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The Shippensburg University Department of Athletics named junior Jake Biss (men’s basketball) and senior Gabriella Johnson (volleyball and women’s swimming) as its 2019-20 Student Athletes of the Year on Monday, April 6.
 
For the second consecutive year, the Student-Athlete of the Year awards were part of SU’s annual Scholar-Athlete and Faculty/Staff Luncheon. This year’s event was in a virtual format due to restrictions in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The selection process for these prestigious awards are based on achievements in academics, leadership, sportsmanship, community service and athletics. A campus committee reviews the candidates and selects winners based on these criteria.
 
Bill Yost – director of housing and residence life – was recognized as the 2019-20 Raider of the Year on Monday also.. The Raider of the Year Award commemorates individuals who provide genuine support to the athletics department and work toward the betterment of all the intercollegiate athletic teams on campus, among other qualities.

Yost was commended for going “above and beyond” the call of duty. He was lauded for his invaluable assistance to student-athletes and coaches in the realm of athletics and outstanding overall contributions to the SU campus and community.

2019-20 Men’s Student-Athlete of the Year: Jake Biss

Biss is a junior point guard on the men’s basketball team that posted a 24-7 record, reached the championship game of the 2020 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Men’s Basketball Tournament, and qualified for the 2020 NCAA Tournament as the Atlantic Region’s No. 4 seed.

He earned multiple postseason awards for his play. Those included recognition as the 2019-20 PSAC Eastern Division Men’s Basketball Athlete of the Year. Biss was also chosen for the 2020 National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II All-District Team and the 2019-20 Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) All-Atlantic Region Men’s Basketball First Team.

On the court, Biss led the Raiders in scoring (15.9 points per game), ranking fourth in the conference in averaging 4.4 assists per game. He shot 40.3 percent from three-point range and 89.9 percent at the free-throw line. Biss posted double-digit points in 25 games, including 10 games of 20 or more points. He recorded four or more assists in 19 games, including eight games of six or more assists.

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A finance major, Biss maintains a 3.49 GPA. Off the court, Biss is lauded for his work ethic both athletically and academically. He is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). He has been involved with Team IMPACT and Inclusive Basketball throughout his career. As was written on his nomination, Biss “is a tremendous example of a true student-athlete and someone who the entire SHIP community can be proud of.”

2019-20 Women’s Student-Athlete of the Year: Gabriella Johnson

Johnson is a two-sport athlete at Shippensburg. She is a starting outside hitter for the volleyball team and a dynamic breaststroke and freestyle swimmer for the women’s swimming team.

Her athletic performance resulted in postseason honors in both sports. In the fall as a volleyball student-athlete, Johnson was an All-PSAC Second Team honoree. She was also chosen for the 2019 NCAA Atlantic Region All-Tournament Team.

Johnson ranked sixth in the PSAC in kills (430) and eighth in kills per set (3.41), pacing the Raiders in both statistics with new career highs. She also ranked 13th in the PSAC in digs (509), the most by any non-libero.

Johnson totaled 19 double-doubles this season with kills and digs. She recorded double-digit kills in 26 matches and double-digit digs in 25 matches. She finished her career as one of eight players in school history with at least 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs.

In the winter as a swimming student-athlete, Johnson earned two All-PSAC classifications based on a second-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke and a third-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke at the 2020 PSAC Championships.

She was Shippensburg’s highest point scorer at the PSAC Championships, totaling 80 points toward SU’s score as a result of the aforementioned All-PSAC finishes, a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle and contributions to four relays. Johnson was ready to compete in the NCAA Championships in the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke prior to the meet being canceled on its second day.

A marketing major and coaching minor, Johnson is in her final semester of classes this spring and maintains a 3.49 cumulative grade-point average (GPA). Johnson received the Presidential Medal ScholarshipIn February, awarded by Shippensburg University President Laurie Carter.

In addition to her academic pursuits and her participation in two varsity sports, Johnson has served as the president of Shippensburg’s SAAC in 2019-20 and maintained her membership with Tau Kappa.

As was written on her nominations, “Gabbie is the best person and performer any coach could ever wish for.” Likewise, “there is no doubt that Gabbie represents the ultimate model of what a Student-Athlete of the Year is all about.”

Nominees submitted for consideration for the 2019-20 SU Student-Athlete of the Year award

Note: Spring sports athletes were considered for their athletic performances in the 2019 season; their class years are listed in accordance with this practice.

Kayla Bonawitz, Softball, Junior

Bonawitz was an All-PSAC Eastern Division honoree for the softball team in 2019. As Shippensburg’s leadoff batter, Bonawitz ranked sixth in the PSAC in both runs (41) and stolen bases (18).

She hit .319 as the team’s primary center fielder, totaling 11 extra-base hits (eight doubles, three triples), four sacrifices and 13 RBIs. She produced 16 multi-hit games, ended the season on a seven-game hitting streak, and scored multiple runs in nine games.

A biology major and exercise science minor, Bonawitz has been a perennial dean’s list student and PSAC Scholar-Athlete. She has been accepted into the nationally-ranked School of Physical Therapy at Drexel University.

Work outside the classroom and the field of play also includes an active role in the Tau Kappa Women’s Athletic Sorority, for which she has assisted with Project Prom Dress and National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

She has also donated many volunteer hours back to her hometown community in the area of physical therapy.

Alana Cardaci, Lacrosse, Sophomore

Cardaci was an All-PSAC Third Team honoree for the lacrosse team in 2019. As an attacker, Cardaci scored 53 goals – the most by a Raider in 12 years (Kristin Crutchfield, 53, 2007). She scored at least one goal in every game, and had multiple goals in 14-of-16 games.

Cardaci finished with 10 hat tricks, of which eight occurred in conference play. She had six-goal games against Mercyhurst and Gannon before recording a career-high seven goals in the home finale against Lock Haven. 

A supply chain management major, Cardaci is an active member of the Tau Kappa Women’s Athletic Sorority. She is a member of the community service committee which has an active role with Project Prom Dress and National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

She also volunteers each year with the Einstein Hospital Cancer 5K Walk/Run in Philadelphia.

David Balint III, Football, R-Sophomore

Football tight-end Balint III was chosen for the 2019 Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) All-America Football Second Team. He is the first SU football player to be named to an All-America Team since Sheldon Mayer in 2015.

In 2019, Balint III set single-season school records for receptions by a tight end (64) and receiving yards by a tight end (755), averaging 11.8 yards per reception and 68.6 receiving yards per game.

He became the first SU tight end in over 40 years to finish a season as the team’s leader in receptions. Through the completion of the regular season, Balint III ranked fifth in the PSAC in receptions and 12th in receiving yards.

A dual major in marketing and management, Balint III has also been active with numerous community service endeavors through the football team, including SHIP Shape Day.

Jeff Beyer, Swimming, Senior

Beyer is a distance swimmer on the men’s swimming team. He totaled 51 points at the 2020 PSAC Championships, helping the Raiders to their best team finish in nine years. Beyer scored in all seven of his swims at the 2020 PSAC Championships, including four individual place-winning performances: sixth in the 200-yard freestyle, sixth in the 1,650-yard freestyle, seventh in the 1000-yard freestyle and eighth in the 500-yard freestyle.

He also competed on all three of Shippensburg’s freestyle relays.

A computer science major and mathematics minor and a member of the Wood Honors College, Beyer maintains a 3.53 cumulative GPA in his final semester of study. In February, Beyer received the Presidential Medal Scholarship awarded by Shippensburg University President Laurie Carter.

He has maintained an active role with Shippensburg’s SAAC, including regular involvement with the Special Olympics Fun Meet.

Jacob Pollock, Baseball, Junior

Pollock is the starting shortstop on the baseball team. In 2019 he was one of three Raiders to start in all 47 games during his third season on the team. He made 40 starts at shortstop and seven at third base, finishing the season with a .271 batting average and 19 RBIs.

Pollock totaled 38 hits, including five doubles, recorded 11 multi-hit games and had four multi-RBI games.

In 2019-20, Pollock has served as the treasurer of Shippensburg’s SAAC. He has been extremely active with the organization during his tenure, especially in regard to community service efforts.

A dual major in accounting and finance and a member of the Wood Honors College, Pollock maintains a 3.78 cumulative GPA in his final semester of study. He completed a summer internship in 2019 that led to future employment.

Cam Strohe, Men’s Indoor & Outdoor Track & Field, Senior (indoors), Junior (outdoors)

Strohe is a conference-champion thrower for the men’s indoor and outdoor track & field teams. Indoors in 2020, Strohe won the PSAC championship in the weight throw on a personal-best mark of 61 feet, 0 ¼ inches (18.60 meters). The NCAA-provisional qualifier and USTFCCCA All-Region performance was his third career scoring performance in the weight throw. He also placed sixth in the shot put at the PSAC Championships.

Outdoors in 2019, Strohe won the PSAC championship in the hammer – the first PSAC title of his career – on a personal-best mark of 187 feet, 6 inches (57.17 meters). Strohe also placed sixth in the shot put and seventh in the discus throw at the PSAC Championships. He finished the outdoor season with USTFCCCA All-Region classifications in both the discus and the hammer.

A criminal justice major and psychology minor, Strohe is the recipient of the Thomas L. Austin Juvenile Justice Scholarship, awarded through the Juvenile Court Judges Commission.

Strobe is an active member of SAAC and serves as a captain on the track & field team and a member of its leadership council.

Bill Morgal is Sports Information Director At Shippensburg University

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