Everything was different. The Liacouras floor was transformed from the iconic hardwood donning the legendary John Chaney name to a barren concrete floor with dozens of tables adorned with black tablecloths. And buffets were placed on both sides of the floor in place of the baskets. There was the grand stage with the monogrammed T on the podium. Finally, there were the student-athletes who swapped out their sweaty jerseys for slick suits and colorful dresses. Even the coaches were all business as they readied for a special evening for their athletes.
The stage was set not for another basketball game but the Stella’s, Temple’s student-athlete awards that were back after a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic. This made the event that much more special for many of the athletes who were attending for the first time. The beaming smiles and excited murmurs were audible and seen from across the arena.
The first award of the night: The Community Service award went to junior attacker on the lacrosse team Riley McGowan who has spent many years and countless hours working with the Harlem Lacrosse youth program, a program that provides disadvantaged children the opportunity to play lacrosse. Senior football offensive lineman, Isaac Moore, took the award on the men’s side thanks to his time volunteering with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania. Moore also serves as an English instructor to help teach Afghan refugees the language.
The Comeback Player of the Year went to soccer forward sophomore Milana D’Ambra who came back from three surgeries on the same knee over the past five years. Basketball’s freshman guard Jahlil White took the honor on the men’s side after missing all of last season. This season, White played in every game, becoming a starter and making a big impact for the Owls.
Newcomer of the Year went to freshmen Anna Novoseltseva on the fencing team who in her debut season for the Owls qualified for the NCAA Championships after finishing seventh at regionals and earning All-Region Second Team honors. At Nationals, the foilist placed 21st to help lead the Owls to a 16th place finish overall.
Zach Hicks took the honors on the men’s side with a stellar season for the Owls, being named to the All-AAC Freshman Team while averaging more than eight points and four rebounds per game. Against Delaware State, Hicks erupted for 35 points, tying the Temple freshman scoring mark while setting a school record with 10 threes.
The evening came to a crescendo with the Performer of the Year awards. On the women’s side, the judges had their work cut for them with three phenomenal nominees: Belle Mastropietro, a
perennial scorer on the lacrosse team, gymnast Ariana Castrence and basketball star Mia Davis. After a heavy moment of suspense, it was the all-time leading scorer in Davis who took home the prestigious award. Davis was also named a Cheryl Miller Award Finalist for the third year in a row, while being named to the All-AAC First Team for the fourth-consecutive year.
It all culminated on the men’s side with another impressive palette of nominees. Golfer Conor McGrath had just finished the conference tournament at the AAC championships down in Florida over the weekend. Then there was basketball standout guard Damian Dunn who dazzled for the Owls all season after taking over following Khalif Battle’s injury. However, it was the rower from England who took home the night’s most prestigious award to the great shock of his teammates. “If it wasn't for the team I would not be here today,” an ecstatic Adam Oliver said after the ceremony. “Hearing my name is amazing. I was sure Dunn was going to beat me tonight but super happy it was me.”
Oliver is one of two returners from last year's Varsity 8 and is among four other international athletes in the top boat.
Overall, The Stella’s were a monumental success among the athletes and coaches and hopefully will provide everyone with a bit of motivation going into the summer to be in contention for these awards come next April, 2023.