Success Celebrated at 2015 A-Sun Spring Meetings

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. –The Atlantic Sun Conference celebrated the success of its student-athletes at the 2015 Spring Meetings on Wednesday, recognizing the A-Sun Winners for Life team, the A-Sun Male and Female Student-Athletes of the Year, a pair of A-Sun Postgraduate Scholarship selections, and the A-Sun All-Sports Champions.

The 2015 Winners for Life Team includes Sarah Means (FGCU), Sammie Strausbaugh (Jacksonville), Jimmy Beck (KSU), Lauren Ford (Lipscomb), Lanie Keating (North Florida), Kaitlyn Gerrety (Northern Kentucky), Ty Greene (USC Upstate) and Jama Sharp (Stetson).

In its second year, the team honors student-athletes from each of the eight member institutions who best represent the A-Sun's commitment to "Building Winners for Life." Those student-athletes maintain the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement; represent a true balance between student and athlete; exhibit and promote sportsmanship in the competitive experience; and exhibit leadership through community service on- and off-campus and at home.

Jacksonville University swept the Student-Athlete of the Year honors as Dolphins Garrett Ruckel (Baseball) and Strausbaugh (Volleyball/Sand Volleyball) earned well-deserved recognition for their efforts on and off the field.

In additional individual recognition, the A-Sun also named Kelsey Carpenter and Virginie Stein as its Postgraduate Scholarship Recipients.

FGCU received the 2015 Bill Bibb Trophy and the Sherman Day Trophy as the overall All-Sports and Women's Champion, respectively, while North Florida picked up the Jesse C. Fletcher Trophy for claiming the men's All-Sports title. 

A-Sun Male Student-Athlete of the Year – Garrett Ruckel, Jacksonville University

As the recipient of the JU President's Award for Outstanding Leadership at this spring's commencement, Ruckel was fittingly recognized as a student who excelled in the areas of leadership, academics, character, and service. His leadership and passion for service is clearly evident on campus and beyond. He held membership and leadership positions in several organizations including Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society, Green Key Leadership Society, National Society of Leadership and Success, JU Presidential Leadership Advisory Council, and served as a SAAC baseball representative, a JU orientation group leader, and the student-athlete representative on the JU Board of Trustee's Athletics Committee the last two years, to name a few.

A magna cum laude graduate, Ruckel finished with a cumulative grade point average of 3.79 along with numerous honors that included President's List with a 4.0 GPA in the spring 2015 semester. A Math major with a minor in Teaching Education, Ruckel was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, the JU Honors program and Pi Mu Epsilon (mathematics honor society). A Dean's List member numerous times throughout his career, Ruckel's All-Academic recognition in 2015 made him a four-time selection along with A-Sun Scholar honors in 2015.

On the field in 2015 he recorded some of the best numbers of his career, leading the Dolphins with a .500 slugging percentage and posting a .360 batting average and .458 on-base percentage in 23 games for JU. Over his career he saw action in 115 games.

Providing service and encouragement to others is also of clear importance to Ruckel, stemming from his strength academically as well as from a strong faith. He has also served as a JU tutor for mathematics, physics, and computer science for four years, along with supporting the athletics programs as a board member for the student-led spirit group "Phinatics." His faith led him to be a part of several organizations including JU's Campus Outreach (interdenominational Christian ministry at JU), of which he served as president 2014-2015. His involvement also included Northeast Florida YoungLife (interdenominational Christian ministry in middle/high schools) as a team leader in the WyldLife middle school area. 

A-Sun Female Student-Athlete of the Year – Sammie Strausbaugh, Jacksonville University

Sammie Strausbaugh has enjoyed one of the most successful volleyball careers in A-Sun and JU history and epitomizes the term "student-athlete." A summa cum laude graduate in spring 2015, Strausbaugh boasted a cumulative grade point average of 4.0, graduating in Exercise Science with a minor in Coaching. She earned a pair of JU's most prestigious awards, including the Fred B. Noble Gold Medal winner, which is awarded to an undergrad who has earned the highest GPA in the graduating class.

She was a Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society member who also occupied a place on the President's Honor Roll (GPA = 4.0) every semester since beginning at JU in spring 2012. Not to be outdone by conference academic standards, however, she is an A-Sun President's Scholar and was the Sand Volleyball A-Sun Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2013. A four-time A-Sun All-Academic honoree, she was also a member of the A-Sun Academic All-Conference Team – for both indoor volleyball and sand volleyball – in 2013, 2014 and spring 2015.  Nationally she was also recognized as a CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District IV Second-Team selection for indoor volleyball in 2014.

On the court Strausbaugh is equally impressive. An A-Sun leader who was also ranked nationally in several statistical categories in 2014, she helped the Dolphins to back-to-back A-Sun Championships and NCAA appearances in 2013 and 2014. She began her career as the 2012 A-Sun Freshman of the Year and since then has collected three All-Conference First Team selections, Player of the Year and MVP honors (2014) on the indoor court. Versatile as a sand player as well, she collected All-Conference First-Team honors in 2015, was a member of the A-Sun Pair of the Year in 2013 and twice qualified for the AVCA National Championship in pairs competition.

One of the last accolades bestowed upon Strausbaugh, the 2015 JU Athletic Director Award, highlights not only her commitment to academic and athletic success, but also in the social and professional arenas. From volunteering at community events such as "Feeding Northeast Florida" and the Donna Marathon to coaching, coordinating and directing youth events and clinics throughout her career at JU, she clearly points to the success of the A-Sun and its members in Building Winners for Life.

A-Sun Postgraduate Scholarship Recipients, Kelsey Carpenter – FGCU and Virginie Stein – Kennesaw State

For the third-straight year, Kelsey Carpenter earned a place on the A-Sun Softball Academic All-Conference Team. A 2015 President's Scholar, she has also maintained a spot on the President's List or Dean's List every semester at FGCU, and was a recent recipient of the prestigious Eagle Scholar-Athlete Award, which recognizes the ability of the winner to combine athletic and academic success (minimum 3.20 GPA) with community service.

On the field Carpenter aided the Eagles offensively and defensively as a mainstay in the outfield. She held a fielding percentage of .989 with 85 put outs, five assists and only one error in 53 games in 2015. Offensively, the senior led the team in batting average (.355), homeruns (5), hits (55), RBI (31), runs (34), slugging percentage (.529), walks (19) and total bases (82).

The A-Sun Women's Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Stein was selected as a member of the All-Conference First Team for the fourth year in a row, the only Owl to achieve the accolade four times. Over her career she tallied a dozen conference honors for her work on the court and in the classroom. In 2015 She registered an 8-7 dual-match singles record, including a 3-2 mark in conference play at the No. 1 spot. She also teamed with senior Jana Hueckinghaus to post an 8-5 record in doubles at the No. 1 spot.

In the classroom, Stein finished her career with a 4.0 GPA while majoring in biochemistry. Stein was a three-time Academic All-Conference Team member and the first women's tennis player to earn Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors in KSU history.

All-Sports Champion, Bill Bibb Trophy – FGCU

On the strength of a first-place finish in the women's all-sports race and a second-place showing in the men's all-sports race, FGCU won the Bill Bibb Trophy and claimed the 2014-15 Atlantic Sun Conference All-Sports Championship for the second time in three years. Combined, FGCU's six men's teams and nine women's programs totaled 226.5 points out of 303 for an overall percentage of 74.8, just enough to surpass UNF's 72.8.

The Eagles won A-Sun regular-season and tournament championships this year in women's soccer, men's soccer, women's basketball and men's tennis. Additionally, second-place finishes by men's basketball and volleyball and third-place showings by women's golf, women's cross country and women's tennis helped secure the Green and Blue's triumph.

Men's All-Sports Champion, Jesse C. Fletcher Trophy – North Florida

North Florida is the recipient of the Jesse C. Fletcher Trophy after ending the spring season with three regular season team titles. The Ospreys sealed the top position by winning the baseball regular season, registering a 16-5 conference record on the way to earning the title. Men's golf contributed to the trophy standings by winning the A-Sun Championship with a total score of 849, seven strokes ahead of Kennesaw State. UNF added runner-up finishes in track and field and tennis to help the Ospreys to the men's trophy. 

Women's All-Sports Champion, Sherman Day Trophy, FGCU

FGCU won the women's Sherman Day Trophy by totaling 126 points out of a possible 165 for 76.4 percent, as the Eagles claimed titles in women's soccer and women's basketball in 2014-15. Additionally, a second-place finish volleyball and third-place showings by women's golf, women's cross country and women's tennis helped secure the Green and Blue's triumph for this award along with the overall all-sports honor. 

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with eight member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, University of North Florida, Northern Kentucky University, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

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