UMass Athletics Holds Annual Senior Awards Banquet

May 6, 2013

AMHERST, Mass. - UMass Athletics hosted its annual Senior Awards Banquet on Monday evening at the Campus Center Auditorium, with the five highest department honors awarded during the year-end celebration. Field hockey's Thando Zono was named the Female Senior Athlete of the Year as well as the Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Teammate Nicole Cordero was awarded with the Inspirational Female Athlete of the Year. The entire football senior class collectively took home the Inspirational Male Athletes of the Year while safety Darren Thellen tallied Male Senior Athlete of the Year. Lacrosse defenseman Jake Smith rounded out the group as the Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Chi Alpha Sigma, the National College Athlete Honor Society, presented senior gold medallions to each of the nearly 100 seniors and a video compilation highlighting the successes of each varsity team during the 2012-13 season was shown during the celebration.

Zono took home dual honors due to the Grahamstown, South Africa, native's success on the field and in the classroom. A resource economics major with a 3.574 cumulative GPA, Zono earned NFHCA First Team All-American honors after leading UMass to the NCAA Tournament and recording 33 points on 14 goals and five assists. The senior also tallied all-region and all-conference honors while helping the Minutewomen rank among the top-25 nationally in assists per game (2.67; eighth), points per game (8.58; 10th), goals per game (2.96; 11th) and scoring average (2.86; 14th).

Cordero suffered a nearly fatal injury to her neck and throat after being struck by a field hockey ball while competing for the University of Massachusetts as a sophomore in 2010. After returning for the 2011 season, Cordero finished her career with a single-season best 29 points on 14 goals and an assist as a senior in 2012, earning First Team A-10 All-Conference and Second Team NFHCA All-Region for her efforts as the Minutewomen won the league's bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Despite being unable to qualify for the NCAA Playoffs or CAA Championship as juniors and not eligible to participate for the Football Bow Subdivision (FBS) postseason in 2012 as seniors, the UMass football senior class played with heart, passion and desire while at the same time they worked to build a strong foundation for the FBS era. Honoring the class with the Inspirational Male Athletes of the Year award symbolized the senior class' dedication to working within the highest ideals of the University and its choice to stay at the University despite not being able to play in the postseason for two years.

One of the football senior class members, Thellen started all 12 games on the season and served as one of the team leaders for the squad in its first-ever year at the FBS level. Thellen set the tone for the Minutemen throughout the year and earned All-MAC Second Team from the Mid-American Conference and Third Team All-MAC by Phil Steele Magazine as a result of his strong play in the secondary. Thellen finished the year with 79 tackles - the second-most on the squad - and tallied three interceptions to help the Brockton, Mass., native finish his career as the program's all-time leader in interception return yardage (256) on 10 picks.

Smith, a sport management major with a 3.889 cumulative GPA, led the Minutemen defense in his third year as a starter on the squad. Due to Smith's shutdown ability in protecting the UMass goal, the Minutemen sported the best penalty-kill percentage through the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament with only 11 goals allowed in 46 man-up opportunities (.761) for the opposition. Smith closed his career as the active leader in groundballs, 79 and caused turnovers, 54 and took in All-CAA First Team following his final campaign in recognition of his success on the field.

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