Department of Athletics Hosts Virtual Senior Student-Athlete Celebration, Announces Major Award Winners

Department of Athletics Hosts Virtual Senior Student-Athlete Celebration, Announces Major Award Winners
Rebecca Russo Keegan Connelly Michael Diana Claire McAllister Riley Smith Jasmin Russo Greg Spicka


Joined by almost 300 spectators live on Zoom, The University of Scranton Department of Athletics honored the Class of 2020 (and all student-athletes) with their first-ever Virtual Senior Student-Athlete Celebration on Thursday evening. 

For those who could not watch the show live, it has been posted in its entirety on YouTube. Click here to watch the video:

During the evening, the Athletics Department honored 93 senior student-athletes, as well as 42 Merit Award winners, recognizing student-athletes who achieved a 3.5 GPA or higher during their academic careers. 

Fans also got involved in the show interactively, voting on three superlative categories live - best dance move, best game face, and best collision.

The presentation was highlighted, however, by the announcement of the department's major awards for 2019-20.

  • The Joe Bochicchio Memorial Awards, which is annually awarded to the male and female teams with the highest cumulative grade-point average during the previous academic year, were given to the men's tennis (3.46) and women's tennis (3.61) teams.

  • The Ocorr Student-Athlete Service Award was awarded for the first time to Greg Spicka (Morris Plains, N.J./Seton Hall Prep) of the men's swimming & diving team, who served as a volunteer assistant in the athletics department. The award, which will be given annually to a graduating senior student-athlete who has served "royally" the campus and/or the Greater Scranton Community during his/her tenure, also includes a $500 cash gift.

  • The Ron Willensky Award, which is presented to a member of the senior class who has overcome extreme hardship in his or her athletic career and personal life to excel in both athletics and in personal life, was awarded to Jasmin Russo (Hamden, Conn/Sacred Heart Academy) of the women's track & field team. Throughout her athletic career, Russo suffered two ACL tears on the same knee, and this past November she endured a personal tragedy when one of her closest friends and former gymnastics teammates died suddenly. Then, in January, she watched her brother go through the same situation when one of his friends also died unexpectedly at only 19 years old. Despite all of this, she rehabilitated herself to sprint before the 2020 track & field season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and served as team captain, never missing a practice despite the fact that she could not compete. She also boasts a 3.83 GPA as an exercise science major and will go on to Columbia this fall to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy. 

  • The Father Fitzpatrick Award was presented to a male and female member of the Senior Class who has shown outstanding leadership, extraordinary service, and special contributions to not only the University community but society in general. This year's recipients were Claire McAllister (Plymouth Meeting, Pa./Plymouth-Whitemarsh) of the field hockey team and Riley Smith (New Hope, Pa./New Hope Solebury) of the men's soccer team. 

    • McAllister, a four-year letter winner for field hockey and a team captain in 2019, served several organizations on campus throughout her tenure. She went on two international service program trips, both to the Dominican Republic, in 2019, and this past winter. On the second trip, she was a Peer Facilitator, leading a group of 12 students & faculty members. She was also voted to lead "Search Retreat," a retreat of 40 individuals, facilitating organic conversation about the topics of walls, conflicts, forgiveness, and Christian living. Even with all of her volunteer work, she has been an outstanding student, recording a 3.92 GPA as a Mathematics & Secondary Education double major with a minor in Spanish.

    • Smith, meanwhile, was also a four-year letterwinner in his athletic career. Off the field, he took part in two ISP trips to Nogales, Mexico, where he helped migrants and learned more about issues on the U.S./Mexico border. When he returned to campus from those trips, he planned and ran events to spread awareness about immigration issues. An economics major, minoring in business analytics, he also boasts a high GPA of 3.75, as well.

  • The Carlesimo Awards, given annually to the male and female members of the senior class who have demonstrated both academic and athletic excellence, were awarded to Rebecca Russo (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor) of the women's soccer & women's lacrosse teams and Michael Diana (Somerset, N.J./Immaculata-Somerville) of the men's swimming & diving team.

    • Russo has been a force in not only two sports, but in the classroom during her time at the University. In soccer, she led Scranton to 59 victories in four seasons, while in lacrosse, she paced the Royals to 41 victories in four years. In the classroom, she has a 3.85 GPA as a nursing major, earning CoSIDA Academic All-American honors in women's soccer in 2019 and United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-American accolades in 2018. A four-time CoSIDA Academic All-District pick (three times in women's soccer and once in women's lacrosse), she was the Landmark Conference's Senior Scholar Athlete for women's soccer in 2019.

    • Diana, meanwhile, will go down as one of the best divers in Scranton history, earning the Landmark Conference's Male Diver of the Year award three times from 2017 through 2019. In all, he was a five-time Landmark Conference champion in his career and earned All-Landmark Conference honors eight times. In the classroom, he has a 3.9 GPA as a Psychology and Counseling & Human Services major and was named the Landmark's Senior Scholar Athlete for men's swimming & diving in February.

  • The final award presented was the O'Hara Awards, which are given annually to the top male and female athletes of the Senior Class. These were presented to Russo and wrestling's Keegan Connelly (Schnecksville, Pa./Allentown Central Catholic).

    • Russo ends her career at Scranton as the only student-athlete male or female to be named an All-American in two sports, earning the honor from the United Soccer Coaches in 2018 and the IWLCA in 2019. In soccer, she led Scranton to four NCAA Division III Tournament berths and three Landmark Conference titles. The Landmark's Defensive Player of the Year in women's soccer in 2018, she was an All-Landmark First Team selection three times. In lacrosse, she was just as impressive, leading Scranton to the Landmark playoffs three times and to the program's best season all-time in 2019 (16-3 final record). She also earned All-Landmark First Team accolades three times in lacrosse, as well.

    • Connelly, meanwhile, ends his career ranked third all-time in career victories (118) and seventh in pins (22). In 2019-20, he won 34 times throughout the year on his way to earning a spot in the 2020 NCAA Division III Championship at 285 pounds. Although he never got to compete on the national stage due to the cancelation of winter and spring championships, he went on to become just the third All-American in Scranton wrestling history in April, earning NWCA Third-Team All-American accolades in his weight class.

Fans are reminded that you can also follow University of Scranton Athletics all year on both Instagram and Twitter @RoyalAthletics.