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Buffalo State celebrates 2016-17 seasons at inaugural Benji Awards show


Buffalo State Athletics held the inaugural Benji Awards show on Sunday, April 30 in the Rockwell Hall Performing Arts Center, celebrating the outstanding team and individual accomplishments of the 2016-17 seasons.
The revamped version of the annual Buffalo State Athletics Banquet was be a theater-style awards show ala the ESPY's and the Oscars.  In addition to paying tribute to the 59 seniors in the Class of 2017, Buffalo State handed out nine "Benjis" to the evening's top honorees and recognized the Golden Bengal Service Award recipient, Mike Brown from campus services.
The event concluded with the presentation of a retirement gift to Dr. Hal D. Payne who served nearly three decades as Vice President for Student Affairs, overseeing significant growth in intercollegiate athletics.
CLICK HERE for the archived video stream of the event.
CLICK HERE for a photo gallery of the award winners.

The winners and nominees for the 2017 Benjis were:
Male Senior Scholar-Athlete Award:
WINNER: Alex Cassells – Soccer
A native of London, England, Cassells graduated in December with a 3.79 cumulative GPA in political science.  A three-year defender with the Bengals, he netted three goals in 41 games while helping solidify the back end.  Off the field, Alex also completed a semester-long internship as a legislative assistant to a New York Assemblyman in Albany and is currently employed in the British Parliament.
Will Cheshire – Football
Tom DePasquale – Swimming
Female Senior Scholar Athlete Award:
WINNER: Viivi Vaattovaara – Hockey
The native of Veikola, Finland played three seasons at Buffalo State after transferring from UCONN and has maintained a 3.96 GPA in biotechnology.  A two-year team captain, she played in 78 games and ranks third in school history for points by a defenseman with 26 on four goals and 22 assists.  She completed a research fellowship in the summer of 2016 and used it to begin researching the presence of bacteria in the sand as well as in the water at Bennett Beach, and has received the David Vernon Bullough Memorial Award for Outstanding Biology Senior.
Shannon Coyne- Diving
Taylor Graham – Basketball
Jenna Smolinski – Soccer

Male First-Year Athlete of the Year:
WINNER: Anthony Passero – Hockey
The Fort Erie, ON product played all 27 games this season and led the Bengals in scoring with 29 points on nine goals and 20 assists.  He had nine multi-point games including a goal and an assist in an upset win over then No. 1-ranked Oswego.  His 29 points tied for 10th overall in the SUNYAC and were second among freshmen.
Dan Kuznetsov – Swimming
Darren Thompson – Football/Track
Female First-Year Athlete of the Year:
WINNER: Taylor Carillo – Soccer/Lacrosse
A first team ALL-SUNYAC selection and the women's soccer SUNYAC Rookie of the Year, Carillo backstopped the Bengals to their first-ever SUNYAC Championship.  The Goalkeeper set a school record with 13 shutouts and was named second team All-Region after posting a 0.46 goals against average.  She also has started every game as a defender with the Bengals' women's lacrosse team.
Jada Sargeant – Soccer
Natasha Steinle – Hockey
Male Athlete of the Year:
WINNER: Connor Mergler – Swimming
The junior earned All-America honors for the second-consecutive season, placing eighth in the 100 freestyle at the NCAA Championships and was 20th in both the 50 and 200 free.  A three-time SUNYAC Champion in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events, Mergler was named Outstanding Male Swimmer of the Meet and SUNYAC Male Swimmer of the Year.  He also set three school records in the 100 back, 400 free and 400 medley relays.
Mike DeLaVergne – Hockey
Benjamin Ezike – Track & Field
Robert Liebel – Track & Field
Bass Sarr – Soccer
Lovell Smith – Basketball
Female Athlete of the Year:
WINNER: Melissa Smith – Soccer
The senior was named the SUNYAC Offensive Player of the Year for the second-straight year and was also an ECAC All-Star and a first team All-Region Honoree.  Smith led the SUNYAC in scoring with 15 goals and 37 points in 20 games and was fourth in the nation with eight game winning goals.  The SUNYAC Championship MVP, she scored the lone goal in Buffalo State's 1-0 win over Geneseo in the title game.
Catarra Burroughs – Track
Erin Gehen – Hockey
Alanna Herne – Lacrosse
Kristin Seiferth – Soccer
Hube Coyer Award (Outstanding Career):
WINNER: Mike DeLaVergne – Hockey
A four-year member of the Bengals, DeLaVergne is a two-time SUNYAC Goalie of the Year and earned Third Team All-America honors as a senior.  In 61 games with .926 save percentage, 2.23 GAA, 6 shutouts and 36-15-8 record, he holds the school's single-season records for save percentage, shutouts, goals against average and wins, and the school's career marks for save percentage and goals against average.
Ish Height – Football
Marc Montana – Football
Lovell Smith – Basketball
Ruth Houston Award (Outstanding Career):
WINNER: Melissa Smith – Soccer
Smith played just two seasons at Buffalo State after transferring from the University of Pitt-Bradford, being named the SUNYAC Offensive Player of the Year in both seasons.  She also garnered second team All-Region honors as a junior and first team accolades as a senior.  The SUNYAC Championship MVP scored the game-winning goal of the Bengals first-ever SUNYAC Championship and ranks fifth in school history with 64 career points on 25 goals and 14 assists in just 41 career games.
Sarah Lorusso – Lacrosse
Stephanie Novo – Softball
Kristin Seiferth – Soccer
Team of the Year:
WINNER: Women's Soccer
Led by SUNYAC Coach of the Year Nicholas DeMarsh, Buffalo State set a school record for wins finishing 17-1-3 including perfect 9-0 in the SUNYAC regular season.  The team went on to win the program's first-ever SUNYAC Championship, 1-0 over Geneseo, and make its first appearance in the NCAA playoffs, earning the right to host the first and second rounds.  The Bengals concluded the season ranked 21st in the final national poll and ended the year on a program-best 16-game unbeaten streak, going 14-0-2 to end the season
Men's Basketball
Men's Hockey
Women's Hockey
Men's Soccer
Softball (2016)

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