Announcing the winners of The D Sports Awards 2019-20

by Devan Fink , Benjamin Ashley and Carl Ufongene | 6/2/20 2:15am

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by Dylan Cerveny / The Dartmouth

At the end of each academic year, The Dartmouth’s sports section selects players and moments to be voted upon by the student body as the best of the best. In this year’s The D Sports Awards, six of the top rookies, six of the top moments, five of the top female athletes and five of the top male athletes at Dartmouth were pitted against each other. After three separate rounds of voting, The Dartmouth is excited to announce Makenzie Arent ’23, the Big Green football team, Katie Spanos ’20 and Drew O’Connor ’22 as the winners of this year’s awards.

The Dartmouth’s Rookie of the Year: Makenzie Arent '23 (Volleyball)

Courtesy of Makenzie Arent

Makenzie Arent made an immediate impact for the Big Green, leading the team in assists while appearing in all but one set this season. Hailing from Spring, Texas, Arent came into Dartmouth a decorated player, captaining her high school team for three years and being named to the Under Armour All-American National Watch List. Arent carried this momentum into her freshman year, accumulating four Ivy League Rookie of the Week titles in her first season. Her 636 assists were the 12th most for a single season in school history. Adding to her impressive tally of assists, Arent’s 21 aces were the second most on the team, and she also had the third most digs.

Upon winning The Dartmouth’s Rookie of the Year award, Arent expressed gratitude to her coaches and teammates.

“Winning this [makes me] excited for the years to come because it’s amping me up for next season,” Arent said. “I think it’s also very representative of all the hard work that I’ve put into this season, but not just me, [also the work] my coaches [and] my teammates put into me.”

Arent credited the coaching staff for easing her transition into the Ivy League, as they worked diligently even before she arrived on campus to ensure that she was prepared.

“Our coaches do a really good job of making sure that we are fully up to speed before we show up to campus,” Arent said. “So all throughout the summer [and] my senior year [of high school], they were talking to me constantly.”

Arent said that she hopes this award is a sign of positive things to come and that she believes the team’s future is bright.

“I think that we’re starting to really understand what we need to do to be more successful than we have been in the past and it’s really starting to click,” Arent said. “And our team culture is in a really good place, so I’m excited to see how that unfolds, and how we do next year.”

Arent finished with 38 percent of the first place vote and narrowly edged out women’s rugby player Kristin Bitter ’23, with women’s soccer player Allie Winstanley ’23 coming in third. 

The Dartmouth’s Moment of the Year: Big Green football’s “Harvard Heave”

Gil Talbot/Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

Six seconds left. At Harvard University’s 43-yard line, down 6-3, quarterback Derek Kyler ’21 and the Big Green offense needed a miracle to continue its undefeated season. After the snap, Kyler’s pocket immediately collapsed, but he heroically evaded four defenders and launched a pass toward the end zone. After two Harvard defenders went up and tipped it, the ball miraculously found its way into the arms of wide receiver Masaki Aerts ’21 for the Dartmouth win.

Kyler recalled his disbelief at the play. He looked to the sideline to confirm the pass had really been caught, but he still couldn’t believe what had just happened.

“It was all just crazy and surreal when it happened,” Kyler said. “I really couldn’t believe it ... I had to stare at it for 10 seconds until I realized he actually caught it. It was crazy. I’ll probably never experience something like that again.”

The miraculous Hail Mary did more for the Big Green than just defeat Harvard. It fueled the team with motivation and reinforced its belief that they were destined to win the Ivy League title.

“We knew after that we really had no choice but to win the Ivy League championship,” Kyler said. “That was a huge moment for us.”

The Big Green won two out of its next three games to secure a share of the Ivy League championship.

The “Harvard Heave” decisively won the award with 71 percent of first place votes, while the men’s hockey team’s win against No. 2 Cornell University came in second and the women’s rugby team winning its fourth Ivy League championship in five years rounded out the top three.

The Dartmouth’s Female Athlete of the Year: Katie Spanos '20 (Field Hockey)

Courtesy of Katie Spanos

Spanos has had a memorable career at Dartmouth, and she has the accolades to prove it. She has been duly recognized for her performances during her time at Dartmouth, being named to the All-Ivy First Team her junior year and All-Ivy Second Team her sophomore and senior years. She was also named to the NFHCA All-Northeast Region Second Team her junior and senior years. Throughout her career, Spanos consistently demonstrated to the Ivy League that she was one of the best players in the conference. She led the Big Green in scoring the past three years and finished her career with 29 goals, making her the eighth most prolific goal scorer in program history. She also scored eight game-winning goals during her career, four of them coming this year as captain for the Big Green.

Spanos was initially shocked to hear she had won Female Athlete of the Year, and she gave credit to the entire Big Green field hockey team.

“We’re a group of really hard workers who are always trying to support each other and try to strive to do the best that we can do and the best that we can be each and every game,” Spanos said.

While Spanos had another remarkable year, the Big Green struggled this past season, failing to win a conference game and finishing with a 4-13 overall record. The team did earn some exciting wins, including comeback victories over the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Sept. 29 and the University of Vermont on Nov. 3.

Spanos said that the most memorable moment of this past season was her game-winning goal in overtime against the College of the Holy Cross on Sept. 15, just a few days after her grandfather passed away.

“To end the weekend that way is definitely something I won’t forget about my time at Dartmouth,” Spanos said.

Spanos received 49 percent of the first place vote. She was followed by women’s track and field athlete Cha’Mia Rothwell ’20 in second and Nordic skier Katharine Ogden ’21 in third. 

The Dartmouth’s Male Athlete of the Year: Drew O’Connor '22 (Hockey)

Courtesy of Drew O'Connor

Drew O'Connor signed a two-year NHL deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins after leading the ECAC with 21 goals this season.

Despite only playing two seasons in the green and white, O’Connor has firmly established himself as one of the best hockey players to come through the program. His 2019-20 campaign was one of the most memorable individual seasons in Dartmouth history. In 30 games, O’Connor scored 21 goals, ranking first in the ECAC and fifth in the nation. He became the first Big Green player ever to lead the ECAC in goals scored. He also added 11 assists for a total of 32 points. His selection as Male Athlete of the Year only adds to his lengthy list of accomplishments. 

“It definitely means a lot,” O’Connor said. “It’s kind of … a special feeling knowing that my classmates and fellow athletes selected that. I know that there [are] a ton of very good athletes at Dartmouth in all sports, so it definitely means a lot to me.” 

O’Connor’s uncanny ability to sound the horn in Thompson Arena turned heads throughout the hockey community. On March 4, he became the fourth Dartmouth men’s hockey player to be named the Ivy League Player of the Year, sharing the honors with Cornell University’s Matthew Galajda. Later that month, O’Connor went professional, inking a two-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I was kind of unsure after the season what I was going to do, but they came along with a very good opportunity for me,” O’Connor said. “It was hard to pass up.”

Despite O’Connor’s outstanding efforts on the ice, the Big Green experienced an up-and-down season. Highlights included a Dec. 3 victory versus then-undefeated No. 2 Cornell, the Ledyard Classic title and a No. 20 national ranking, the first time the team had been ranked in four years. The team sputtered down the stretch, however, and fell victim to a home sweep by 11th-seeded Princeton University in the first round of the ECAC tournament.

“That’s the hardest part about leaving them — it was such a good group,” O’Connor said. “Especially the ’21s who will be seniors next year, I’m really hoping for them that they can have a solid season next year because they’re an incredible group of guys with a lot of great leadership.”

In the balloting, O’Connor captured 41 percent of first place votes. Football player Jack Traynor ’19 finished in second and diver Justin Sodokoff ’21 finished in third.