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Athletics: Hicks, Fernandez honored at UL luncheon – each team nominees included

The Advertiser, May 8, 2014

UL Ragin’ Cajuns student-athletes Matt Hicks and Natalie Fernandez were honored on Wednesday during the athletic department’s inaugural Student-Athlete of the Year Luncheon at the UL Alumni House.


UL pitcher Matt Hicks (26) throws to a UNO batter during the third inning of an NCAA baseball game.(Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser) 

Hicks, a senior pitcher on the nationally-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team, was chosen as the Male Student-Athlete of the Year. The native of Bridge City, Texas, who is the school’s all-time leader in saves, will earn a double degree from UL later this month and will attend dental school beginning in the fall. Hicks logged over 200 hours of volunteer work in the dental community and organized a team of over 20 student-athletes to help in, "The Big Event," a campus-wide community service project.

As the community service liaison on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Hicks was instrumental in SAAC initiatives Reading in Red, the Ronald McDonald Pop Tabs collection and the Adopt-A-Family Christmas Fundraiser.

A finalist for the Senior CLASS award and named to the Stopper of the Year Watch List, Hicks is 5-1 on the season with one save and a 1.91 earned run average in 21 appearances on the mound for the Ragin’ Cajuns.


Natalie Fernandez(Photo: UL Sports Information)

Fernandez, a senior second baseman on the Ragin’ Cajuns nationally-ranked softball team, was selected as the Female Student-Athlete of the Year. The Denham Springs native, who plans to pursue a career in occupational therapy after graduation, currently serves as the Vice-President of the SAAC and is a nominee for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

She played a key role in community service projects for the Ragin’ Cajuns participating in the "Reading in Red" program, visiting the children’s ward at local hospitals and volunteering with the Girl Scouts of America,

As a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference performer, Fernandez posted a league-high .456 batting average for the Ragin’ Cajuns while leading the league in on-base percentage (.552) and runs scored (59). Currently on track to break the school’s all-time record of .403, Fernandez led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a pair of Sun Belt Conference championships, three NCAA Regional appearances and a pair of Super Regional berths.

Also honored as Student-Athlete of the Year nominees were: Bryant Mbamalu (men’s basketball), Kia Wilridge (women’s basketball), Andre Huval (football), Thomas Strandemo (golf), Grace Howell-Harries (women’s soccer), Carl Alberton (men’s tennis), Nelo Phiri (women’s tennis), Matthew Rice (men’s track and field/cross country), Anna Katherine Devitt (women’s track and field/cross country) and Kristen Armstrong (volleyball).

Each student-athlete was nominated by their respective head coach and met the criteria of embodying the highest qualities of being an all-around student-athlete through their success in academics, athletics, leadership and community involvement. All 12 nominees were presented their awards from University President Dr. Joseph Savoie and Dr. James Henderson, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.