Toledo senior Natalia Gaitàn has excelled both on and off the pitch and has been selected as one of 30 NCAA® women's soccer student-athletes for the 2012 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award®. Gaitàn is the first Rocket to make the prestigious list and one of three representatives from the Mid-American Conference, joining Central Michigan's Bailey Brandon and Western Michigan's Anina Cicerone.
To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition.
On the field, Gaitàn has been a stalwart for the Rockets' defense and appeared in the starting lineup each of the last 61 contests. A candidate for MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors, Gaitàn is a two-time second-team NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region selection and has played a critical role for a Toledo squad that has posted 30 shutouts over the past three-plus seasons.
Academically, Gaitàn was named third-team NSCAA Scholar All-America in 2011, becoming the first Rocket to earn All-America accolades. She is also a member of UT's Dean's List the last six semesters, including a perfect 4.0 GPA in Fall 2010.
In the community, Gaitàn and the Rockets have shown a commitment to being positive role models off the playing field. UT has embarked on a long-term partnership with a local organization called Mom's House over the last couple of years. Mom's House is a place geared to helping low-income, single moms graduate from high school, technical school and college. Their mission is to prepare young mothers for the challenges of balancing educational goals with responsible parenting to help break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their children.
Other community projects Gaitàn and her teammates have been involved with include Camp Courageous, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Susan G. Komen for the Cure of NW Ohio and tutoring at Old Orchard Elementary School.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The 30 candidate classes will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one male candidate and one female candidate who best exemplify excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.
The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2012 NCAA Women's College Cup championships. The College Cup will take place November 30 and December 2 in San Diego.
For more information on all the candidates, visit seniorCLASSaward.com.
Gaitàn and the Rockets return to pitch on Friday, Sept. 21 when they begin their quest to capture an unprecedented third consecutive Mid-American Conference regular-season crown at Western Michigan. The opening whistle is slated for 4:00 p.m. from the WMU Soccer Complex.
Women's Soccer Candidates
Caitlin Alves, Hartford
Alex Balcer, Long Beach State
Mallory Baum, Southern Methodist
Bailey Brandon, Central Michigan
Amber Brooks, North Carolina
Tara Campbell, Duke
Allie Chandler, Arkansas
Anina Cicerone, Western Michigan
Lauren Costa, Montana
Abi Cottam, Rider
Adrianna AD Franch, Oklahoma State
Natalia Gaitàn, TOLEDO
Cynthia Jacobo, Cal State Northridge
Tishia Jewell, Central Florida
Scout Libke, Oregon
Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall, Brigham Young
Kylie Louw, Stephen F. Austin State
Ally Miller, Marquette
Caroline Miller, Virginia
Mariah Nogueira, Stanford
Natalie Norris, Utah State
Mallory Schaffer, William and Mary
Sarah Schaidle, Charleston
Nichole Schiro, Loyola (Maryland)
Lauren Smedley, Lafayette
Clare Stachel, Michigan
Erika Tymrak, Florida
Beth West, Texas A&M
Colleen Williams, Dayton
Kathryn Williamson, Florida