June 20, 2012
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The Atlantic 10 Conference Wednesday announced its sportsmanship award winners for the 2011-12 season. George Washington men's tennis student-athletes Ugur Atalay and Fordham Swimmer Courtney Collyer earned the awards.
The Sportsmanship Award is presented annually to an A-10 male and female student-athlete or team who demonstrates an act of sportsmanship, which the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct (CSEC) defines as behaviors exhibited by student-athletes based on values, especially respect and integrity. To be nominated for the award, the student-athlete or team must be a member of an intercollegiate athletic sport sponsored by the Atlantic 10 Conference; be in good academic standing; and embody the highest standards of leadership, integrity and sportsmanship.
A senior from Istanbul, Turkey, Atalay was a senior finance major in 2011-12. Collyer, also a senior, was a Communications major and a visual art minor. Both student-athletes graduated in May. Atalay is the second GW student-athlete to win the award and the second men's tennis player. Collyer is the first women's swimmer to win and the fourth Fordham student-athlete.
"It's a pleasure to congratulate Ugur and Courtney, they have demonstrated respect, integrity and leadership," stated Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. "They are deserving of the Atlantic 10 Sportsmanship award."
A four-year All-Conference selection and two-time A-10 Champion, Atalay's best performance arguably came in the 2012 Atlantic 10 Championship finals and it wasn't because of his skill at tennis. GW was tied 3-3 with Xavier, and No. 2 singles was going to be the decisive match. Atalay lost the first set to Xavier's Mesa Mei, but came back in the second set and tied the match at one. Surrounded by a crowd or fans and teammates, the two players began the third and final set, which would decide the 2012 A-10 Champion. Mei, however, cramped up and struggled to move and return any serve that came his way. Atalay backed off his normal play and instead lobbed serves and returns slowly at Mei to give the XU senior a chance to compete. Atalay eventually won the set, 6-1, giving GW the title. But there was no celebration and no excitement. He exemplified sportsmanship, shaking Mei's hand, congratulating him on the effort and embracing him as a competitor. After quietly congratulating their own teammate, the rest of the Colonials also congratulated Mei on his effort.
Atalay will be the Atlantic 10's nominee for the NCAA Annual Sportsmanship Award as a result of his actions.
Xavier coach Eric Toth said following the match "I give Ugar (Atalay) credit for the way he executed to finish the match, but more importantly how he conducted himself in a tricky situation. He has been a class act in his four years at GW and today was no exception. I also congratulate Coach [Greg] Munoz and the rest if his squad on another championship, but mostly for the class he and his guys showed in winning the match, ideally not the way they would want to clinch a championship. They were classy. Kudos to them."
A two-year team captain, Collyer led by example as the first Fordham swimmer at practice, never missing a meet or a workout in her four-year career. Collyer organized team charity events, involving the team in a Breast Cancer Walk. She also garnered team participation in SAAC events and organized team dinners. She served as a mentor to the underclassmen, including motivational encouragement for a freshmen competing for a spot in the Olympic Trials. Collyer was active with the Fordham coaches to strengthen the team atmosphere. Collyer's efforts led to success as the Rams finished at the top of the conference, winning the title her sophomore year (2010). Over her career she captured eight Atlantic 10 titles, including four titles in the 200 fly where she is the conference record holder. She holds 6 school records, obtained NCAA "B" cuts in 200 fly, 100 Fly and multiple relays. Courtney was named Mid Major All-America Honorable Mention the past 2 years and was named Rookie of the Meet for the Atlantic 10 Conference her Freshman year.