Male Athlete of the Year — Frank Kaminsky, junior forward, basketball
Entering the 2013-14 men’s basketball season, questions about who would be able to solidify Wisconsin’s front court lingered after losing three starting forwards to graduation. Frank Kaminsky quickly put any doubts to bed in a season that displayed a meteoric rise from bench player to anchor of a Final Four team.
Just four games into the regular season, the Kohl Center was already filled with chants of “Frank the Tank” as the junior forward broke UW’s single-game scoring record — a record that stood for more than 40 years — scoring 43 points against North Dakota.
By the time Wisconsin entered its Big Ten schedule, Kaminsky had established himself as a force in the paint with the ability to stretch defenses with his perimeter shooting.
The 7-footer burst onto the national stage with a NCAA Tournament campaign where he averaged 18.5 points and six rebounds per game. Kaminsky’s 28 point, 11 rebound performance in Wisconsin’s Elite Eight win over Arizona clinched the Most Outstanding Player award for the NCAA Tournament West Regional.
Kaminsky would finish his first-team All-Big Ten season leading the team in points (13.9) and rebounds (6.3) per game.
Female Athlete of the Year — Lauren Carlini, freshman setter, volleyball
Before she even stepped onto the UW Field House volleyball court, freshman setter Lauren Carlini carried the weight of the University of Wisconsin volleyball program squarely on her shoulders.
The No. 1-ranked recruit in the nation and 2012 Gatorade National Player of the Year was projected to start as Badgers’ setter immediately, but she surpassed sky-high expectations by leading a feisty Wisconsin offense and averaging 11.15 assists per set, good for third overall in the Big Ten conference.
After Wisconsin failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament for six consecutive seasons, Carlini guided the team to its first national title match since 2000. She distributed 12.55 assists in six tournament games, including 50 total assists in a victory against the tournament’s top seed in Texas in the Final Four match. Carlini earned 2013 regional MVP honors for her tournament performance in addition to 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Carlini developed as a dynamic playmaker on the court in a variety of ways. She used her athletic 6-foot-2 frame not only to set up opportunities for her teammates, but also to scramble for digs and put away balls with powerful strikes or acrobatic tips.
Honorable Mention: Alex Rigsby, women’s hockey; Michelle Mueller, softball
Coach of the Year — Kelly Sheffield, Volleyball
After a lackluster 2012 season for the Wisconsin volleyball team, it seemed like the right time for Wisconsin to move in another coaching direction.
Hired to replace former head coach Pete Waite, Kelly Sheffield inherited a young team without high expectations for its first year in the ultra-competitive Big Ten volleyball conference. Still, success seemed just a few years away for Sheffield who had a proven track record at Dayton, where he compiled a 131-33 record over 5 years. Especially because UW had also managed to poach the No. 1 high school recruit in Lauren Carlini prior to Sheffield’s arrival.
Still, nobody expected him to turn things around this quickly.
Given little more than a summer to get his team prepared, Sheffield was often characterized as a coach that expected perfection from his players. In his first week of practice, he set a precedent that would last throughout the season: Mistakes would be punished with extra cardio.
A stark contrast from the previous coach, it worked wonders for an undersized, unathletic team, helping them finish the regular season ranked No. 13 nationally, before continuing on a NCAA tournament run that captivated the University of Wisconsin campus.
Although Sheffield and co. suffered heartbreak in the National Championship, the team will lose only one senior and is expected to be right back in the title conversation next year with Sheffield at the helm.
Honorable Mention: Bo Ryan, men’s basketball
Moment of the Year — Bo Ryan cutting down the net in Anaheim
It was 13 seasons in the making when Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan finally got his chance to cut down the nets with Wisconsin after an Elite Eight win in the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Ryan had gone to every Final Four with his dad, Butch, since his days back at UW-Platteville. Butch passed away in the summer of 2013. On what would have been his dad’s 90th birthday, Bo Ryan led his Wisconsin team to an overtime win over No. 1 seed Arizona in the West Regional Final to send the Badgers to the Final Four for the first time in his tenure with UW.
When the game was over, anticipation built in the wake of victory as player after player, staff member after staff member, climbed the ladder in the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. cutting a piece of netting from the rim to signify their accomplishment. Finally it was the head coach’s turn. Chants of “Bo! Bo! Bo!” began to fill the arena as Wisconsin fans eagerly waited for their coach to cut the final piece of netting down.
Ryan sheered the final string and hoisted the net in victory. After he had made his way back down the ladder, the Wisconsin players put the ultimate exclamation point on the moment when they lifted their coach in the air. Grasping his freshly cut net, Ryan lifted his fist in the air while his face showed what the moment meant. The coach from Chester, Penn. had done it. A wide smile filled his face as he sat on the shoulders of his team.
Honorable mention: Wisconsin volleyball advancing to NCAA Championship after defeating Texas, NCAA Semifinal
Game of the Year — Wisconsin vs. Arizona, men’s basketball, Elite Eight
The Badger Herald game of the year didn’t have much for competition. It was the most recent, most riveting game and kept this campus alive through another elongated winter. It also vaulted Frank Kaminsky to a popularity level once thought impossible – that’ll happen when you score 28 points and grab 11 rebounds en route to claiming a spot in the final four.
Wisconsin and Arizona balanced each other for most of the game on opposite ends of the see-saw. Arizona led first, then Wisconsin. Arizona again, then Wisconsin. In the end, regulation just wasn’t enough to settle the West Region.
And while the Badgers were in control for much of the extra period, they were never out of harms reach until the final buzzer sounded. Nick Johnson took one dribble too many and failed to get a shot off before his season officially ended.
Kaminsky was the leading horse for the Badgers down the stretch, but was joined in double figures by Traevon Jackson, who also contributed five assists, two of them in overtime.
The win sent the Badgers to Dallas and the Final Four, the first of Ryan’s coaching career. It also sent thousands of Badgers back home to enjoy it on State Street.
Honorable Mention: Wisconsin vs. Texas, volleyball, NCAA Semifinals
Play of the Year — Mark Zengerle OT winner vs. Ohio State, men’s hockey, Big Ten Tournament Championship game
In his four years at Wisconsin, Mark Zengerle made a name for himself as a playmaker, but his label didn’t hold him back when his team needed a pivotal score.
Ohio State was the underdog heading into the Big Ten Tournament Championship game March 22, but over halfway through the third period Wisconsin was up against the odds.
The Buckeyes possessed a 4-2 lead with only six minutes and 52 seconds left in the game. But then, in the blink of an eye, the senior class for Wisconsin answered the bell and brought the Badgers even; just 48 seconds later they set the stage for the heroics of Zengerle.
More than seven minutes ticked off the clocked after Wisconsin had tied the game at four, sending the game to a sudden death overtime. In the overtime, with margin for error even slimmer – especially for OSU who was trying to secure an NCAA bid – neither team made a critical mistake for over seven minutes.
But then Zengerle, the opportunist, released a shot in the offensive zone from the top of the slot. It looked harmless at first and didn’t even reach they Buckeyes’ goaltender Christian Frey. A pile of players in front of Frey fumbled for the puck, but none of them could come away with it. However, behind the scrum, Zengerle slipped to the left side of the net and secured possession, fired a wrister and somehow trickled the puck past Frey as the celebration ensued with Zengerle sliding in exhilaration across the ice.
It was only the 37th goal of his career against his 125 assists, but he couldn’t have saved his last collegiate goal for a better time.