her time for Cardboard Box City, a CORE event through church youth group and has volunteered for several National Honor Society Events.
At WestConn, LaBonte has donated her time for Western Day of Service, Light The Night, Play4Kay – the Kay Yow Foundation and Accepted Students Day.
Her basketball career reached new heights this season as she led the women's basketball team in scoring with an 11.4 average, 3-pointers made with 52, steals with 43, and minutes played, averaging nearly 31 minutes a game.
LaBonte was recognized by the Little East Conference for her efforts and earned All-Conference Second-Team honors. She was also named Head Coach Kimberley Rybczyk's Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year.
"Kaitlyn tackles everything with enthusiasm, passion, and determination, stated Rybczyk. "She is approachable, kind, caring and giving. She embodies everything that the "Colonial of the Year" is all about."
Mazza proudly honored the following WestConn student-athletes.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Autumn Sorice is a junior from Bethel, CT that is a Communication major at Western Connecticut State University.
Following her third campaign in a Colonials' uniform, she was the recipient of the Little East Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight year. She led all of NCAA Division III women's soccer with 25 goals scored this past season.
Sorice was named to the 2016 National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-New England First Team and earned Little East All-Conference First Team for the second year in succession.
She helped lead the team to a 12-5-2 regular season record and a 5-1-1 in conference record. She helped the team to the Little East Regular-Season and Tournament Championships and guided WestConn to its 12th appearance in the NCAA National Women's Soccer Tournament, this year at Johns Hopkins University.
She played and started all 23 games, scoring 25 goals including six game-winning goals with 12 assists, combining for 62 points.
Lastly, Sorice broke the school record of most goals and points in a season for a program with a very decorated history.
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Shane Bierfeldt is a junior from Torrington, CT.
He has been a three-year starter for the men's soccer program.
This past fall, with the move of head coach Joe Mingachos, from the women's soccer helm, Bierfeldt was moved to center back, from his customary center midfielder position, early in the season to solidify WestConn's back line.
He started 17 games in 2016 and had one assist in 2016, but statistics for someone in the defensive third of the pitch, are not what justifies ones worth. Bierfeldt helped anchor the back line which led the team to its first Little East Conference Tournament appearance, as the #3 seed, since 2008.
He was selected to the All-Little East Conference First Team this fall.
Bierfeldt is a Business Administration major with a 3.05 GPA.
This spring, he went into the baseball season as Head Coach Johnny Susi's projected ace of the pitching staff. During his third appearance on the mound, he suffered a season-ending injury leaving two seasons ahead of him on the diamond.
He went 1-1 and struck out 13 batters in 10 and 2/3 innings before the injury.
FEMALE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Charline Plasczynski, a freshman from Bristol, Connecticut, made an immediate impact to WestConn's extremely young softball program.
Head Coach Heather Stone's squad featured 17 freshmen student-athletes and 19 newcomers to the team.
Plasczynski batted in the clean-up spot in the lineup and finished the season hitting .400 and was nine runs batted away from breaking the historically successful program's single-season record for RBI.
She led the Colonials with five home runs, three triples, 41 runs batted in and 31 runs scored. Plasczynski had 10 doubles, one away from the top spot, held by Kayla Nowak in the category.
She played out of position in her first collegiate campaign. A catcher by trade, she filled a much needed void at the short stop.
Plasczynski is one of the top offensive players in the Little East Conference this spring. She has been named LEC Rookie of the Week twice and on Tuesday, Plasczynski was named Little East Rookie of the Year and to the league's All-Conference Second Team.
MALE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Freshmen Eric Caldwell is from East Moriches, NY. He led the men's lacrosse team in goals with 47 and in total points with 65.
Caldwell was named Little East Conference Rookie of the Week on four different occasions this season and on Tuesday was named the Little East Conference's Rookie of the Year. He was also honored on the league's All-Conference Second Team.
Following the final game on May 2nd, Caldwell was tied for the Little East Conference lead in goals scored, in total points, and tied for sixth in assists.
In WestConn's first-ever win against Eastern Connecticut, a 9-7 decision back on April 9th, Caldwell scored three goals.
In wins over Mount St. Mary College and Mitchell College, he found the net seven times.
The 2017 male winner was Brennen Diaz.
Diaz is a senior defensive back and special team's player on WestConn's football team and is part of the Honors Program as an American Studies major with a 3.88 cumulative grade-point average.
Diaz was named to the Who's Who among American Colleges and Universities this spring. He was named to the Dean's List every semester.
He is the President of Western's Adventure Club and Honors Student Organization.
In his final season on the field, Diaz was fifth on the team in tackles with 46, just two away from the team's second leading tackler and fellow senior Kareem Patterson. Diaz was second on the team with three interceptions and had four pass break ups for the 5-5 Colonials.
This past December, he played in the DIII Senior Bowl Classic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The female winner was senior volleyball standout Karissa Smith. This is the second straight year Smith has been selected the Female Scholar Athlete.
She finished her last year of athletic eligibility this past fall with the volleyball team and graduated in three and a half years this past December with a Psychology degree.
Smith finished her academic career with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, earning all A's in every course.
She was part of WestConn's Honors Program for four years and named the organization's Valedictorian.
On the court, she has been honored by the Little East Conference with four straight First-Team selections.
Smith is the first player in program history to accumulate over 1,500 offensive kills and 1,500 defensive digs over her stellar volleyball career as an outside hitter.
This past fall, she registered 443 kills and 375 digs for the 20-11 Colonials.
This year's male nominees were: EJ Lavoie (Baseball), Michael D'Arcy (Soccer), Cullen Roberts (Lacrosse) and Brennen Diaz (Football)
The female nominees were: Karissa Smith (Volleyball), Kristy Trotta (Field Hockey), Kaitlyn LaBonte (Basketball), Celia DeVoe (Soccer), Alex LaFemina (Softball), Jenna Gaudioso (Softball), Meaghan Gustafson (Soccer/Lacrosse), Carly Altemose (Lacrosse).