Vote: HAN-FCIAC Athletes of Week 9

While the football teams were still deciding who will play for the FCIAC Championship, many other FCIAC athletes were working their way deep into the state playoffs this week. One athlete broke a state record held by an NFL player; another athlete continued running circles around bigger groups of runners.

Those are just two of the HAN-FCIAC Athlete of the Week nominees from Week 9 of a fall season that's winding down.

On Saturday, defending champion Darien clinched a rematch with New Canaan in the FCIAC Football Championship, which will be streamed exclusively the HAN Network on Thanksgiving morning. Click here for details on how to watch.

Some of the top FCIAC teams will be in state semifinal games this week. By Thanksgiving, all that will be left is football.

As the official broadcasting partner of the FCIAC, the HAN Network each week recognizes the top male and a female athletes during each week of the season. 

The HAN Network sports staff nominates the male and female candidates. The winners are then chosen in an online poll (at the bottom of this post) and saluted on the FCIAC Tailgate program before the HAN Network football game of the week on Friday or Saturday. Last week's winners were New Canaan swimmer Meghan Egan and Danbury football's Tyren McCrea.

With no football game this week, HAN will announce the Athletes of the Week winners on Friday, Nov. 20, at 11 a.m. Voting will close at 10 a.m. on Friday.

The next live game on HAN is the Turkey Bowl/FCIAC Championship between Darien (8-0) and New Canaan (8-0) on Thanksgiving morning. Details on how and when to watch are here.

The nominees are below, an online voting ballot follows the list of nominees.

HAN-FCIAC Female Athlete of the Week nominees

Rachel Burston, Westhill/Stamford Diving

Burston, who won her fourth FCIAC diving title on Nov. 4, made it four straight CIAC Class LL championships last Wednesday at Bulkeley High School.

Burston scored 533.40 points on 11 dives, easily winning the title by nearly 100. Newtown’s Kari Djonne was second with 440.85 points.

Hannah DeBalsi, Staples Cross Country

DeBalsi won third her straight New England championship Saturday at Thetford Acadamey in Thetford, Vt.

The Stanford-bound senior finished the 5K course in 18:20.90, winning by nearly 12 seconds over Ellie Lawler, a sophomore from South Kingston, R.I., who was second in 18:32.70. They were the only two runners in the field of 250 who broke 19 minutes.

Staples finished ninth as a team.

Shannon Daine, Trinity Catholic Diving

Daine won her second consecutive CIAC Class S diving championship when she scored 411.10 points during the finals last Thursday. The junior edged Watertown’s Kelsey DeJesus, who scored 411.10.

Daine was second at the Class S meet as a freshman before winning the title last fall.

Amanda Hendry, Wilton Field Hockey

Amanda Hendry made 17 saves in the Wilton High field hockey team's 3-2 overtime win over Darien in the Class L state quarterfinals on Friday .

The senior goalkeeper, who has committed to play for the University of North Carolina next year, saved the day for the Warriors, as two of her best saves came in overtime, setting the stage for Wilton's game-winning goal.

The icing on the victory cake was a one-on-one save off a tip in front of the cage by FCIAC MVP Georgia Cassidy.

Katie Donovan, New Canaan Soccer

Donovan, the Rams’ senior goalkeeper, had a big week as 23th-seeded New Canaan won three Class LL tournament games and advanced to the state semifinals.

Donovan allowed just one goal in three games, and the Rams knocked off three higher seeds. She made nine saves in a victory over Amity, and added three stops in the PK round as the Rams outscored the Spartans 10-8.

Donovan had five saves during a 1-0 win over Middletown on Wednesday, and 10 saves in a 1-0 win at Wilton inFriday’s quarterfinals.

Kylie McCaffrey, Ludlowe, Volleyball

McCaffrey had 12 service points, 14 kills and 34 digs as Ludlowe defeated defending champ Darien, 3-2, in the Class LL state tournament quarterfinals.

Ludlowe rallied to win the last two sets, beating the Wave 25-15, 24-26, 19-25, 25-23, 15-9.

It was the second time in eight days that the Falcons beat the previously undefeated Blue Wave. McCaffrey and Ludlowe upset Darien in four games in the FCIAC Championship the previous Saturday before their five-game comeback win on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Abbie Wolf, Greenwich Volleyball

Wolf had 18 kills in each of the Cardinals’ first two state Class LL tournament victories, as they advanced through the quarterfinal rounds last week.

Wolf helped Greenwich sweep through Bristol Central in the opening round, contributing four blocks in addition to her 18 kills. The Cards went on to beat Brien McMahon 3-0 and Amity 3-2 to reach the semifinals.

Jennifer Schrenker, Darien Diving

Schrenker captured the Class L diving championship with a score of 391.65 points last Thursday at Middletown High School. Schrenker edged New Canaan’s Katie Kushner, who scored 391.60.

HAN-FCIAC Male Athlete of the Week nominees

Mark Evanchick, Darien Football

Evanchick had three sacks in Darien's 27-0 win over Staples, setting a new state record in career sacks with 62.5. Evanchick’s sack of Wreckers QB Andrew Speed near the end of the first half gave him the record, beating Bloomfield's Dwight Freeney, who had 60 in 1997. Freeney, who has more than 100 sacks in the NFL, plays for the Arizona Cardinals.

The victory put the Wave (8-0) in the FCIAC title game for the second straight year. That game will be played Thanksgiving morning against New Canaan and carried live on HAN.

JonMichael Bivona, Trinity Catholic Football

Bivona scored five touchdowns in Trinity Catholic's 51-14 win over Bridgeport Central on Friday, as the Crusaders clinched a state Class S playoff berth.

Bivona's night included a 90-yard kick return to start the third quarter and an 87-yard touchdown run. He finished with 170 yards on just six carries.

Dakari Eason, Norwalk Football

Eason had 231 all-purpose yards and scored twice as the Bears defeated the Trumbull Eagles, 29-28, on Friday . The senior had six rushes for 86 yards and caught five passes for 145 yards.

Both of his TDs came in the first five minutes of the game, as he scored on a 93-yard reception and a 60-yard run.

Bryan Azarian, Fairfield Warde Football

Azarian had 159 rushing yards during the Mustangs’ 36-6 loss to McMahon this weekend. His performance included a 46-yard touchdown run.

Andres Palacio, Bridgeport Central Soccer

Palacio, the Hilltoppers’ goalkeeper, posted three shutouts as Central won its first three CIAC Class LL tournament games.

Palacio started the tournament by making 14 saves in a 2-0 win over East Hartford. He then had four saves in a 4-0 win over Southington on Wednesday, and six saves in a 1-0 victory over Hall in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

C.J. Varian, Ridgefield Football

Varian, a senior wide receiver caught seven passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns in Ridgefield's 37-7 win over Greenwich on Saturday . Varian scored on TD catches of 79 and 14 yards in the first half.

The win put Ridgefield in sixth place in the state Class LL football rankings, putting the Tigers in good position to return to the state playoffs. (Top eight teams get in).

Jack Kniffin, Darien Boys Soccer

Kniffin’s goal in the 17th minute carried the No. 11 Blue Wave to a 1-0 victory over Fairfield Prep on Saturday, Nov. 14. With the win over the third-seeded Jesuits (15-3-1), the 11th-seeded Blue Wave (13-1-5) will meet No. 7 Farmington (15-2-2) in the Class LL semifinals.

Vote here for the nominees. We'll announce them this week on the HAN Network. 

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The HAN Network, formerly known as Hersam Acorn Newspapers, is the exclusive FCIAC broadcast partner through the spring of 2018. HAN Network’s broadcasting division replaced with a new focus on live video streams of high school athletics along with the Network’s news and lifestyle programming.

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