The Samford Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) announced the winners of the 12th Annual SAMSPY Awards. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person award ceremony was canceled for the first time ever. The awards were instead honored across all of Samford Athletics' social media channels.
The SAMSPY Awards are held annually to honor Samford's 17 teams and more than 350 student-athletes. A total of 20 awards were announced.
The Best Blooper Award was awarded to softball's Mekhi Mayfield for her fall on the way to first base in an early-season 2020 game.
The Academic Teams of the Year Awards, given to one male and one female team with the highest team GPA, was awarded to women's tennis team, and the men's cross country team.
The Female Rookie of the Year Award went to McKenzie Hogue from track & field and cross country. Hogue was named the SoCon's Women's Cross Country Freshman of the Year. She also scored in both the mile and 3,000-meters at the SoCon Championship to help solidify the women's track and field team's fifth-straight indoor championship.
Baseball first baseman Sonny DiChiara was named this year's Male Rookie of the Year. DiChiara ranked second in the Southern Conference in home runs with 21 and in runs batted in with 55. He was named first team All-SoCon, and he earned SoCon Freshman of the Year honors as well.
The Comeback Athlete of the Year Award went to Mohammed Ali Bellalouna from men's tennis. During his freshman season, Bellalouna underwent two heart surgeries. He fought back to earn the No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles spot in the lineup in his second season.
The Breakthrough Athlete of the Year Award was given to junior linebacker John Stanton from the football team. Staton stepped into a starting role in 2019 and had a true break-out year. He led the Southern Conference and ranked 16th nationally with 116 total tackles. Staton was named first team All-SoCon at the end of the season.
Volleyball senior Courtney Johnson was named this year's Jim Griffin Award winner, which goes to a player who is instrumental to their team's success. Her leadership and dedication to the Samford volleyball program were paramount in lifting the Bulldogs to the SoCon regular-season championship, SoCon Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Support Staff of the Year Award went to Director of Video and Broadcast Services Jonathan McAfoos. During his time at Samford, McAfoos has transformed the broadcast department into the best in the Southern Conference and one of the best in the country. He oversees a talented staff of students who work tirelessly to put on the best ESPN+ and ESPN3 broadcasts that expose Samford to viewers all over the country.
Soccer's Josie Rix was named this year's Assistant Coach of the Year. Rix does a tremendous amount to make the Samford soccer program run smoothly. She is involved in all aspects of the program and has helped lead the program to championships in each of her seasons on staff.
The Best Finish Award went to the men's track & field team's 4x400-meter relay team. The unit won the SoCon Championship for the first time in eight years on the Bulldogs' home track last spring. The team of Jordan Woodbine, Jordan Oballe, Michael McMahan, and Warren Fitzpatrick, came from behind to overtake Western Carolina to win the event.
The Best Upset Award went to the men's indoor track & field team for winning its first SoCon Indoor Championship. The Bulldogs won the title by an impressive 30 points over six-time defending champion Western Carolina.
Goalkeeper Morgan McAslan of the soccer team won the Play of the Year Award. Playing for its sixth-straight SoCon regular-season title, the Samford soccer team led Chattanooga, 1-0 late in the game on Senior Day at the Samford Track and Soccer Stadium. In the 87th minute of the contest, Chattanooga's Bailey Gale fired a shot, but McAslan made the save in the last second, ending the Mocs' final threat and giving the Bulldogs their sixth-straight title.
The Best Championship Performance Award was given to women's basketball for winning the SoCon Tournament. After winning the program's first SoCon regular-season title, the Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed in the SoCon Tournament. The team earned dominant wins over Western Carolina and Furman to reach the finals of the tournament.
The volleyball team won the Most Outstanding Team Award. The Bulldogs had the most impressive season in program history. Samford ran through the SoCon with a program-record 15-1 mark in league matches, and the team posted a 24-6 overall record. In the SoCon Tournament, after an easy 3-0 win over The Citadel in the first round, the team survived a pair of 3-2 matches with Furman and ETSU to win the tournament title for the third time in the last four years.
The Head Coach of the Year Award went to Carley Kuhns, the first-year head coach of the women's basketball team. Kuhns was hired as Samford's third head women's basketball coach last April, taking over a team that had won just 10 games the year before. Despite being picked to finish seventh in the preseason SoCon polls, the team won a share of the league's regular-season title for the first time in program history, and then won the SoCon Tournament for just the third time in the history of the program. The SoCon media named her the Co-Coach of the Year for the league.
Senior Kelsi Hobbs from volleyball was named this year's Best Female Athlete. Hobbs saved her best season for last as she was the leader of a team that went 24-6 overall and 15-1 in SoCon play, winning the SoCon regular season and tournament titles. She was named SoCon Player of the Year, SoCon Tournament Most Outstanding Player and AVCA All-Region.
The Best Male Athlete Award went to Zach Hester of baseball and Emmanuel Tait of track & field. Hester was named the SoCon Pitcher of the Year after leading the league in wins in SoCon games. Tait tied for the Heath Whittle Award for MVP of the SoCon Indoor Track Championships, scoring 26 points.
The top female award at the SAMSPYs is the Miss Bulldog Award, which goes to a female student-athlete who excels in the classroom, in competition and in the community. Amanda Kilduff from women's tennis won this year's award. She carries an impressive 3.98 grade-point average, she was one of the leaders of Samford's Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was a co-chair of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Council. This season, she was also chosen as one of the captains of the women's tennis team.
The Mr. Bulldog Award is the top male award at the SAMSPYs. This award goes to a male student-athlete who excels in the classroom, in competition and in the community. The Mr. Bulldog award was given to baseball's Hamp Skinner. Skinner has been an exemplary student-athlete throughout his time at Samford. He has served as a member of Samford's Student-Athlete Advisory Council, and he has volunteered at The Exceptional Foundation. He also participated in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with the Samford baseball team.
We are proud of the students who received awards:
Female Academic Team of the Year
Tennis – Overall 3.64 GPA
Male Academic Team of the Year
Cross Country – Overall 3.59 GPA
Female Rookie of the Year
Male Rookie of the Year
Comeback Athlete of the Year
Mohammed Ali Bellalouna
Breakthrough Athlete of the Year
Jim Griffin Award
Support Staff of the Year
Assistant Coach of the Year
Men's Indoor Track & Field
Play of the Year
Best Championship Performance
Most Outstanding Team
Head Coach of the Year
Best Female Athlete