Rhode Island’s best sports performers of 2017 will receive their proper recognition during the 72nd Annual Words Unlimited Sports Awards Banquet Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Cranston Country Club. Words Unlimited is the state’s organization of sports writers, broadcaster and publicists.
Here are the honorees:
TEAM OF THE YEAR
The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team won the Atlantic 10 tournament, made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 19 years, beat Creighton in the first round, lost to Oregon in the second round and finished 25-10.
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Brown lacrosse All-America Dylan Molloy ended his career as the third-leading goal scorer in NCAA history (196). In 2017 he finished third in goals and eighth in points per game nationally. He was a two-time Ivy League and New England player of the year and the first pick in the Major League Lacrosse draft.
FEMALE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
Track star Brianna Ilarda of Providence College was an All-America in the 5,000 indoors and the 3,000-meter steeplechase outdoors. She broke the Big East record and was the first repeat champion in the steeplechase at the Penn Relays. Kate Walker of Johnson & Wales became the first Wildcat volleyball player to earn first-team All-America and New England player of the year recognition. She led the NCAA in hitting for two consecutive years.
MALE SPORTS COACH OF THE YEAR
Dan Hurley led URI to its best basketball season in decades. See above.
FEMALE SPORTS COACH OF THE YEAR
Johnson & Wales volleyball coach Nancy Somera wins for the second consecutive year after leading the Wildcats to the NCAA Elite Eight.
SMALL COLLEGE ACHIEVEMENT
Johnson & Wales University. Wrestlers finished fourth at the NCAA Championships; women’s volleyballers won the NCAA Regional championship; softball, women’s lacrosse and men’s golf won GNAC titles; six coaches were GNAC coaches of the year, and two were national coaches of the year.
SCHOOLBOY ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
La Salle distance runner DJ Principe won six state championships indoors and outdoors and the national championship in the 5,000 outdoors. Cranston East three-sport athlete Justin Neary quarterbacked the Thunderbolts to the Division I Super Bowl.
SCHOOLGIRL ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Kari Buonanno of Moses Brown was a two-time All-Stater in field hockey and lacrosse and a two-time lacrosse All-America. She led Division I scoring in each sport.
HIGH SCHOOL COACHS OF THE YEAR
North Kingstown football coach Joe Gilmartin led the Skippers to a 10-0 season and their first state championship. Meaghan McGonagle coached the Cranston East girls to a 17-0 record and their second consecutive Division II volleyball championship. In the spring she led the Cranston East boys to a 16-0 record and Division II state title.
STORY OF THE YEAR
The Rhode Island sports community came together to support Chariho and Toll Gate High Schools after the sudden deaths of soccer players Maddie Potts and Gianna Cirella.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Kevin McNamara, veteran sports writer and columnist for the Providence Journal, and Tim Geary, former sports writer for the Fall River Herald News and three Rhode Island weeklies.
AMBY SMITH AWARD
A star pitcher at Tolman High School in Pawtucket and then at Rhode Island College, Art Pontarelli coached for years at RIC, where the baseball field is named for him, and at CCRI. He also has scouted for the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets.
FRANK LANNING AWARD
A former assistant wrestling coach at Brown, Tom Bold has logged more than 30 years at Brown as a coach and administrator.
BILL CAWLEY AWARD
Bob Cavanagh coached boys soccer at South Kingstown High School for more than 30 years, served as athletics director for almost 20 years has been director of boys soccer for the Interscholastic League for 10 years.
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
Girls basketball teams from Bain Middle School in Cranston and Deering Middle School in West Warwick donated packages of underwear and diapers to Project Undercover for distribution to children in need.