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William Smith’s Montgomery (Rancocas Valley-NJ) named as honoree for 2021 Woman of the Year Award

Tuesday, 28th September 2021

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Phillylacrose.com, Posted 9/28/21
From Press Release

The NCAA Woman of the Year committee has named William Smith College’s Mekayla Montgomery (Rancocas Valley-NJ) 21 one of the top 30 honorees from 535 school nominees for the 2021 Woman of the Year Award.

“We are enormously proud to have Mekayla represent our William Smith student-athletes and the Liberty League as a Top 30 honoree and one of ten Division III finalists,” Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics and Recreation Deb Steward said. “With a ‘we over me’ mentality, Mekayla’s tenacious defensive skills on the field epitomize who she is as a person – fiercely competitive, dedicated to growth and committed to others. She joins an amazing sisterhood of Herons who have received this recognition in the past.”

Ten women from each of the three divisions make up the top 30, spanning 12 different NCAA sports. The top 30 honorees reflect the pillars of the Woman of the Year Award: outstanding achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.

This is the fourth time since 2014 that a Heron student-athlete has achieved this honor, Caroline Conboy ’17, Madeline Buckley ’15 and Olivia Zitoli ’14 were also Top 30 honorees.. Cynthia Olyer Teerlink ’93 was selected the NCAA New York Woman of the Year in 1993 and was one of 10 finalists for the Woman of the Year award. In 1999, Lisa Krug ’99 was named the NCAA New York Woman of the Year, both Teerlink and Krug were honored when the NCAA previously announced 51 state-level winners, including the District of Columbia, before narrowing it down to 10 finalists.

Montgomery had a record-breaking career on the lacrosse field for the Herons The two-time Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year holds the Herons’ game (12), season (94) and career (233) records for draw controls and the career record for caused turnovers (120). Including her senior season, Montgomery is responsible for three of the top six seasons in the draw circle in program history. In addition, her name appears five times in the top 25 on the single-game draw list. Montgomery was named to five different All-America teams in her career.

In 2021 Montgomery started all 15 games on defense for the Herons’ lacrosse team, helping them reach the third round of the NCAA tournament. She led William Smith with 37 caused turnovers and was second on the team with 54 draw controls.

Montgomery and the Herons posted a 45-15 (.750) record over her four years on the lacrosse team. They won four-straight Liberty League Championships and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament four times, reaching the third round in 2021 thanks to a 13-5 win at then No. 1 Franklin & Marshall.

Off the field, Montgomery is a One Love Foundation advocate and escalation workshop leader, furthering the foundation’s mission to teach young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships, empowering them to identify and avoid abuse and learn how to love better. She was a finalist for the 2020 Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award. Montgomery was also a member of William Smith’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. In 2019, Montgomery spent a month in Nidjje, Uganda, working for the non-profit, Hope for Children and Women of Violence.

Montgomery her three sisters cooked and served breakfast for the homeless at St. Paul’s Church in Camden (known on the streets as the Pancake Church). She has also coached over the summers for South Jersey Select.

A 2021 first team selection for the CoSIDA Academic All-America At-Large team, Montgomery is a two-time IWLCA Academic Honor Roll honoree and a three-time Liberty League All-Academic selection. She worked as a research assistant at the University of California, Irvine, studying how aerobic exercise may treat Alzheimer’s disease.

In May, Montgomery graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and education.

Montgomery is pursuing her MBA in a two year program at The University of Indianapolis, playing lacrosse using her COVID redshirt eligibility.  UIndy was last ranked #3 in the Final Coach’s poll for Division II. 

“We are thrilled to recognize the 30 honorees selected this year,” said John Kietzmann, chair of the selection committee and associate director of athletics for marketing at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “These women excelled in the classroom and competition, while still prioritizing serving their peers and communities despite the challenges they faced during the pandemic. They represent the thousands of women competing in college sports each year, and we congratulate them for their incredible achievements.”

The selection committee will determine the top three honorees in each division from the Top 30, and the nine finalists will be announced this fall. From those nine finalists, the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will choose the 2021 NCAA Woman of the Year. On Tuesday, Nov. 9, during a virtual awards ceremony, the Top 30 honorees will be celebrated, and the NCAA Woman of the Year will be named.


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