WALTHAM, Mass. – On Friday evening May 15, the Brandeis University Department of Athletics handed out its annual departmental honors in a virtual ceremony. You can view the ceremony, with highlights and clips of each award presentation, including comments from coaches and a special thank you from underclassmen to the Class of 2020, at https://www.brandeisjudges.com/general/2019-20/CovenAwards2020Video.
Four Athletic Director Awards were presented to student-athletes who have displayed general excellence in representing Brandeis Athletics. They went to:
Jack Allan of Wrentham, Massachusetts, and the men’s track and field team. A team captain this year, Allan is a school-record holder in three events, the heptathlon, decathlon, and 60-meter hurdles. He had qualified for the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships in the heptathlon before the event was canceled due to the coronavirus. Allan was subsequently named an All-American by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. A six-time Academic All-University Athletic Association, Allan will return to the team next spring as a graduate student.
Emma Bartlett of Duxbury, Massachusetts, and the volleyball team. A 2019 team captain, Bartlett was a four-year starter at outside hitter and middle blocker. As a sophomore, she helped the team reach the semifinals of the ECAC Division III tournament, and as a junior, she helped them finish fifth in the UAA, the team’s best finish in a decade. That season, she earned the first of two All-UAA honors and was a first-team All-New England selection, becoming an American Volleyball Coaches Association honorable mention All-American, just the second in program history. Bartlett was also a three-time Academic All-UAA selection.
Victor Oppenheimer of West Hills, California, and the baseball team. Oppenheimer was a four-year starter at shortstop and second base, a three-time captain and a two-time All-UAA selection. He hit .389 with five doubles and a team-leading 12 RBI in the shortened 2020 campaign. He is ranked 15th in career doubles with 30 and is a .302 career hitter. Oppenheimer is also a three-year employee of the athletic department, serving as a Gosman Center building manager.
Tamir Zitelny of Syosset, New York, and the men’s swimming and diving team. One of the top performers in school history, Zitelny owns six individual school records and is part of four school-record relays. He owns all the Judges’ marks in backstroke and butterfly events, reaching NCAA Division III Championship ‘B’ cuts in the 100 back and 100 fly during his career. He helped the Judges to their best finish at the UAA championships since the early 2000s, and as a junior to second-place honors at the New England Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Association championships.
Zitelny was also presented with one of two Joseph M. Linsey Fellowships, which are awarded each year to one female and one male graduating student-athlete with plans to attend graduate school. Candidates for this award must exemplify the ideals of the Brandeis student-athlete by demonstrating sportsmanship and commitment to academics. He will be attending Wake Forest University medical school next fall.
The other Linsey Fellowship went to Sierra Dana of Lombard, Illinois, and the women’s soccer team. A four-year goalie on the team, she helped the Judges reach three-straight NCAA Division III tournaments, including a berth in the Final Four as a first-year. As a sophomore, she was named the starter, earning honorable mention All-UAA honors despite suffering an injury midway through the season. After completing her degrees in politics and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies in the fall, she has been working at the Rediscovery Home in Waltham, helping adolescents who are aging out of the foster care system. Dana will return to Brandeis next fall to start work on her Master’s in Public Policy at the Heller School.
The James McCully ‘86 Awards are presented to seniors who best exemplify the character, dedication, and good sportsmanship depicted by soccer All-American and inaugural Brandeis Hall of Famer Jim McCully.
The first went to Eric D’Aguanno of Saunderstown, Rhode Island, and the men’s basketball team. A three-time captain and guard for the Judges, D’Aguanno was one of the all-time best sixth men in program history. He is the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers with 244 and became the school’s 33rd 1,000-point scorer. As a junior, he helped the team win the 2019 ECAC Division III championship with a school-record 25 points in the semifinals and 15 more in the championship game. This year, he was featured on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Day after his buzzer-beater to defeat #2-ranked Emory. He was able to accomplish all this despite a significant death in his family early in the season.
The second McCully award went to P.J. Ross of Kingston, New Hampshire, and the softball team. Ross was a four-year starter for the softball team, playing third and first base. She is a career .280 hitter who just missed playing in 100 career games because of the coronavirus. Ross helped the Judges reach the NCAA tournament for just the second time ever as a junior, hitting a career-high .323 with three homers and 19 RBI. Much of her contribution came at the expense of her numbers, with a willingness to move up runners and make sacrifices so her teammates could be the heroes. Ross has also gotten it done off the field, earning a 3.82 GPA as an English and economics double major. Next year, she will be attending Brown University to earn a Ph.D. in English.
The Stephen Gendzier Prize was established in 2011 to recognize a senior student-athlete who has overcome hardship with perseverance. It went to Lauren Rubinstein of Southbury, Connecticut, and the women’s basketball team. A four-year member of the team and senior captain, Rubinstein worked through three ACL surgeries to become a significant role player as a junior and earn a starting role as a senior when she averaged more than 23 minutes per game. She scored 6.3 points per game and contributing more than two rebounds, two assists, and one steal per game as well.
The Morrie Stein ’58 Award of Valor is presented to a student-athlete who has demonstrated courage both on and off the playing fields and/or intervened to better the lives of others. It went to sophomore Rebecka Sokoloff of Northborough, Massachusetts, and the women’s swimming and diving team. In the pool, Sokoloff focuses on the distance freestyle events, finishing just out of the scoring in the 1,650 at the UAA Championships. Out of the pool, she is involved with various organizations on campus, including Brandeis Beacons with the Admissions Office, and Brandeis Buddies, a group that helps Waltham residents with special needs contribute around campus. This year, she is also working with the Brandeis Office of Technology and Innovation to develop and patent SNAPCAP, a product designed to help those with limited dexterity and other special needs put on, adjust and remove a swim cap, an effort spurred on by her older sister who has Down Syndrome.
The Morris Sepinuck Sportsmanship Award is presented to the varsity athlete who not only displays outstanding sportsmanship but also makes a significant contribution to the athletic program and to campus life at Brandeis. It went to junior Emily McGovern of Chatham, New Jersey, and the women’s swimming and diving team. At the 2020 UAA Championships, she scored points for the Judges in the 200 breaststroke. McGovern also swam the breaststroke leg on the school-record 400-yard medley relay. Out of the pool, she is a member of the Rich/Collins Community Leadership and Impact Fellowship, a program designed to expand Brandeis students’ engagement with and service to the greater Waltham-Boston area and to strengthen students’ leadership capacity. She is also a member of the Waltham Rotary Club and a Team IMPACT mentor, and last summer helped serve as a de facto assistant coach and aquatics director while the department was in search of someone to fill that role full time.
The Charles A. Napoli ‘58 Scholar-Athlete Award is presented to an outstanding student-athlete who has excelled in the classroom and on the athletic field. It went to Chris Armstrong of Highland Park, Illinois, and the men’s fencing team. A four-year member and two-year starter at epee, Armstrong is also a member of the Ultimate Frisbee club. As a junior, he earned the silver medal at the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Championships, and last summer, he represented the Judges on their annual trip to Asia. In the classroom, he owns a 3.98 GPA as a chemistry and physics double major and was named Phi Beta Kappa after his junior year. He has participated in an archaeological dig in Greece and served as a TA in physics. Next year, he will be doing research at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Switzerland, the premier nuclear research institution in the world, where the biggest and most complex scientific instruments on the planet are looking for the smallest pieces of the universe.
The Max I. Silber Award for outstanding female athlete was presented to junior Niamh Kenney of Hanover, Massachusetts, and the women’s cross country and track and field teams. As a sophomore, Kenney was the team’s 3rd finisher at the NCAA Championships, placing 81st overall and helping the Judges finish in sixth place in the team standings. She was an All-New England selection in cross country as a sophomore and a junior. This year, she was a two-time All-UAA honoree during the indoor track and field season, finishing as the runner-up in the 3,000-meter run and anchoring the second-place distance medley relay team. Kenney ran the fifth-fastest time in Division III in the 3,000 in her final opportunity, earning a spot at the NCAA Championships before they were canceled, ultimately earning All-America honors from the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The Harry, Joseph and Ida Stein Memorial Award for the outstanding male student-athlete went to senior David Aizenberg of Highland Park, Illinois, and the men’s tennis team.
Aizenberg earned All-America honors this year, Brandeis’s first All-American since 1994, and the first to be recognized for both singles and doubles in the same year since 1988. Aizenberg and his partner junior Anupreeth Coramutla were ranked #7 in Division III by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in doubles, while Aizenberg was ranked #27 in singles. The pair were qualifiers for the NCAA Championship as a tandem in 2018 but were unable to compete due to illness. In 2019, Aizenberg led his team to a second-place finish in the University Athletic Association, the second-best in program history, behind only the 1989 squad that won the UAA title. This season, the Judges were ranked #8 in Division III when the season was cut short due to the coronavirus. Aizenberg still earned All-UAA honors in singles for the second time and in doubles for the fourth time in his career. Aizenberg finished his collegiate career with 102 victories, making him only the fourth player in the past 20 years to reach the 100-win plateau. His 61 doubles wins are the most in that time span, all of this despite Aizenberg studying abroad during the fall of his junior year and despite missing the majority of this spring due to the coronavirus.