Dec. 18, 2013
IRVING, Texas - Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky announced the 16 student-athletes that will receive the C-USA Fall Spirit of Service award today. The C-USA Spirit of Service Award is designed to recognize the community service efforts of the league's student-athletes, based upon significant community service, good academic standing and participation in their elected sport. The Spirit of Service award will be presented three times throughout the season, with today's honorees representing Conference USA's fall sports: football, soccer, volleyball and cross country.
2013-14 FALL C-USA SPIRIT OF SERVICE HONOREES:
Tyler Gibson, Charlotte, Men's Soccer
Chaz Lowery, East Carolina, Football
Sara Stewart, FIU, Women's Soccer
Mustafa Johnson, Florida Atlantic, Football
Caitlin Updyke, Louisiana Tech, Women's Soccer
Laura Der, Marshall, Volleyball
Kelsey Brouwer, Middle Tennessee, Women's Soccer
Courtney Windham, North Texas, Volleyball
Nate Barnes, Old Dominion, Football
Klein Kubiak, Rice, Football
Corey Acosta, Southern Miss, Football
Amber Bennett, Tulane, Volleyball
Casey Fitzgerald, Tulsa, Men's Cross Country
Jasmine Kauka, UAB, Women's Soccer
Azia Nicholson, UTEP, Women's Soccer
Eric Soza, UTSA, Football
Senior midfielder Tyler Gibson is a two-time all-region performer on the Charlotte men's soccer team. A marketing major, Gibson is highly involved both on campus and in the Charlotte community. He served as vice president of SAAC where he planned and volunteered for various community service initiatives including a food drive and Toys for Tots donations. Gibson has also shared his love of soccer, working with numerous youth clinics and programs in the area. Additionally, the Knoxville, Tenn., native boasts a strong list of academic accolades including Academic All-America, Academic All-Conference USA and NSCAA Scholar All-America.
Sophomore lineman Chaz Lowery is a two-year letterwinner for East Carolina. The exercise physiology major has made an immediate impact in his community. During his time as a Pirate, Lowery was part of a Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad that totaled 886 hours of service and spent countless hours as Sentara Princess Anne Hospital. He has also served as the ECU athletics chair for Relay for Life and the director of operations for the Hugh O'Brian State Leadership Conference staff. The Virginia Beach, Va., native is a two-time C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll member and a 2012 College of HHP Performance Scholar.
FIU sophomore midfielder Sara Stewart played in 19 games for the Panthers, netting a goal and adding two helpers on the season. The biology major completed nearly 200 hours of volunteer work this past summer at a veterinarian's office and spends time tutoring local elementary children in math and science. The Oakville, Ontario, native is a three-time Dean's List honoree.
Senior offensive lineman Mustafa Johnson was a team captain and the starting center for the Florida Atlantic football team this season. Johnson graduates this month with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. The Corona, Calif., native has devoted his time to numerous organizations including the 2nd and 7 Foundation, Boca Helping Hands and the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. Johnson has also volunteered with several initiatives at local elementary schools, and with food and donation drives.
Senior Caitlin Updyke started all 17 games in goal this season for the Louisiana Tech women's soccer team. She recorded six shutouts, including four in league play. During her four years with the Bulldogs, she has volunteered to teach local children soccer twice a week, has participated in a Walk for Cure fundraiser and assisted with St. Jude telethons. A nutrition and dietetics major, Updyke is a three-time academic all-conference selection and three-time member of the Dean's List. The Broomfield, Colo., native finished her career as the program's all-time leader in wins, shutouts and saves.
Senior outside hitter Laura Der is a two-time First-Team All-C-USA selection for the Marshall volleyball team. She has volunteered 225 hours with the FCA Leadership Camp, assisted with youth events at a local church, organized and promoted canned food drives, and has served as a volunteer counselor at Camp Survival. An advertising major with minors in Spanish and sports management, Der was named 2013 Academic All-District, an Academic All-C-USA selection twice and has been on the Dean's List every semester of her college career. The Clarksville, Ind., native also coaches in a youth volleyball league.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Brouwer started all 18 games in net for the Middle Tennessee women's soccer team, recording 7.1 shutouts and ranking third in C-USA with an .808 save percentage. A business major with minors in economics and finance, Brouwer was named Academic All-C-USA and helped the Blue Raiders to their 12th consecutive NSCAA Team Academic Award. The Franklin, Tenn., native has logged 42 hours of community service during the summer and fall, volunteering at a local elementary school for disadvantaged children and helping to coach a youth soccer team. Brouwer has also donated her time with Habitat for Humanity, a local food bank and the Rutherford County Special Olympics.
North Texas senior outside hitter Courtney Windham is an active member in the Denton community. A communication studies major with a minor in social science, Windham serves as president of SAAC, planning and coordinating donation, food collection and community service initiatives for Mean Green athletes. She is very active with animal shelters and the Make-A-Wish program, and volunteers as a volleyball coach and at volleyball camps for local elementary school children. The Cypress, Texas, native earned two regular season all-tournament nods, and finished the year hitting .313 and averaging 1.22 blocks per set.
Senior defensive tackle Nate Barnes played in eight football games for Old Dominion in 2013. Barnes earned a bachelor's degree in counseling in May 2013 and is currently working toward a second degree in human services. The Newport News, Va., native mentored two boys at the St. Patrick's School, working with them and motivating them to succeed. Barnes has also volunteered with ODU's bone marrow drive and Special Olympics.
Rice senior Klein Kubiak helped lead the Owls to their first C-USA football championship title, serving as wide receiver and placekicking holder. A sport management major, Kubiak is a three-time C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll member, a 2013 Rice Scholar-Athlete and has already earned an undergraduate degree. The Houston native has volunteered his time with numerous military organizations, coordinated military appreciation events and participated in fundraisers benefitting military families. Kubiak is an active member of FCA, has traveled on mission trips, volunteered at Texas Children's Hospital and served those in need at food kitchens and shelters.
Southern Miss junior placekicker Corey Acosta finished the year with 11 field goals and was a perfect 24-for-24 on PATs for a team-best 57 points. A biological science major with a 3.79 GPA, Acosta is a two-time Academic All-C-USA selection, and has been named to the USM President's List, Dean's List and AD Honor Roll. The Memphis, Tenn., native is highly active in the Hattiesburg community, sharing stories of his experience as a football player and playing catch with local youth.
Senior defensive specialist Amber Bennett was a member of the Tulane volleyball team that went 28-4 in 2013, achieving one of the best seasons in program history. A business management major with a minor in legal studies in business, Bennett has earned C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll honors and has been a member of Tulane's 3.0 and 3.5 GPA clubs. The West Columbia, S.C., native is one of Tulane's most active student athletes in SAAC as well as other community service initiatives. Bennett also helped Tulane and other C-USA schools hold fundraisers for Devon Walker, a safety on Tulane's football team who broke his neck during a tackle against Tulsa in 2012. The schools raised $2,500 to help convert Walker's family home, making it wheelchair accessible.
Senior men's cross country runner Casey Fitzgerald has been an integral part of the Tulsa community during his time with the Golden Hurricane. A biochemistry major, Fitzgerald holds a perfect 4.0 GPA and is a member of the C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll. He has worked 800 hours with Habitat for Humanity since 2010 and has served as both president and vice president of Tulsa's chapters. The St. Louis native has also logged 250 hours volunteering at the OU Bedlam Free Healthy Clinic and 200 hours at Aberdeen Heights Assisted Living center. Additionally, Fitzgerald has been a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor and worked with the TU Blue Thumb Water Monitoring program.
Senior Jasmine Kauka started all 20 games at midfield for the UAB women's soccer team, netting three goals and adding two assists. A French major with a chemistry minor, Kauka is a three-time C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll member and a Dean's List honoree. The Kane'ohe, Hawai'i, native volunteers in the emergency department at Children's Hospital in Birmingham for three hours each week where she cleans rooms, aids with patient care, explains procedures to children and does artwork with young patients. She also helps coach three different area youth soccer teams and has served as a Big Sister to a local fifth grade student.
Senior midfielder Azia Nicholson is a three-time all-conference performer and paced the UTEP women's soccer team with nine goals and 20 points in 2013. A biology major and chemistry minor, Nicholson was twice named Academic All-C-USA, is a Dean's List member and was selected academic all-district. The Grand Prairie, Texas, native has helped collect canned goods and raised money as a member of SAAC. She has also mentored young athletes at various soccer clinics and camps, and visits local schools as a part of Red Ribbon Week.
UTSA senior quarterback Eric Soza threw for 2,719 yards and 12 touchdowns, and rushed for 369 yards and seven scores for the Roadrunners. Soza earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in May 2013 and is earning a graduate degree in education leadership and policy studies. He is a 2013 Academic All-C-USA and Academic All-District selection who has earned countless academic accolades throughout his career. The Beeville, Texas, native is also well-known for his involvement in the community. Soza is a member of the AFCA Allstate Good Works team, a Wuerffel Trophy finalist, a Senior CLASS Award candidate and Coach John Wooden Citizenship Cup finalist, among other accolades. He is a three-term president of UTSA's SAAC, is an active member of FCA, serves as a guest speaker and reader at San Antonio-area schools, and volunteers at youth football camps and clinics. In addition, Soza helped build a home for a wounded warrior and serves meals to war veterans.