PHOTO COURTESY OF Rob Foldy
Gator senior outfielder Kelsey Bruder (Corona, Calif.) has won the 2011 Honda Sports Award in softball, designating her as the nation’s top collegiate female athlete in the sport. The honor was based on the results of national balloting among 1,000 NCAA member schools as part of The Collegiate Women Sports Awards program, now in its 35th year.
“Winning the Honda Award is such an incredible honor. To be recognized as the best player in college softball seems absolutely surreal and I could not be more grateful to be among both the past and present Honda Sports Award nominees and recipients,” Bruder said. “Receiving this award would not have been possible without every single one of my teammates. The dedication of our players is extremely admirable and has motivated me to create an even better work ethic. I am so blessed to have played with these tremendous athletes. I’m confident we will continue to build upon the tradition of success associated with the University of Florida.”
The Honda Sports Award is given annually to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports, along with automatic eligibility to become a “Top Three” finalist for Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year and a candidate for the Honda-Broderick Cup that is awarded annually to The Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year. The ballot listing all 12 individual sports winners will be sent to NCAA-member schools for balloting June 16, 2011, and the top three vote-getters become finalists for the Collegiate Women Athlete of the Year. The Top Three will be finalized June 21. Bruder was voted over three other softball nominees for the 2011 award: Ashley Hansen, a junior at Stanford University, Jolene Henderson, a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley and Chelsea Thomas, a sophomore at the University of Missouri. The nominees in softball were selected by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
“Thank you to The Collegiate Women Sports Awards program for selecting Kelsey as the Honda Sports Award recipient for softball,” Florida head coach Tim Walton said. “This is certainly one of the most prestigious awards that a student-athlete can receive in collegiate athletics. I’m very proud of Kelsey for her great season – this is the exclamation point to a great collegiate career for Kelsey and her senior classmates, who leave behind a legacy of greatness.”
Bruder, the 2011 SEC Player of the Year, led the Gators to the 2011 Women’s College World Series this year, where they were defeated by Arizona State in their second-ever championship series appearance, marking the team’s fourth straight WCWS appearance – the first SEC team to accomplish the feat. She was named to the 2011 WCWS All-Tournament Team and is a two-time All-American and Academic All-American.
“National awards help establish a strong reputation, and I am very proud to have contributed to the overall prosperity of our program,” Bruder continued. “I’d like to thank our coaches, the faculty and the UF administration for their unwavering support, and The Collegiate Women Sports Awards program for its recognition of women’s college athletes. Most importantly, I’d like to thank Gator Nation for the best four years of my life.”
The two-time USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week, Bruder had two walk-off hits in Florida’s series over SEC rival Alabama, enabling the Gators to take the series. She additionally strung together a career-long 14-game hit streak that carried over from 2010 to the beginning of 2011. Bruder is part of the “winningest class” in University of Florida history, leading the Southeastern Conference through league play in runs (32), doubles (10), slugging percentage (.883), hits (40), RBI (36) and home runs (11). She tops Florida’s all-time list for total bases in a season (152) and her 79 runs in 2011 is a single-season school record. She was also a part of the NCAA-record 70 wins her freshman year in 2008 and has been a part of just 33 losses in her four-year tenure at Florida. Bruder carries a 3.70 GPA as a
Health, Education & Behavior major, and will earn her undergraduate degree following an internship in December 2011. She is currently playing softball professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league with the USSSA Florida Pride, based out of Orlando, Florida.
In honor of Bruder winning the award, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., will donate $5,000 to the women’s athletic program at the University of Florida. Bruder is just the second Florida softball nominee for the award after Stacey Nelson was a nominee in 2009, while Bruder becomes the only Gator softball winner. Former Gator All-American and U.S. Olympic swimmer Tracy Caulkins is the only Gator to win the Broderick Cup, earning the big award in 1982 and 1984.
Previously announced Honda Sports Award recipients include Jana Juricova of the University of California, Berkeley for tennis, Shannon Smith of Northwestern University for lacrosse, Marta Silva Zamora from the University of Georgia for golf, Kayla Hoffman from the University of Alabama for gymnastics, Maya Moore from the University of Connecticut for basketball, Katinka Hosszu from the University of Southern California for swimming & diving, Sheila Reid from Villanova University for cross-country, Katie O’Donnell from the University of Maryland for field hockey, Melissa Henderson from Notre Dame for soccer, and Blair Brown of Penn State University for volleyball. Honda Award winners in track & field will be announced later this week. The Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year will be determined by separate balloting involving all NCAA-member institutions. On June 27, 2011, the winner will receive the Honda-Broderick Cup at a ceremony in New York, at which the “Top Three” finalists are scheduled to attend.
For more information about The Collegiate Women Sports Awards, please visit www.collegiatewomensportsawards.com .