BRONXVILLE, NY - Florida Southern College women's lacrosse senior Shannon Mazza has been named as the recipient of the Yeardley Reynolds Love (YRL) Unsung Hero Award for Division II, the One Love Foundation announced this week. Mazza is one of just six lacrosse players, men's or women's, from the NCAA Division I, II, and III ranks to earn the annual award, which is given to student-athletes who show remarkable commitment, teamwork, and community service initiative.
"It means the world to be to receive such an amazing award," said Mazza. "I am so thankful to the One Love Foundation for not only bringing awareness to the issue of domestic abuse but for honoring student-athletes for their efforts off the field in their communities. I would never have received this award without the support of my coaches and teammates, and this is the icing on the cake in what's been an amazing four-year career here at Florida Southern."
A recent graduate of Florida Southern after receiving her degree in nursing Mazza has helped organize her team's involvement in the annual "Night to Shine" event at First Presbyterian Church of Lakeland. The annual event closely resembles major award events such as the Academy Awards, with a hint of a high-school prom. Each year, more than 90,000 guests with special needs attend Night to Shine events around the world and get the full VIP treatment, including a walk down the red carpet.
Mazza, who plans to pursue her career as a nurse in Florida, has worked with special needs children and adults since high school and hopes that her career as a pediatric nurse will lead to an even bigger impact in the lives of children.
"I cannot say enough about Shannon's impact," said head coach Kara Reber, who nominated Mazza for the award. "Beyond her play on the field, Shannon really is our 'unsung hero' for the way she supports her teammates, her work ethic on and off the field, and her involvement in the community. She's not only organized our team's involvement with Night to Shine but has participated in over 20 community service initiatives and been the primary point of contact for our teams' service efforts at the Children's Cancer Center."
One Love was established to honor Yeardley Love, a UVA lacrosse player, after her death in 2010, with the mission to change the statistics around relationship abuse by giving every young person a foundational understanding of the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. To find out more about the One Love Foundation, please visit www.JoinOneLove.org or watch the video below.
The Foundation has been successful in educating students around the country on how to identify early warning signs and to navigate potentially unhealthy situations. One Love is honored to award six student-athletes with the Unsung Hero Award as it places value on positive leaders who help their team achieve success in ways that may not be measured in goals, saves or ground balls.
"We are so proud to honor these outstanding student-athletes with the Yeardley Love Unsung Hero Award. They epitomize the ideals of college athletes in that they are team-players, accomplished students, and active in their communities as positive leaders. We also want to thank all of the programs that have submitted nominees – each was amazing in a different way. We have great hope for the future when we meet such exceptional future leaders," said Sharon Robinson, Yeardley's cousin and head of the Unsung Hero Award committee.
Below are the 2018 Yeardley Love Unsung Hero Award Winners:
Senior Erika Mazer of Lafayette College turned a career-ending injury into an opportunity to lead as she was elected as a student assistant coach her senior year for her "team first" mentality and dedication to the success of each player. Her tenacity and belief that leadership comes in all shapes and forms are revealed in her ability to deeply connect with her teammates and inspire them to own their personal leadership styles for the betterment of the team. Respected and looked up to by all, she is a reminder that leadership extends beyond the confines of the field. A Plantation Acres, Florida native, Mazer plans to continue to serve in whatever capacity she can.
Senior Matt Behrens of Georgetown has used his platform as a student-athlete to address social justice and racial/gender norms issues on campus and beyond. His teammates commend his vocal, selfless and inclusive leadership style as he orchestrated programs and initiatives to all Georgetown student-athletes that address gender and health in sports. A native of Bronxville, NY, Behrens is heading to law school post-grad in hopes of using his time and talent to address social justice issues across America.
Shannon Mazza of Florida Southern College is dedicated to giving back in all aspects of her life. Coach Kara Reber calls her "the essence of a team player who celebrates her team's accomplishments far more than her own." On the field, Shannon is the 5th attacker and the one her teammates can see hustling on the ride. Off the field, Shannon has galvanized her team to get involved with Tim Tebow's Night to Shine event, and to volunteer at the Children's Cancer Center. Shannon is working to become a pediatric nurse, a profession in which her compassion, uplifting spirit, and work ethic will serve her patients well. Shannon hails from King's Park, NY.
Senior Devan Martinez of Chestnut Hill College extends his leadership mentality into every facet of campus. From Senior Class President to Campus Ministry, Freshmen Orientation and the local hospital, there are few places where Martinez's presence is lacking. Though his involvement outside of lacrosse is extensive, that is only supplemental to leading his teammates. Martinez embodies the pay-it-forward leadership philosophy, as he tirelessly dedicates his time and effort to mentoring the underclassmen. When not on the field or campus, he logs hours in the local hospital, extending his team-mentality work ethic into the healthcare field. A native of Vestal, NY, Martinez plans to continue to work in local hospitals as he hopes to pursue a career as a Physician's Assistant.
Senior Katherine Lambert of the University of Mary Washington was elected captain by her teammates for her "can do" / "will do" attitude and truly exemplifies what it means to lead by example. With sporadic playing time throughout her career, she has proven that leadership extends past goals and groundballs. While keeping up demanding athletic and academic schedule, she remained active in the local community initiatives such as Lloyd Moss Free Clinic which provides free dental care to community members. Lambert will continue to pursue her passion for Dentistry as she is set to start Dental School in fall.
Senior John Hunger of Hope College went from walk-on to senior captain during his time as a student-athlete. His "team-before-self" mentality and belief that leadership extends past playing time has earned him the utmost respect from his peers and coaching staff. These attributes have spread into other aspects of his life as he is involved in several community service initiatives such as STEPS (Students Teaching & Empowering Peers). A native of Cleveland, OH, he plans to continue to pursue a career as a CPA.