Finalist Pepper Gay from softball
April 27, 2010
The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics has announced the following four women as finalists for the 2010 Female Newcomer of the Year. The quartet will be honored at the annual Scholar-Athlete Reception on Monday May 3rd, 2010. The winner of the award will be chosen after the spring seasons are concluded in mid-June.
The finalists are: Pepper Gay, softball; Shayla Mutz, soccer; Karisma Penn, basketball; Rachael White, tennis.
Pepper Gay has been a dominant force on the Illinois softball team in her first year. She currently has an 11-1 record as a starting pitcher with one month still remaining in the season. Her earned run average of 1.79 has been a big reason for the Illini's No 18 national ranking and 33-5 overall record. With 74.1 innings under her belt as a freshmen, she has thrown 69 strikeouts as of late. Opposing team batters have a just .232 average against Gay. The Fighting Illini are looking for their second-straight NCAA postseason berth.
Illini soccer coach Janet Rayfield describes Shayla Mutz as "smooth, crafty, slippery, speedy." Those are the words to describe this small but exceptionally quick first-year player. She used all of these skills when she logged over 1000 minutes as a true-freshman in 19 games this season. She was named to the 2009 Big Ten All-Freshman team. Mutz ranked fifth on the team with six points scored, two of which were goals and two assists. She also put 46 percent of her shots on frame in 2009.
Karisma Penn took the women's basketball team by storm in her first year. She started 33 of 34 games this season as a true freshman. She was named to the 2010 Big Ten All-Freshman Team, and was a four-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week honoree, which tied for most in the conference. Penn crushed the Illinois freshman blocks record of 39 with her 57 this year. She averaged 10.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, and scored her career-high of 21 points during two different games. During the season she scored in the double-figures 22 separate times. All of these attributes is why she is ranked fourth on the UI freshman lists for both points and rebounds. One of the highlights of her season was when she scored the game-winning basket over Wisconsin on Jan. 3.
Although still playing in her first tennis season at the University of Illinois, Rachael White has made a significant impact. Playing at the number 1, 2 and 3 singles spots, she logged seven of her 13 wins in her freshman season, three of which were over nationally ranked opponents. White has been ranked as high as No. 33 in the nation and is currently tied for third on the team with 18 wins in doubles. She also is tied for the team lead with a 7-3 doubles record in Big Ten matches.