Vizza named first team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America
Courtesy of Benedictine University, Sports Information Department
LISLE, Ill. -- Benedictine University junior Kiera Vizza (Evergreen Park, Ill./Queen of Peace H.S.) has been named a first team 2006 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America for college division women's soccer, it has been announced. The award is voted by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and includes student-athletes from NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and NAIA institutions.
The ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America program is the foremost program to recognize academic achievement by student-athletes. Nominating criteria is a combination of academic success and on-field accomplishments, as well as campus/community service.
"It is truly an honor, considering I never thought I would be nominated for such an award," said Vizza. "All my life I have worked hard in school and plan to stay this way. In terms of sports, I am very competitive; I will work as hard as necessary to be the best I can be. Putting these (athletics and academics) together worked for me and I can't see myself without either.
"Every game, I tried to go onto the field playing my hardest and hoping for the best. I hope I can compare in this respect to the other girls on this list. When you care off the field (in terms of academics), the care on the field is always present and reflected in your play."
Vizza is also quick to recognize the relationship she has with her professors at Benedictine in helping her attain such a lofty award.
"Every professor I have had here - especially the Chemistry professors - has never hesitated to help me," recounted Vizza. "I have always been able to come to each person's office to ask questions about material or homework problems. I appreciate everything they have helped me with and I thank them. What I know today comes from how they taught me."
In addition to being a top academic student among Eagles' athletes, having earned Dean's List honors in every term at Benedictine, Vizza is also her team's representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). She does volunteer work for the "Relay for Life" and the American Cancer Society, as well as for her church.
Vizza was also a 2006 first-team All-Northern Athletics Conference (NAC) selection for her accomplishments on the field in the inaugural year of the 12-team mega-conference. She was also previously recognized after her sophomore and junior by Benedictine's former conference affiliation – the Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference (NIIC) – on its women's soccer all-academic teams and on the NIIC President's Honor Roll (athletes with a 3.85 or higher grade point average).
In 2006 Vizza, a midfielder, completed her third season as a member of the women's soccer program and was the team's leading scorer, after playing goalkeeper for much of her sophomore season. This year, she tallied 19 points, booking nine goals and one assist. She started all 20 matches for the Eagles.
Among Benedictine's seven victories, Vizza scored the match-winning goal in three of the contests. Of her 28 shots attempted on the year, 21 were directly on goal (a .750 shot-on-goal percentage).
"There is no person more deserving of this award I can think of than Kiera," said Benedictine Head Coach Robyn Serge, who just completed her first season at the Eagles' helm. "There are lots of players who talk a good game, but Kiera leads by example both on the field and in the classroom.
"She has been the catalyst that helped the team's transition from a winless season in 2005 into a team that competed tough with the best teams our league had to offer. Likewise, she was also instrumental in bringing the players along when I came in this season and made some significant changes. Kiera is very much a team leader who is mature beyond her years."
Benedictine's Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Marco Masini (who oversees the intercollegiate athletics program) echoed those same thoughts. "Kiera reflects the Benedictine spirit of a well-balanced student-athlete," said Masini. "She excels within the Benedictine University community: on the field, in the classroom and with each student, faculty and staff member."
Vizza also has the distinction of being the first-ever female student-athlete in Benedictine University history to be named to one of the Academic All-America teams. She joins football players Dave Slinkman (1986) and Bill Sheridan (1988), along with baseball player Jim Sostak (2001), as the fourth student-athlete from the Eagles' athletics program to be named as an Academic All-American.
"I love proving myself in anyway I can," said Vizza. "All my life, I have always been the first girl to accomplish certain feats. I know I can do anything if I set my mind to it, and I will never stop believing this. This award just proves it. In everything I do, I want to try to be a leader on and off the field, especially for the younger girls on our team."