Aug 6, 2014 8:17 PM by UL Sports Information
INDIANAPOLIS - Former Ragin' Cajuns softball player Natalie Fernandez has been chosen as one of two female student-athletes to represent the Sun Belt Conference in the race for the 2014 NCAA Woman of the Year.
Now in its 24th year, the NCAA Woman of the Year award honors graduating female student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in academics, athletics, service and leadership.
"Natalie epitomizes pursuing excellence both in the classroom and on the field," said head coach Michael Lotief. "With Natalie, it was not only just about winning but it was also about winning the right way. She set the example for our team last year with hard work and getting better day by day and by having a positive, confident attitude no matter the outcome."
NCAA colleges and universities from around the country nominated 446 female student-athletes in June for the 2014 NCAA Woman of the Year award. Each conference then selects up to two women from the nominees to represent the conference. Fernandez along with Arkansas State hurdler Sharika Nelvis are the two remaining nominees from the Sun Belt Conference.
The Woman of the Year selection committee then narrows the field to 30 honorees - 10 from each division - from the conference nominees. From among those 30 candidates, the selection committee determines the top three in each division and announces the top nine finalists in September. The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics will then vote from among the finalists to determine the 2014 NCAA Woman of the Year. The top 30 honorees will be honored, and the 2014 NCAA Woman of the Year winner will be announced, at the annual ceremony in Indianapolis on Sunday, Oct. 19.
In 2014, Fernandez started in all 60 games to help the Ragin' Cajuns to a 49-10-1 record, the program's sixth Women's College World Series appearance and a season-ending ranking of No. 8 in the nation. Fernandez led the squad with a .418 batting average, 82 hits, 63 runs, 11 stolen bases and a .523 on base percentage to earn SBC First Team All-Conference and NFCA Second Team All-Region honors.
Off the field, Fernandez served as the Vice President of the UL Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which serves as the governing body for student-athletes. She also played a key role in community service projects by participating in the "Reading in Red" program, visiting the children's ward at local hospitals and volunteering with the Girl Scouts of America. In May, Fernandez was named the inaugural UL Female Student-Athlete of the Year after being nominated by Lotief for her success in academics, athletics, leadership and community involvement.
"Natalie was a true leader who spent many hours influencing her teammates to believe in our goals and also holding them accountable to our standard," Lotief said. "Thanks to our University, professors, all of our support staff and our fans for nurturing Natalie to become one of NCAA's finest."