CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Illinois volleyball graduate Megan Cooney has been named a nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year, the organization announced on Thursday (July 14).
Established in 1991 and in its 32nd year, the NCAA Woman of the Year award recognizes graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their NCAA eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.
Rooted in Title IX and directed by the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics, the NCAA Woman of the Year program celebrates the accomplishments of female college athletes across all three NCAA divisions. As 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, this year’s NCAA Woman of the Year award provides an important opportunity to honor incredible women and reflect on the impact of women on intercollegiate sports. In 2022, nearly 220,000 women are competing in college sports, and the NCAA received 577 nominations for this prestigious award.
Cooney was among 577 female student-athlete nominees that competed in 24 sports across all three NCAA divisions, including 248 nominees from Division I, 127 from Division II and 202 from Division III. Multisport student-athletes account for 125 of the nominees.
The 2022 Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient, Cooney was a mainstay in the Illini lineup during her five-year career, helping Fighting Illini volleyball to four NCAA Tournament appearances including a Final Four run in 2018 and trips to the Sweet 16 in 2017 and 2021. She was a first-team All-Big Ten and AVCA All-Region selection this past season as team captain while also garnering All-America honorable mention accolades.
Cooney concluded her career as Illinois’ all-time leader in sets played (554) while ranking 10th on the Illini career kills list with 1,507 kills. She scored 1,734.5 points while totaling 346 blocks, 546 digs, 47 assists and 44 service aces.
Cooney excelled in the classroom as a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, 2021 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and CoSIDA Academic All-District pick, and 2020 Dean’s List honoree. She earned a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology and is now pursuing a master’s degree in speech and hearing science with an expected graduation date of December 2023. Her field of study has also included an internship in the Program for Enrichment and Education of Relational Skills and student assistant role with the Development in Neurogenetic Disorders Lab.
Cooney was a Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) representative for the volleyball team and has been active in the community, volunteering more than 50 hours at Carle Foundation Hospital and making visits to numerous elementary schools in the Champaign-Urbana community.
Next, conference offices will select their nominees for NCAA Woman of the Year. Each conference nominee will be notified by the NCAA, and all conference-round nominees will be announced on ncaa.org in August. Conference nominations are forwarded to the NCAA Woman of the Year Selection Committee, which identifies the top 10 honorees in each of the three NCAA divisions. From those 30 honorees, the selection committee then determines the three finalists in each division for a total of nine finalists. The Committee on Women’s Athletics will select the 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year from the nine finalists.
For the first time in the award’s history, the award ceremony will take place during the NCAA Convention in January, giving the Top 30 honorees a chance to celebrate their achievements alongside their families, coaches, and administrators attending the 2023 NCAA Convention.
You can learn more about the award program, next steps and previous winners by visiting ncaa.org/woty.
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