ATTLEBORO, Mass. - Nighthawks senior Destiny Spears (Arnold, Md.), freshman Jaymesha Sanders (West Haven, Conn.), and Head Coach Marc Taney, became the first trio since 2009 to be named the New England Collegiate Conference Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year, respectively, as determined by the NECC Coaches and announced by the NECC Office on Monday afternoon.
Spears nomination makes her the first player in program history to be named Player of the Year by the NECC while Taney becomes the first coach in Nighthawks program history to be named Coach of the Year. Sanders joins teammate Savannah Olsen (Battle Creek, Mich.) as the only other Nighthawk to be named Rookie of the Year.
Spears produced a season worthy of Player of the Year, finishing in the top-10 in a number of statistical categories. In 16 NECC games, Spears averaged 16.7 points per game, third-best in the conference while also grabbing 10.0 rebounds per game, eighth-best in the conference.
"As the head coach, I am very lucky to have coached Destiny for two years," said Taney. "As good as she has been on the court, her leadership and effort off the court outweigh what she did on the floor."
Spears led the NECC in steals, averaging 3.5 per game. Other top-10 categories include field goals made, field goal percentage, free throws made, assists, blocks, and minutes played.
In her four-year career, Spears became the Nighthawks all-time leading scorer with 1,437 points. She also is one of two players in program history to record 1,000 rebounds, finishing her career with 1,017 rebounds. She also holds program records in steals and free throws made.
"Destiny exemplifies the type of student-athlete that Newbury College wants to have on campus in every capacity," said Taney.
Sanders career is off to a roaring start in her first season as a Nighthawk. She finished the season with 393 points, breaking the freshman scoring record held by Olsen. Sanders also recorded 333 rebounds, 12th-most among all NCAA Division III players and most by a freshman in Division III.
In her 16 NECC games, Sanders averaged 14.5 points, sixth-most in the NECC. She was also second in rebounding, averaging 13.5 rebounds per game, including the most offensive rebounds in conference games. Sanders also finished third in field goals made and sixth in field goal percentage.
"In one short year, Jaymesha has shown a great ability to be coached," said Taney. "She has a unique skill set that complements what our program is about. With some hard work, she will be a mismatch on the court for the next three years.
Spears and Sanders were two of seven players to average a double-double in NECC games this season.
Taney brought an eight-win team in 2017 to an 18-win team in 2018. The 10-win jump was the best improvement among all NECC teams this season and the highest win jump between seasons in Nighthawks program history. The 18-9 record is the best since 1999-2000 while the 14-2 NECC record is the best conference record in program history.
"Taking the program from eight wins to 18 wins puts this program well ahead of our timeline," said Taney. "With the addition of some key recruits, we will be in a great position again and we are looking forward to next season."
Along with the 18-9 record, Taney and the Nighthawks embarked on a seven-game winning streak in the middle of the season and finished January at 9-1, the best month in program history.
"I'm very privileged to be given the opportunity to coach these women and to be recognized by my peers as Coach of the Year," said Taney. "The effort these women put forth for me and this team are responsible for this honor."
Spears, Sanders, and Olsen were also named to the All-Conference Teams for this season. Spears and Olsen make appearances on the First-Team for the second straight year, Sanders earned a spot on the Second-Team.