LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The list was cut in half as 15 student-athletes remain in the running for 2021 NFCA / Schutt Sports Division I National Freshman of the Year, the Association revealed on Thursday morning. The winner will be announced prior to the start of the 2021 NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
The NFCA / Schutt Sports Division I National Freshman of the Year award was created in 2014 to honor outstanding athletic achievement among Division I freshmen softball student-athletes. To be eligible, student-athletes must be nominated by their member head coach. With the cancellation of last year’s season due to COVID-19, eligible candidates hail from the 2020 and 2021 freshman classes. Due to having two full freshman classes for the award, an additional five players have been added to the traditional top 10.
This year’s 15 finalists hail from 14 different universities and represent 11 NCAA Division I conferences from across the nation. No. 1 University of Oklahoma from the Big 12 Conference was the lone program with two honorees – Jayda Coleman and Tiare Jennings.
The Southeastern Conference led the way with three nods, while the Big 12 and Pac-12 had two representatives apiece. The Atlantic 10 Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Colonial Athletic Association, Mid-American Conference, Northeast Conference, Southland Conference, The Summit League and Western Athletic Conference all earned one recognition.
At the time of the release, five finalists have been named their conference’s freshmen of the year. Clemson’s Valerie Cagle was voted the first-ever Player and Freshman of the Year in the ACC. Stephen F. Austin’s Shaylon Govan captured Southland Hitter of the Year honors, while South Dakota State’s Tori Kniesche and Saint Francis’ (Pa.) Grace Vesco took home Pitcher of the Year accolades in the Summit and NEC, respectively.
On May 27, the three finalists will be released. The 2021 NFCA / Schutt Sports Division I National Freshman of the Year trophy will be presented on June 1.
In 2021, the NFCA will award National Freshman of the Year honors to a student-athlete from NCAA DI, NCAA DII, NCAA DIII and NAIA. For more information about all NFCA Awards, visit nfca.org.
Previous winners of the award are Annie Aldrete (Tennessee, 2014), Kasey Cooper (Auburn, 2014), Paige Parker (Oklahoma, 2015), Amanda Lorenz (Florida, 2016), Rachel Garcia (UCLA, 2017), Jocelyn Alo (Oklahoma, 2018) and Danielle Williams (Northwestern, 2019). The award was not presented in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2021 NFCA / Schutt Sports Division I National Freshman of the Year Top 15
*Denotes Second Year
Valerie Cagle, Clemson University *
Jayda Coleman, University of Oklahoma
Matalasi Faapito, New Mexico State University *
Shaylon Govan, Stephen F. Austin State University *
Alissa Humphrey, James Madison University
Tiare Jennings, University of Oklahoma
Tori Kniesche, South Dakota State University
Jenna Laird, University of Missouri, Columbia
Shelby Lowe, Auburn University
Janelle Meoño, University of Arizona *
Devon Miller, Fordham University *
Kiki Milloy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville *
Karli Spaid, Miami University
Alana Vawter, Stanford University *
Grace Vesco, Saint Francis University (Pa.) *