BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Seven Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) student-athletes are among a record 585 nominees for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year award. Of those very deserving individuals, the MIAC has selected Carleton's Ziyi Wang and Gustavus' Nora Holtan to serve as the Conference's nominees.
The NCAA Woman of the Year was established in 1991 to honor graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service, and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.
Holtan (Rochester, Minn. | Mayo) finished her playing career at Gustavus as the most decorated competitor in the 50-year history of Gustie volleyball. A three-time American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-America First Team selection and three-time MIAC Player of the Year, Holtan played a key role in helping Gustavus secure four NCAA Tournament berths, three MIAC Playoff titles, and a pair of regular season conference championships during her time in St. Peter. Holtan starred as a setter for the Gusties, becoming the program's all-time assists leader with 4,528 over the last four seasons. She also collected 1,194 digs and 650 kills, making her the only player in team history to record at least 4,000 assists, 1,000 digs, and 500 kills. Holtan is also one of just 16 women in MIAC history to be selected All-Conference in volleyball all four years of her collegiate career and one of only two three-time MIAC Player of the Year recipients.
A standout in the classroom as well, Holtan earned Academic All-MIAC honors every year of her eligibility for the award and received Academic All-America honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) as a junior and senior. The Rochester, Minn. native maintained a 3.87 grade-point average (GPA) while majoring in Exercise Physiology and Psychological Science at Gustavus. Off the court, Holtan has worked as a Student-Athlete Volunteer Educator (SAVE) where she has mentored first-year student-athletes, in addition to volunteering with Special Olympics Minnesota and writing letters to senior citizens through Ecumen's penpal program with Gustavus volleyball. Holtan credits volleyball in helping her cope with mental health struggles over the years and says her time as a student-athlete at Gustavus has inspired her to be a leader for those battling through similar challenges.
"My experience dealing with the stressors of mental health issues has empowered me to be a positive role model for young female athletes dealing with similar issues," Holtan said. "I want to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues in sports and mentor women and girls who are dealing with these issues."
Wang (Beijing City, China | Lighthouse Christian Academy) finished her playing career at Carleton in May as a four-time All-MIAC honoree and two-time MIAC conference meet medalist. Wang was also selected MIAC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season in May, a feat achieved by only three other women's golfers in conference history. Wang set a new 54-hole MIAC tournament record when she shot a 221 last fall to take home top honors at the 2018 MIAC Championships. The top player on the nation's No. 1-ranked team heading into the 2019 NCAA Championships, Wang finished in a tie for seventh in the nation individually after picking up three final-round birdies to giver her 11 for the tournament, tied for the second-most in the 131-player field. Wang was rewarded with First Team All-America honors from the Women's Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) in 2019 after being an honorable mention pick each of the last two seasons. She earned WGCA All-Region recognition all four seasons at Carleton.
Academically, Wang proved to be equally elite, maitaining a 3.94 GPA while majoring in Asian Studies with a focus on East Asia and a concentration in Sociology. A Dean's List honoree each of the last four years at Carleton, Wang has also earned the MIAC's Elite 22 award for women's golf - an honor bestowed upon the student-athlete with the highest GPA competing at the conference championship meet - as well as Carleton's Pat Lamb Award, presented to a deserving student-athlete for combining athletic excellence with high-level academic achievement. Wang received national recognition for her academic prowess following the 2017-18 season, when she was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team, as well as being listed among the Women's Congressional Golf Association's All-American Scholars. An active member of Carleton's Chinese Club since her first year on campus in 2016, Wang intends to use her experience as a student-athlete to help facilitate more opportunities for youth in China to compete in organized athletics.
"The current education system in China is very difficult for children to both study in school and play sports," Wang said. "I want to replicate the education I received at Carleton College and create an environment where students can balance rigorous academics with professional training in golf."
The NCAA encourages member schools to honor their top graduating female student-athletes each year by submitting their names for consideration for the Woman of the Year award. This year's nominees competed in 23 different women's sports across all three NCAA divisions, including 262 nominees from Division I, 131 from Division II and 192 from Division III. Multisport student-athletes accounted for 144 of the nominees.
Holtan and Wang were among seven extremely deserving student-athletes nominated by MIAC institutions this year. Other institutional nominees included Augsburg's Morgan Malley (volleyball/softball), Hamline's Taylor Martinek (swimming and diving), Saint Benedict's Natalie Amundson (golf), St. Catherine's Sydney Busker (golf), and Saint Mary's Laura Sonday (tennis).
Following the announcements of Conference nominees, the Woman of the Year selection committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will choose the Top 30 honorees — 10 from each division. From the Top 30, the selection committee determines the top three honorees from each division and announces the nine finalists in September. The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics then chooses the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year from those nine.
The Top 30 honorees will be celebrated and the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced at the annual award ceremony Oct. 20 in Indianapolis.