BEMIDJI, Minn. - Bemidji State University volleyball and softball standout Jessica Yost and Michael Bitzer, of the men’s hockey team, were named 2016-17 Female and Male Student-Athletes of the Year as a part of the Beaver Nation Celebration athletic appreciation banquet Thursday at the BSU Gymnasium. The award winners were selected from a pool of nominated student-athletes from the Beavers’ 15 intercollegiate sport programs for the spring of 2016 through the 2016-17 winter sport season.
In addition, Tia Neuharth of the soccer team and men’s hockey defender Zach Whitecloud were selected BSU’s 2016-17 Female and Male Newcomers of the Year, while Mackenzie Bruch, Anna Fobbe, Courtney Anderson and Kaitlyn Christianson, as well as Ben Skaar, Dan Billett, Brendan Harms and Reid Mimmack picked up Female and Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors.
In all, over 60 seniors were recognized in addition to public recognition of BSU’s top academic teams, it’s men’s hockey and soccer programs, a record BSU’s nine NSIC/Myles Brand Academic with Distinction Award winners and Volunteer of the Year Sue Engel, with the presentation of the student-athletes and newcomers of the year, serving as the culminating event of the program.
Jessica Yost – Volleyball/Softball (Senior, Bemidji, Minn.)
Last spring Jess, a Second-Team All-NSIC pick, finished her junior season with an 18-8 record. With a 1.91 earned run average she became the only pitcher at Bemidji State to record 200 strikeouts in a single season and finished 2016 with 276.
Yost was also dominant at the plate for the Beavers. She hit a career best .341 to rank fourth on the team and tied with Lyndsey Peterson for a school record 12 home runs. Yost’s 37 runs batted ranked second on the team, and she scored a program record 36 runs.
Yost helped the Beavers set a program record with 31 wins directed the team to its first NSIC Softball Tournament berth since 2008.
During her senior volleyball campaign, Jess was a Second-Team All-NSIC selection. She finished her senior season third in the NSIC with a 3.83 kills per set average, posting a total of 406. She was also a key member of the Beavers’ defense and was second on the team averaging 3.16 digs per set and third with 53 blocks.
Yost can become just the third member in program history to total 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs finishing her career atop the all-time kills list with 1,381 and posted 1,017 digs.
Michael Bitzer – Men’s Hockey (Senior, Moorhead, Minn.)
In 39 appearances and an NCAA-high 2,355:22 minutes between the pipes, the WCHA Player of the Year and All-WCHA First Team selection compiled a record of 22-14-3. He made 912 saves for a .932 save percentage (2nd) and the nation’s best goals against average (1.71) to go with a NCAA-best six shutouts. He backstopped a BSU defense that ranked second in the country with a goals allowed per game mark of 1.93 and a penalty-kill unit that has been among the top three in the country all season . He was a Hobey Baker Memorial Award Top 10 finalist as well as one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award, annually given to the nation’s top goaltender. He capped the season being named First Team All-American West by the American Hockey Coaches Association.
Bitzer cemented his place among BSU’s greatest goaltenders as a junior. He is the first BSU goalie to record at least 22 wins since Steve O’Shea in 1986-87, owns the BSU career shutouts record (16), and sits atop BSU’s career goaltending lists with a .925 save percentage and a 1.88 goals against average. In addition, Bitzer is fifth on BSU’s all-time saves list (2,346) and is ninth on the Beaver Hockey victories list (49).
Tia Neuharth – Soccer (Freshman, Priod Lake, Minn.)
Tia started all 19 games for the Beavers as a defensive midfielder as a freshman. She was part of a defensive unit that allowed only 10 goals all season to rank third in the NSIC. She also finished the season with three points (1g-1a), which included a game-tying goal to rank second among all BSU rookies.
Zach Whitecloud – Men’s Hockey (Freshman, Brandon, Manitoba)
A WCHA All-Rookie Team selection, Whitecloud made an immediate impact on the Beavers. The newcomer led all BSU defensemen and rookies in scoring with 17. With 13 points (1g-12a) coming in WCHA play, the rookie ranked 16th among all WCHA defensemen and 12th among league freshmen in scoring. A member of BSU’s power-play unit from day one, Whitecloud was second on the team in power-play, while he ranked fourth among all WCHA scorers with 12 (1g-11a) power-play points in league play. In addition, he ranked second on the team with 55 blocked shots.
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Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs. BSU’s NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey programs are members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.