EAST LANSING, Mich. - Six Michigan State University student-athletes have been recognized for excellence both on the playing field and in the classroom as they have earned the school’s highest athletic awards for 2007-08.
The awards include the George Alderton Male and Female Athletes of the Year, the Big Ten Conference Medals of Honor, the Chester Brewer Leadership Award and the Dr. James Feurig Achievement and Service Award. A panel of administrators and head coaches selected the winners.
Junior goaltender Jeff Lerg (Livonia, Mich.) was named the George Alderton Male Athlete of the Year, while senior women’s golfer Sara Brown (Tucson, Ariz.) earned George Alderton Female Athlete of the Year honors. Both earn the award for the second straight year, marking the first time in the history of the Alderton Award that the men’s and women’s winners are the same for two consecutive years.
Lerg becomes the first back-to-back Alderton male winner since Mateen Cleaves (1999-2000), and just the third in the award’s 27-year history. After leading the Spartans to the 2007 national title as a sophomore, Lerg was stellar was once his junior season, ranking among the nation’s leaders in saves percentage and goals-against average. He earned All-America and Academic All-America honors, and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker and Sullivan Awards.
Brown, a first-team All-Big Ten selection for the third straight year, recorded the best stroke average in school history with a 74.07 and won three individual tournaments. The honorable mention All-American selection finished her career as the school’s all-time scoring leader with a 75.27 stroke average. Brown is only the third women’s athlete to earn the Alderton Award in back-to-back seasons, and just the second women’s golfer to win the award twice (Emily Bastel, 2000 and 2002).
Men’s basketball guard Drew Neitzel (Wyoming, Mich.) received the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor along with rower Kate Burdick (Ann Arbor, Mich.). The Conference Medal of Honor is presented to a male and female senior student-athlete at each conference institution for outstanding athletic and academic achievement.
Men’s golfer Ryan Brehm (Mount Pleasant, Mich.) received the Chester Brewer Leadership Award, while swimmer Matthew McNichols (Naperville, Ill.) earned the Dr. James Feurig Service and Achievement Award.
AWARD - WINNER
George Alderton Male Athlete of the Year - Jeff Lerg (Hockey)
George Alderton Female Athlete of the Year - Sara Brown (Women’s Golf)
Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor (Male) - Drew Neitzel (Men’s Basketball)
Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor (Female) - Kate Burdick (Rowing)
Chester Brewer Leadership Award - Ryan Brehm (Men’s Golf)
Dr. James Feurig Achievement and Service Award - Matthew McNichols (Men’s Swimming & Diving)
GEORGE ALDERTON MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
(Presented to top male athlete of 2007-08)
WINNER: Jeff Lerg (Hockey)
Jeff Lerg has not only established himself as one of the elite goaltenders in college hockey, but is also putting together one of the most accomplished careers of any Spartan athlete. In 2007-08, he put together one of the most decorated campaigns in school history; the netminder was a Hobey Baker finalist, a Second-Team All-America selection, the CCHA First-Team goaltender, and the CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He was a finalist for CCHA Player of the Year honors, was named the Michigan College Athlete of the Year and was one of five finalists for the AAU’s Sullivan Award, honoring the top amateur athlete in the United States. In addition, he was voted "Michigan’s Best," the top sports figure in the state in a reader vote by the Detroit Free Press.
"Winning this award was such an honor last year – and winning it twice, to me, is unbelievable," said Lerg. "There are so many athletes here at Michigan State who accomplish great things each year. To be recognized is such a tremendous honor for me."
"Jeff Lerg embodies all that we want to see in our student-athletes," noted head coach Rick Comley. "He is an outstanding student, he is one of the best college hockey players in the country, is a fantastic leader on our team, and he is engaged in community activities. Jeff excels in whatever he undertakes. He has been a standout for us for three seasons, and he is poised to have an outstanding senior campaign."
Lerg earned team MVP honors for the second consecutive season, finishing the season ninth in the country in saves percentage (.926), which tied for sixth-best all-time in the MSU annals, and a 2.22 GAA, which ranked 18th nationally and ninth-best in the Spartan record book. His 24 victories was the fourth-highest total in the country this season, and puts him tied for eighth in the MSU records. He set his career-best in shutouts (four, eighth all-time at MSU) and saves (1,136, which ranks third in the MSU annals). Lerg’s career numbers also rank among the top five all-time at Michigan State in several categories: save percentage (.922), second; saves (2,956), second; goals-against average (2.22), third; career shutouts (10), fourth; wins (67), fifth; games played (114), fourth; and consecutive games played (63), first.
Lerg is a three-year starter who has guided the hockey program into at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament for three straight seasons, making Michigan State one of just three schools to accomplish that feat along with Boston College and North Dakota. He backstopped the Spartans to the 2007 NCAA title, and was named the University’s George Alderton Award winner as the top male athlete of the year. In addition, he was named the USA Hockey College Player of the Year. As a freshman, Lerg emerged as the starter in January and went on an impressive run that saw him earn CCHA Rookie of the Year honors, then emerged as the CCHA Tournament MVP when he helped the Spartans capture the 2006 CCHA title.
Lerg’s academic standing is as impressive as his hockey resume. He maintains a 3.77 grade-point average as a finance major, and has twice been the Spartan’s nominee as the CCHA Scholar-Athlete, which honors one athlete per team. In addition to earning first-team Academic All-America honors, he was named the CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Meanwhile, he has also involved himself with several community service initiatives. Lerg participates in the Big Brothers program, and is a big brother to 10-year-old Malik from Lansing. He has participated in Teams for Toys, an MSU initiative for all athletic teams which "adopts" a family at the holidays. In addition, he has worked with Trick or Treat for kids with cancer, the "Make A Change" program which raises money for cancer research, the Asthma Association, Children’s Miracle Network, Project Read at local elementary schools, "Jump Start Your Heart", Junior Spartan Tailgate, "Fall into Fitness" (promoting health and wellness), the Spartan Junior Tailgate, and "Fall into Fitness" (promoting health and wellness).
PAST WINNERS - ALDERTON MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
2007-Jeff Lerg (hockey); 2006-Brad Gebauer (track and field); 2005-Nick Simmons (wrestling); 2004-Jeff Smoker (football); 2003-Charles Rogers (football); 2002-Paul Terek (track and field); 2001-Ryan Miller (hockey); 2000-Mateen Cleaves (basketball); 1999-Mateen Cleaves (basketball) and Mike York (hockey); 1998-Chad Alban (hockey); 1997-Reid Friedrichs (soccer); 1996-David Morgan (wrestling); 1995-Shawn Respert (basketball); 1994-Emilio Collins (wrestling); 1993-Bryan Smolinski (hockey); 1992-Anthony Hamm (cross country/track and field); 1991-Steve Smith (basketball); 1990-Kip Miller (hockey) and Percy Snow (football); 1989-Bobby Reynolds (hockey); 1988-Todd Krumm (football/baseball); 1987-Don McSween (hockey); 1986-Mike Donnelly (hockey), Lorenzo White (football), Scott Skiles (basketball); 1985-Sam Vincent (basketball); 1984-Carl Banks (football); 1983-Ron Scott (hockey); 1982-Ron Scott (hockey).
GEORGE ALDERTON FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
(Presented to top female athlete of 2007-08)
WINNER: Sara Brown (Women’s Golf)
For the second-consecutive season, senior Sara Brown has stood out as the top female student-athlete at Michigan State. Arguably the greatest women’s golfer in Spartan history, Brown was the leader, both on the off the course, for the nationally ranked squad that advanced to its ninth-straight NCAA Regional and placed second at the Big Ten Championship. The Spartans had seven top-three finishes in 11 events this season, including three team titles, which tied for second in the nation and was most in a single-season since the 2001-02 Spartans.
Aside from the team success, Brown continued to fill her build upon her impressive collegiate resume, becoming the ninth All-American in Michigan State women’s golf history at season’s end, in addition to being an All-Big Ten First Team selection for the third-straight season. Brown finished her career as the school’s all-time scoring leader with a 75.27 stroke average. She also holds the top-two single-season averages, including a school-record 74.08 this season.
"Our program is so thrilled that Sara has won the George Alderton Athlete of the Year award for a second year in a row," said MSU head women’s golf coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll. "She is so deserving as she is now on the record books as the best player in the history of our team. Sara was a leader, both in the classroom and on the golf course, and will be missed dearly. We are excited as she has now embarked on her professional career and will be the next Spartan representing us on the LPGA Tour."
Her play this season ranked her No. 21 in the nation by Golfstat and No. 24 by Golfweek/Sagarin, as she had seven top-10 finishes in the team’s 12 events. Among those outings, she has three individual tournament titles, which tied for second all-time in a MSU single-season. In the fall, she posted two top-10 finishes including a tie for second in the season opening Fossum Invitational. However, as the spring season began, Brown started a string of five-straight tournaments in which she was the Spartans’ top finisher. In the second tournament of the spring, the Tucson, Ariz., native posted a seven-stroke win at the Central District Invitational, earning her Golfweek, Golf World and Big Ten Player of the Week accolades. Brown followed it up with an eight-stroke victory at the "Mo"Morial Invitational, to repeat as Golfweek National Player of the Week. After a tie for eighth at the Bryan National Collegiate, she responded with her third title of the season at the Lady Buckeye Invitational, which again earned her weekly recognition from the Big Ten. Brown ended her career by tying for seventh at the Big Ten Championship and 30th at the NCAA West Regional.
Brown also excelled in the classroom, having been an Academic All-Big Ten Team choice three times and this year was named to the ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Women’s At-Large Academic All-District IV Second Team. In addition, she was the team’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) representative the last two years and has been active in various community service activities, including Team for Toys and Athletes for Kids.
PAST WINNERS - ALDERTON FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
2007-Sara Brown (golf); 2006-Liz Shimek (basketball); 2005-Kristin Haynie (basketball); 2004-Jamie Krzyminski (cross country/track & field); 2003-Michelle Carson (cross country) and Jamie Krzyminski (cross country/track & field); 2002-Emily Bastel (golf); 2001-Summer Mitchell (swimming & diving); 2000-Emily Bastel (golf); 1999-Carrie Carpenter (softball); 1998-Jill Lusher (field hockey); 1997-Sevatheda Fynes (track & field); 1996-Val Sterk (volleyball); 1995-Karen Winslow (soccer); 1994-Susan Francis (track & field); 1993-Jodi Blotcher (gymnastics); 1992-Misty Allison (cross country/track & field); 1991-Julie Farrell-Ovenhouse (swimming & diving); 1990-Julie Farrell (swimming & diving); 1989-Julie Farrell (swimming & diving); 1988-Michelle Ingalls (gymnastics); 1987-Odessa Smalls (track & field); 1986-Mary Schoenle (swimming & diving); 1985-Kelly Becker (volleyball); 1984-Deanne Moore (softball); 1983-Judi Brown (track & field); 1982-Molly Brennan (track & field).