FAYETTEVILLE University of Arkansas sophomore industrial engineering major Sarah Pfeifer was voted the Southeastern Conference’s Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the league’s 12 head coaches, SEC officials announced today.
The leading scorer for the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks, Pfeifer carries a 3.94 grade point average as an academic junior but redshirt sophomore in one of the University’s most demanding courses of study. Averaging 11.4 ppg, the native of Ozark, Ark., ranks in the top 20 among scorers in the SEC and led the Lady’Backs to a 15-12 regular season record in spite of numerous injuries to her teammates and herself.
“If you could look in the dictionary under Lady Razorback, I’d bet you would find a picture of Sarah,” UA women’s basketball coach Susie Gardner said. “I have never been more pleased with an award, because it has gone to a player who is so incredibly deserving of the honor. Sarah has heart and passion for everything in her life. She works as hard in the classroom as she plays on the court, and it means even more because it was voted on by my peers.”
Pfeifer became Arkansas’ starting post at midseason after torn knee ligaments sidelined two of her teammates, and responded by lifting her scoring average from the mid-eights as the team’s sixth player to 12.8 ppg against SEC opponents. She achieved her on-the-court numbers with her left shoulder recovering from surgery which ended her season last year and a new chronic injury on her right shooting shoulder which will likely require off-season surgery when this year concludes.
“Sarah is the epitome of what it means to be a Lady Razorback, and she is an inspiration to every player, coach and member of the Women’s Athletics Department,” UA director of women’s athletics Bev Lewis said. “And that she’s a native Arkansan from right here in northwest Arkansas makes it more special.”
The University’s College of Engineering echoed the sentiments expressed by members of the Women’s Athletics Department.
“Sarah represents the type of excellent, well-rounded student who thrives in the challenging environment of the College of Engineering,” said Ashok Saxena, dean. “This is another example of our College attracting the best and the brightest students.”
“I’m thrilled that Sarah has received the recognition she deserves,” said John English, head of the department. “Her ability to balance the demands of her coursework and the time constraints associated with her athletic pursuits makes her not only unique, but a role model for all of our students.”
Keeping that balance has required more than the usual level of commitment from both Pfeifer and the Lady Razorbacks.
“Sarah has to miss practice for certain classes, but we support that,” Gardner said. “We help her work around the demands she faces in the College of Engineering, and at the same time, we’re thankful that she has understanding professors for times like this week when she has to miss class for competition.”
The Lady Razorbacks leave for the 26th annual SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament on Wednesday evening. The Lady’Backs open play at the SECs against Mississippi State on Thursday, March 3, at 8:15 p.m. central time.
Only the second player nominated for the highly competitive scholar-athlete award, Pfeifer is a five-time member of the UA Women’s Athletics Department’s Academic Excellence Honor Roll, including four times named as an Academic Champion for perfect 4.0 semester grades.
“She is a great student-athlete, perhaps the most well-rounded example of what a student-athlete should be,” UA director of academic services Deedee Brown said. “She’s a great person, a great student and a great athlete, and I could not be happier that the rest of the SEC recognized her for the hard work she’s put into her life.”
Earlier this spring, Pfeifer and teammate Kristin Peoples were voted by the region’s sports information directors to the ESPN Academic All-District Team.
To earn nomination for both awards, players must have cumulative GPA of at least 3.20 and be a starter or front-line substitute for their respective teams.
In addition to her selection as the league’s top scholar-athlete, Pfeifer will earn her third SEC Academic Honor Roll recognition this year.
As if her work in class and on the court were not enough, Pfeifer also was the University’s selection for the SEC Good Works Team for her outstanding community service.
For more information on the Lady Razorbacks, please go to the official website for Arkansas Women’s Athletics, LADYBACKS.COM.