Sophomore Samantha Bagherpour ’17 made University of Lynchburg history by winning the school’s first ELITE 89 award at the NCAA Division III Soccer Championship Banquet on Thursday night in Kansas City, Missouri, where the women’s soccer team is in the Final Four.
The ELITE 89, an award founded by the NCAA, recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. The Elite 89 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 89 championships. The NCAA factors in academic load as well as GPA to decide the recipient.
“It feels amazing,” Bagherpour said about the honor. “It really speaks to the fact that the academic side is a huge part of why we are here and that school comes first. It is an honor that I get to play soccer along the way and the award completely caught me off guard.”
A business administration major with a minor in Spanish, Bagherpour has not only produced in the classroom but has made tremendous strides on the pitch in her sophomore season. The Cary, North Carolina native has four goals and four assists on the year while producing three points in the NCAA tournament thus far.
“I think the whole point of Division III is the student-athlete,” Lynchburg head coach Todd Olsen said. “I like this award because it epitomizes the student-athlete and that is what we emphasize and what we stress. For Sam to get that for University of Lynchburg is fantastic. She is the whole package: a terrific academic, a great athlete, and a great person. We couldn’t have a better representative from University of Lynchburg than Sam Bagherpour.”
Bagherpour and the rest of the Hornets (25-0-1) will compete against Illinois Wesleyan in the national semifinals Friday at 6 p.m. eastern time.