Etuka & Lavinio named Coca-Cola Athletes of the Year, Sell & Strobel selected as Senior Scholar-Athletes of the Year
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (June 22, 2017) – Western New England University announced its annual athletic department award winners on Thursday morning. Senior cornerback Obi Etuka (Middletown, Conn.) of the football team and senior shortstop Gabby Lavinio (Dalton, Mass.) of the softball team were named the Coca-Cola Athletes of the Year, while senior goalkeeper Kevin Strobel (Rockland, Mass.) of the men's soccer team and senior Lauren Sell (Milford, Conn.) of the women's tennis team were selected as the Senior Scholar-Athletes of the Year.
All four student-athletes will be honored at the Downes Athletic Hall-of-Fame banquet, which will be held on September 22, 2017 at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow, Mass.
Western New England's annual department awards are voted on by all members of the athletic administration, coaches and full-time staff. Established in 2001, the Coca-Cola Athlete of the Year awards recognize the school's top male and female based strictly on athletic performance. The Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards, which were first given out in 2003, recognize senior student-athletes for combined athletic and academic performance.
Etuka capped his decorated career this past fall by becoming Western New England's first unanimous All-America selection, as he was recognized by both D3football.com and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). The senior recorded 42 tackles (2.5 for loss), 12 pass breakups and six interceptions in 2016 as the Golden Bears posted their second consecutive undefeated regular season and captured the program's first ever NCAA Tournament victory.
He became Western New England's all-time interceptions leader with his two-pick performance in the Golden Bears' 37-0 shutout of MIT on October 15, and he registered interceptions in the team's final two regular season contests as well as its NCAA triumph over Husson on November 19. Etuka was also named to the All-New England Football Conference (NEFC) First Team, the New England Football Writers Division II/Division III All-New England Team, and the D3football.com All-East Region Team.
Lavinio wrapped up her collegiate career with her second consecutive selection to both the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-New England team and All-Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) first team.
The Dalton, Mass. native was again one of the top all-around players in the CCC, batting .368 (42-for-114) with 16 doubles, one triple, two home runs and 23 RBI. Lavinio also scored 27 runs and walked six times while stealing five bases. She posted a 17-game hitting streak from March 13–April 14 and recorded multiple hits in 12 of 35 games this season. Lavinio also served as Western New England's defensive anchor, committing just six errors all season.
Strobel, an accounting & finance major that graduated in May with a 3.92 cumulative grade point average, helped lead Western New England back to the NCAA Tournament this past fall after the Golden Bears captured their sixth CCC title. An All-CCC second team honoree, Strobel started all 22 matches in goal, posting a 1.57 goals against average and a .757 save percentage with five shutouts (3rd in CCC).
Academically, the Rockland Mass. native was a President's and Dean's List student that was a member of numerous honor societies, including the Chi Alpha Sigma National Student-Athlete Honor Society.
Sell, an industrial engineering major with a 3.91 cumulative grade point average, graduated early after just three years at Western New England. An All-CCC first team selection for singles, Sell went 4-5 from the No. 1 flight to go with a 6-3 record at No. 2 doubles during the fall season.
Off the court, Sell was enrolled in the engineering honors program and was a member of numerous honor societies (including Chi Alpha Sigma) as well as the Society of Women Engineers and the Institute of Industrial Engineers. The Milford, Conn. native and Academic All-CCC selection completed an internship with Fabbrica, LLC in Enfield, Conn.