Former Cowgirl volleyball standout Laura Beach was named the one of the Mountain West’s nominees for the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year award, announced on Tuesday afternoon. Beach is joined by Annemarie Schwanz, a member of the Fresno State cross country and track field team as the Mountain West nominees. Beach and Schwanz are two of 58 Division I student-athletes out of the 145 NCAA female student-athletes representing Division I, II and III.
Beach is the fourth UW student-athlete to earn the honor and first since Veronica Popovici in 2014. Chaundra Sewell was a finalist in 2013, while Tamara Lehnertz was the first in 2007.
“For Laura to be one of 58 Division I student-athletes nominated for this award is truly evidence of her excellence,” Wyoming Director of Athletics Tom Burman said. “She personifies the type of student-athlete that all of our coaches hope to have the opportunity to work with and develop. We hope that she recognizes the whole state is proud of her accomplishments and we are all wishing her the best of luck in October.”
Beach, a native of Lakewood, Colo., recently completed her collegiate career as one of the Cowgirls’ top volleyball players in program history. On the court, she was a three-time MW All-Conference honoree and earned honorable mention AVCA All-Pacific Region team accolades. She leaves Laramie as the top career hitter (.372) at Wyoming and, along with her classmates, won 85 matches over their careers, the third-most all-time wins as a class. She is also fifth all-time with 438 total blocks and 12th with 982 kills.
Beach graduated with a 3.96 cumulative grade point average in kinesiology and health promotion. She was recognized as the Outstanding Senior in her degree program and was awarded the 2016 Mike English Scholarship during her senior season. A four-time Academic All-MW Team member, Beach earned CoSIDA Academic All-America Third Team honors in 2016 and was a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District VII First Team selection. She was recently named an MW Scholar-Athlete for the third consecutive year.
Beach led the team with 295 kills and a .399 hitting percentage in 2016. She started in all 31 matches for the Cowgirls and closed out her tremendous career with 109 consecutive starts. Her hitting percentage (.399) led the MW and was 14th in the NCAA. It was also the fourth-best in Wyoming single-season history.
The NCAA established the Woman of the Year Award in 1991 to celebrate the achievements of women in intercollegiate athletics. Now in its 27th year, the award honors graduating female college athletes who have completed their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers. This year a record 543 student-athletes, including 229 from Division I, were nominated by their institutions.
The Woman of the Year selection committee chooses the top 10 honorees in each of the three NCAA divisions from this pool to be recognized. These top 30 honorees will be announced in early September. The selection committee will then choose and announce the top nine finalists (three from each division) at the end of September. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will vote from among those nine finalists to determine the 2017 Woman of the Year. The 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year winner will be announced at the annual ceremony in Indianapolis on Sunday, Oct. 22.