By Wade Neely, Martin Methodist Sports Information
PULASKI, Tenn. – In one of the more impressive achievements a student-athlete can possibly achieve, Martin Methodist (Tenn.) goalkeeper Stephen Lunney displayed a remarkable level of excellence both on the soccer pitch and in the classroom as he was recently named both Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year by the Southern States Athletic Conference.
Lunney, a 6-foot-2 rising senior from Dublin, Ireland, received the awards after one of the most decorated seasons by a student-athlete in RedHawk history.
Lunney was a crucial performer in the RedHawks run to the 2013 NAIA Men's Soccer national title and was honored as the tournament's Most Valuable Player as well as its Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Lunney appeared in all 23 contests for the RedHawks as the team's starting keeper, amassing a 19-2-2 record in net while making 75 saves and allowing just 16 goals the entire year.
It was these overall athletic achievements that helped Lunney claim the SSAC’s Male Athlete of the Year, which featured candidates from the league’s 15 sponsored sports.
But ultimately, Lunney’s academic successes were what truly made his 2013 campaign such a strong one. The Physical Education major made school history when he was named the Capital One Academic All-American College Division Player of the Year last November. The selection also marked the second consecutive season in which he had been named to the Capital One College Division Academic All-America® Team – also a first in school history. Lunney finished his junior academic year with a 3.96 grade-point average.
As result, Lunney claimed the SSAC’s top athletic and academic honors, which is believed to be the first time in league history that a player has won both awards in the same season.
“We often refer to ourselves as the Home of Academic All-Americans, Athletic All-Americans, National Champions and Champions of Character,” RedHawks Executive Director of Athletics Jeff Bain said. “During our freshmen orientation I ask our new student-athletes which one of those four categories they will fall into. Stephen, however, has proven to fit all four accolades. The two conference awards are such a unique accomplishment for truly an exceptional young man. In every way, we are truly very proud of Stephen and all of his successes.”
“Stephen has been a tremendous role model for our program in so many ways,” RedHawks head coach Chris Leonardi said. “He is our team captain and leads by example both in and out of the classroom. To see him rewarded both nationally and at the conference level for his hard work and dedication is amazing. We look forward to him leading our team in these same capacities again next season.”
Lunney and the defending national champion RedHawks open their 2014 title defense on Saturday, August 30 at home against Talladega (Ala.) College.