Stefanie Dolson is kind enough to be one of the American Athletic Conference’s sportsmanship award winners. She is gifted enough to make its first team, tough enough to be its defensive player of the year.
There is more: Earlier this week, she was named a second-team All-American by Associated Press. And Saturday afternoon, she will likely be named to the WBCA’s All-American team for the second straight season, along with her teammates Bria Hartley and Breanna Stewart.
Yes, it’s been quite a nice season for the Dolson. But it got even better on Friday.
Dolson, the axis upon which UConn’s offense runs, was selected to the 2013-14 Senior CLASS Award NCAA Division I women’s basketball.
This award, chosen by a nationwide vote of Division I women’s basketball coaches, national basketball media and fans, is given annually to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in Division I women’s basketball.
To be eligible, Dolson needed to excel in the classroom, community, character and competition. That is the essence of CLASS, an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School.
“I’m extremely honored and I know my family will be so proud and excited,” Dolson said. “This award is special because it recognizes more than just basketball and celebrates what student-athletes also do in the classroom and in the community. I take a lot of pride in being a leader on this team, so I’m very happy to be recognized.”
Dolson, a communication science major, plans to graduate in May, even though she will be with a WNBA team by then. She has been named to UConn’s Director of Athletics Honor Roll four times. Over her college career, Dolson and her team have visited the Connecticut Children’s Hospital and participated in the Walk for Autism. She played a key role in helping raise more than $30,000 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
“I don’t think there is a better representative of what a student-athlete and person should be than Stefanie,” Geno Auriemma said. “I’ve coached at UConn for many years and have coached great players and people. But over the last four years, Stefanie has been as good a teammate, player and representative of the university as anyone could ever hope someone could be. I’m sure there are other people as deserving of this award, but I can’t think of anybody who meets all the criteria that this award stands for better than Stef.”
Heading into Sunday’s national semifinal game against Stanford at the Bridgestone Arena, Dolson is already fourth in UConn history in both field goal percentage and blocked shots. And she is one of only five players in Connecticut history to reach 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds and one of only three Huskies all-time to register a triple-double.
She was joined on the CLASS All-American team by Heather Butler of Tennessee-Martin, Hallie Christofferson of Iowa State, Jordan Hooper of Nebraska and Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford.
The Huskies will practice at the Bridgestone on Saturday afternoon. The team attended a pre-tournament gala Friday night at the Ryman Auditorium with those representing Notre Dame, Stanford and Maryland.
The Huskies (38-0) play the Cardinal (33-3) in the second semifinal. They played earlier this season – a 76-57 win in the second game of the season – and this will be the fifth time they’ve played at the Final Four since 1995.
“Stanford has always run quality offense and disciplined, well-thought out scouting of defenses,” ESPN’s Doris Burke said. “Chiney Ogwumike must be accounted for in transition, the half court and certainly on the offensive glass. Mikaela Ruef operates well in tandem with Ogwumike, and Amber Orrange [Stanford’s star guard] must impose her will as a threat on offense.”
The Huskies come into the game on a 44-game winning streak, having won each of their games by double-digits. And they are healthy, save for Moriah Jefferson’s slightly sore right ankle and Bria Hartley’s aching left knee. Neither is a serious condition.
“When we came in [as freshmen] we kind of expected to come in and win a national championship, especially the year I came in with how dominant UConn was [the year before],” Hartley said of she and Dolson. “I thought that if I came here I’d be competing for a national championship every year and that means going to a Final Four.”
This will be the fourth straight for Dolson and Hartley, the seventh straight for the program. And if UConn wins its second straight national championship Tuesday, it will a record ninth in the women’s game for Auriemma.
And if the UConn men win their national semifinal Saturday against Florida in Arlington, Texas, the school might have a shot at winning dual titles for the second time in history (2004).
“I think it’s awesome,” Dolson said. “It’s awesome for recruiting, exposure. To have both teams make it to the Final Four, everyone sees it, everyone knows there’s that basketball legacy at UConn. The fact that the men couldn’t even play last year and this year they made it this far is just unbelievable and proves how hard they worked all year. Just to have it all over the place nationally it’s a great thing for our school. Our students love it. It gets everyone excited and ready to watch. It’s something we’re really proud of.”