March 4, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. - It was a banner week for many teams and players and when the dust settled on Monday, four cadet-athletes stood above the rest. In an unprecedented decision during a week that saw records fall and postseason fates determined, Lisa Junta (track and field), Garrett Thul (lacrosse), Anna Simmers (women's basketball) and Ella Ellis (men's basketball) were chosen to share this week's Army Athletic Association Athlete of the Week honor.
Two weeks after smashing the Academy's 3,000-meter run record, Junta bested the school's 5,000-meter record which was set on Dec. 4, 1987 by Army Hall of Fame member Teresa Sobiesk. The sophomore shaved over two seconds off Sobiesk's time by capturing her second ECAC Championship title in 16:31.03. Junta became Army's first ECAC track champion last spring when she won the 10,000-meter outdoor crown and is the first Army athlete with two ECAC belts. The Springfield, Va., native raced ahead of a field of 28 to earn Saturday's gold medal.
In another record-breaking performance, Thul became Army's all-time goal scoring leader with 141 during a decorated career. While tying a career best with seven goals in a 12-1 win over Michigan on Saturday, he passed Scott Finlay's 140 goals tallied from 1975-78. In breaking the 35-year-old mark, Thul garnered Orange Bowl Lacrosse Classic Most Valuable Player honors. He recorded a natural hat trick in the second quarter to help push the Black Knights' lead from 3-1 to 6-1 and notched his 26th career hat trick. Following the monster performance, the Flemington, N.J., native now stands as the current career goals leader on the Patriot League books and also the nation's active goal scorers list. He passed reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Peter Baum of Colgate on both ledgers.
Simmers' back-to-back game-high performances pushed Army to a 2-0 week en route to capturing a share of the Patriot League regular-season title for just the second time in program history and first time since 2005-06. Simmers scored 21 points at Holy Cross on Wednesday, while matching her career high with five steals. Simmers locked up conference leading scorer Alex Smith, holding her without a point in the final 23 minutes as the Black Knights held Holy Cross to a series-low 35 points.
On Saturday, the Anchorage, Alaska, native bolstered Army's comeback win versus Lehigh, rallying the Black Knights from a 13-point second-half deficit by scoring 16 points in the second stanza, including nine in the final five minutes, en route to her second consecutive 21-point showing. For the week, Simmers averaged 21 points, 5.5 rebounds, four steals and 1.5 assists per game and finished regular-season play as the Patriot League's second-leading scorer (13.7 ppg).
Ellis averaged 30.5 points per game during the Black Knights two games last week. He scored 31 in Army's win against Holy Cross which clinched the Black Knights' first winning season in Patriot League play and guaranteed the team a home game in the conference tournament. Ellis followed that with a 30-point game at Lehigh, including 19 in the second half as Army came back from a 16-point deficit to tie the score with less than five minutes to play. He is the first Army player since Mark Lueking in 1995-96 to post consecutive games with at least 30 points, and has reached that plateau in three of the last four games.
All four players are back in action this week as the men's and women's basketball teams both host Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal games at Christl Arena. The fourth-seeded men will host American on Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m., while the top-seeded women welcome Colgate on Thursday, March 7, at 7 p.m. The Army lacrosse team concludes a three-game road swing at Rutgers on Saturday, March 9, at 1 p.m., while the track and field team heads to Puerto Rico for the Carolina Spring Break Classic.