Rockville Centre, N.Y. - Senior outside hitter Luci Ferraro from the New York Institute of Technology and sophomore outside hitter Nicole Nieves from Queens College have been named the 2010 recipients of the John Smillie, Jr. Award. This award is given in honor of NYIT Athletic Trainer, John Smillie, Jr. who passed away two years after battling cancer. The John Smillie, Jr. Award is given annually to a student-athlete or student-athletes who have overcome personal or physical challenges and hardships to pursue their intercollegiate athlete careers.
Nieves began playing sports in sixth grade competing in volleyball, track and cheerleading, but eventually focused on volleyball. Her leaping ability and power caught the eye of Queens College Volleyball Coach Pascalle Lubin. She was so athletic that Coach Lubin barely noticed a slight malformation; Nieves was born without a left hand, her arm ends just where her wrist should be. Since she is right-handed, hitting came relatively easy; however, at first she had difficulty with setting, but learned to do that with one hand. Nieves has worked hard to not let her disability affect her volleyball experience. After redshirting her freshman year, she started every match for the Knights during the 2010 season and was fourth on the team in kills, and second in blocks.
Ferraro was diagnosed with Chrones disease during her sophomore year at NYIT. She was determined to play but in the fall of her junior year she had to sit out due to pain and weakness. That spring Ferraro took a medical withdrawal from NYIT to have surgery and would have a colostomy bag attached, which at the time was non-reversible. In the fall of 2008 Ferraro once again attempted to play Volleyball, it was a very emotional time playing with the bag attached, but Ferraro was determined as ever to not let this disease control her life. She played the entire season never missing a practice or a game.
That spring, Ferraro had the good fortune to be a candidate for a reversal procedure. Having to endure a difficult surgery and a more difficult recovery, she had to once again leave school, only to return in the fall of 2009 for her last season of Volleyball. This year she appeared in 23 matches and tallied 11 service aces. Ferraro has been on the Dean's List every semester and the Athletics Directors Honor roll. She is an active member of SAAC, a member of the Honor Society, and has been a Volleyball Captain for 2 years. Ferraro was also one of thirty selected to receive a $10,000.00 grant towards her education for living outside boundaries with Crohn’s Disease.
Both Nieves and Ferraro were presented their awards at the East Coast Conference Awards Dinner on June 9.