INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Stepping into elite status in the NCAA is East Texas Baptist University graduate and former softball player Lya Swaner as she has been named a Top 30 selection for the NCAA Woman of the Year. She is the first female from ETBU to be named to the Top 30 and only the third from the American Southwest Conference.
“This is such a great honor to receive and I am humbled by the selection,” says Swaner. “To be amongst the best in all of the NCAA shows the education that I received at ETBU. My coaches and professors were great teachers and ETBU will always be near and dear to my heart.”
Ten women athletes were selected from NCAA Division I, II, and III for the award with the top nine finalists, three from each division, being announced on September 11th. Swaner will travel to Indianapolis, Ind., for the ceremony on October 20th.
Swaner is one of three from the State of Texas in the final 30 along with St. Edward’s University’s Olivia Collado and Texas Tech’s Ifeatu Okafor. The NCAA Division III had 151 athletes receive a nomination and there were 455 overall across the NCAA that were nominated for the Top 30.
Anna Soho, NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee chair, described the extraordinary commitment to academics and athletics by each of the top 30 honorees.
“These distinguished women are truly quintessential NCAA student-athletes, demonstrating dedication not only to athletic achievement but academic excellence and community leadership as well,” said Soho. “The NCAA applauds their achievements, and we know that they will continue to be role models and make a positive impact on the world.”
This is the third time that the American Southwest Conference has had a Top 30 finalist as Hardin-Simmons had both nominees before. Kaela Parnell was a Top 30 selection in 2010 while Virginia Aguilar was in 2007 as both played volleyball.
The top 30 honorees reflect the pillars of the Woman of the Year award, with outstanding achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.
- Cumulatively, the top 30 earned a 3.79 grade-point average and nearly 50 Academic All-America honors.
- The top 30 earned 12 national championships (individual and team) and more than 80 All-America honors.
- The top 30 volunteered for 365 organizations during their college careers.
- Many served as team captains and held leadership positions in various campus and community organizations.
“Lya is an exceptional young woman,” remarked Dr. Dub Oliver, ETBU President. “This is a fitting recognition as she represents the best of the best – a champion in every way. We are blessed to have had Lya as a student and now an alumna of ETBU.”
Swaner is one of the best softball players to come through ETBU as she was a four-year starter at catcher. She was a part of the 2010 NCAA National Championship team and played in three NCAA Tournaments in four years winning two conference championships and one regional championship. This year, she was named the ASC’s Tournament MVP and voted onto the CoSIDA Academic All-American third-team. She was also the ASC’s distinguished scholar in softball and given ETBU’s top athletic award in the Tiger Award. Graduating with honors as a double major in chemistry and biology, she was also a three-time academic All-ASC selection.
“We are very proud and excited for Lya and this is a very prestigious honor for her to be recognized with and to be one of the top 30 student-athletes in the country,” says head softball coach Janae Shirley. “Lya was a great asset for our program and is an example of what student-athletes can do at the NCAA Division III level and here at ETBU.”