West Hartford, Conn.-- Two Hawks, two Catamounts and a Terrier, representing the top three seeds for the upcoming America East Basketball Championship, were named to the America East Women’s Basketball All-Conference First Team as announced at the league’s annual awards reception on the University of Hartford campus on Thursday. The team was highlighted by the 2010 Rookie of the Year in Boston University’s Chantell Alford (West Haven, Conn./Wilbur Cross), the Defensive Player of the Year in senior forward Erica Beverly (Bridgeport, Conn./Kolbe Cathedral) of Hartford, and Hawks senior center Diana Delva (Stamford, Conn./Westhill), the Player of the Year. Hartford Head Coach Jennifer Rizzotti took home the Coach of the Year Award after leading the top-seeded Hawks to a perfect 16-0 conference record.
Joining that trio of players on the first team were a pair of senior guards from Vermont, May Kotsopoulos (Waterloo, Ontario/Waterloo Collegiate) and Courtnay Pilypaitis (Ottawa, Ontario/St. Peter), both preseason all-conference picks. Delva, Kotsopoulos and Pilypaitis were all unanimous choices. Head coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players.
Delva has evolved into one of the most consistent players in the conference en route to earning America East’s top honor. Having been named to the all-conference third team as a freshman and the second team as a sophomore and junior, Delva had a breakout year in 2009-10 with 14.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg and a league-leading 65.5 percent field-goal mark that currently ranks second in the nation. She recorded nine double-doubles on the season and averaged 1.9 blocks per game, third in the league. Arguably her best efforts of the season both came in the final week against Albany and Vermont where she notched a season-high 22 points in each game, while also averaging 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in both games to lead Hartford to its first-ever 16-0 conference mark.
Beverly, who sits just nine boards shy of becoming the first Hartford player to accumulate at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, led the league in blocks this season, averaging 2.2 rejections per game. Beverly has crept into the league’s all-time career blocks record book in fifth-place with 193 since the 2005-06 season. She was also a key component of a Hartford defense that ranks third in the country with a 50.8 scoring defense. Beverly, also the 2006 Rookie of the Year, also averaged 9.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. The 6-0 forward is the first Hawk to win the Defensive Player of the Year award since its inception for the 2002-03 season.
Alford claimed the top honor for a rookie after finishing second in the league with 15.3 points per game. She also ranked in the America East top 10 in seven other statistical categories, including assists, steals, blocks and three-point field-goal percentage. Alford is the first Terrier freshman to win the award since Katie Meinhardt in 2003. The guard was also voted to the all-conference first team joining former Maine standout Cindy Blodgett as the only two rookies to ever be named to the first team. Alford was a six-time rookie of the week winner this season and led a young Terrier squad to the three seed at this year’s championship
This was the third time in Rizzotti’s career which she received the top coaching award, also winning it in 2006 and 2007. Rizzotti led the Hawks to its fifth straight season of 25 or more wins, sixth straight season of 20 or more wins, and a fifth win over a ranked opponent in as many years. She also led Hartford to the program’s first-ever national ranking in both the AP and USA Today polls where the team enters the tournament ranked #23 and #21, respectively. The former UConn point guard stands with a career record of 216-119 (.645) over 10 years, all in West Hartford. Her winning ways in America East play, a 127-56 (.654) mark, make her the winningest coach in league history.
Making up the second team was Binghamton University’s senior guard Erica Carter (Naperville, Ill./Naperville Central) and sophomore guard Andrea Holmes (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell), UMBC’s senior guard Carlee Cassidy (Syracuse, N.Y./Westhill), University of New Hampshire’s senior forward Candace Williams (Norfolk, Mass./St. Raphael Academy (R.I.)) and Stony Brook University’s junior forward Kirsten Jeter (Elmont, N.Y./Elmont).
The all-conference third team consisted of University at Albany’s senior guard Charity Iromuanya (Lincoln, Neb./Lincoln Northeast), Boston U.’s freshman guard Caitlynn Moran (Hopewell Junction, N.Y./John Jay) and sophomore guard Alex Young (Hickory, N.C./St. Stephen’s), Hartford’s junior guard Jackie Smith (Westfield, Mass./Holyoke), and University of Maine’s sophomore forward Samantha Wheeler (Derry, N.H./Timberlane Regional).
Beverly, Delva, Iromuanya, Kotsopoulos and Pilypaitis were all also voted to the All-Defensive Team, with Delva receiving all eight possible votes.
Alford and Moran highlighted the All-Rookie Team and were joined by Hartford forward Ruthanne Doherty (Richmond, Va./L.C. Bird), University at Albany forward Julie Forster (Huntington, N.Y./Huntington) and forward/guard Ebone Henry (San Diego, Calif./Mater Dei Catholic).
All of the award winners will compete at the 2010 America East Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship presented by Newman’s Own beginning with tonight’s first-round game. All first, quarterfinal and semifinal games will be held at University of Hartford’s Chase Family Arena in West Hartford, with the championship game being held on Saturday, March 13 at 8 p.m. and hosted by the highest remaining seed.