Sleith Named NEC Female Student-Athlete of the Year
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Pittsburgh – Senior Nicole Sleith (Smithton, Pa. / Yough) of the Robert Morris University softball team claimed one of the highest honors of her career as she was recently named the 2014-15 Northeast Conference Female Student Athlete of the Year.
The honor recognizes individual excellence in both the academic and athletic realms as well as leadership and contributions to one's community.
Sleith is the first Colonial, male or female, to be named as an overall NEC Student Athlete of the Year. As a result of this selection, she will also be the conference’s nominee for the NCAA’s Woman of the Year award.
“The competition for the NEC Male and Female Athletes of the Year was incredibly fierce this year, with so many talented student-athletes who presented amazing academic, athletic and community service achievements,” said Noreen Morris, NEC Commissioner. “I am so pleased to congratulate Nicole and Phil on earning this prestigious award. They are tremendous representatives of the NEC student-athlete community and epitomize the values of being a Division I college-athlete!”
While Sleith was busy resetting Colonial records on the field for the last four years, that was far from the only area in which she flourished as a collegian.
Sleith carried a 3.72 grade point average as a biomedical engineering major. She was one of just 16 Division I pitchers to earn Capital One Academic All-District First Team honors this May for her combined academic and athletic exploits, the second straight year she claimed this honor. She is a three-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America Scholar-Athlete (with the 2015 awards still to come) and was named a Dean’s Scholar by the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science. Sleith is participating in the University’s integrated bachelor/master program and intends to earn a Master of Science in engineering management in December 2015. She plans to pursue a career in the medical research field of engineering.
“We are extremely proud that Nicole has won this very prestigious award,” said Craig Coleman, M.D., who serves as both RMU Director of Athletics and head softball coach. “She has demonstrated excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. She was blessed with great intelligence and athleticism, and our athletic program has been blessed by having her as a part of it for the last four years.”
Sleith struck fear into opposing offenses from the circle throughout her collegiate career. She was a four-time NFCA All-Region honoree, the first in school history, and was selected as the Northeast Conference Pitcher of the Year on three occasions, one of only two players in league history to win the award three times. She is one of just 11 players nationally, and one of three not from a Power Five conference, to claim all-region honors in each of the past four seasons.
Sleith accumulated 22 wins in 2015, finished the regular season with a 1.65 ERA and completed a career-high 31 of her 34 starts in her final collegiate campaign. She broke the school's single-season strikeout record, and tied the league's single-season K mark, with 296 as she averaged more than nine strikeouts per seven innings, a career best. She not only led the league in strikeouts but also ranked among the top 10 in Division I. Sleith spun a career-best nine shutouts in 2015, the most by a Colonial since 1998 and one of the top 10 marks nationally entering the NCAA Tournament. She finished the regular season with an opponent batting average under .200 for the third consecutive season. She was a workhorse within league play, throwing nearly every inning for RMU, as she tossed four shutouts while striking out 120 against just 18 walks. She faced 20 batters with the bases loaded throughout the course of the season and struck out 10 of them. Sleith put forth the most impressive performance of her career in 2015 by throwing a perfect game in a postseason elimination contest. She retired each of the 21 batters she faced while tossing a no-hitter for the third consecutive season.
Sleith broke the RMU career strikeout record during a NEC sweep in April, and finished with 932, and also broke the Colonial all-time wins record by picking up her 78th during the 2015 postseason. Among active Division I athletes, Sleith ranks among the top 10 in career strikeouts, shutouts (27), complete games (98) and saves (13).
Sleith led Robert Morris to three regular-season conference championships in her four years and was instrumental in helping the team to a program-record 35 wins in 2012.
In addition to her contributions in a Colonial uniform, Sleith also spent her time at RMU leading and helping others off campus.
Sleith serves on the board of No Roof Knapsacks, a non-profit organization that seeks to help the homeless in the greater Pittsburgh region. The group collects food, clothing and other basic need items and distributes them in backpacks to local homeless. Sleith also volunteered her time with RMU's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee where she helped organize a volleyball tournament to raise funds for breast cancer research. She has contributed to causes such as Adopt-a-Highway, Pittsburgh Road Cleanup and Relay for Life, and also displayed her willingness to lead when she served as a group leader of high school students at the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Sportsmanship Summit. Sleith was also a member of the Colonial Leadership Academy, a program that seeks to develop and maximize the leadership abilities of RMU’s student-athletes.
Weighing one's leadership ability, athletic prowess, academic achievement and community service, the NEC Student-Athlete of the Year award was formerly known as the NEC SAAC Student-Athlete of the Year award. One student-athlete was honored annually from 2003 to 2014, before the award was renamed and the decision was made to recognize one male and one female student-athlete per academic year.
Robert Morris has won the Northeast Conference regular-season title in four of the past five seasons. The Colonials are also the only team in the league to post an overall record of at least .500 in seven of the past eight years.
RMU is the only Division I school in the country to have its softball program rank among the top five nationally in team grade point average in each of the past six years.