William Smith College lacrosse defender Mekayla Montgomery is the Liberty League’s nominee for the prestigious NCAA Women of the Year Award. As the Liberty League’s Female Scholar Athlete of the Year, she was voted as the conference’s Woman of the Year nominee by the league’s athletic directors.
Last Wednesday, the NCAA announced the 154 conference honorees for the Woman of the Year award. This year’s conference Woman of the Year nominees represent 18 different sports. Montgomery is one of 60 nominations from Division III. In July, she was announced as one of 535 school nominees.
Now in its 31st year, the NCAA Woman of the Year award honors graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in academics, athletics, service and leadership.
In May, Montgomery graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and education. Earlier this month, she was named a first team CoSIDA Academic All-American. Montgomery is a three-time Liberty League All-Academic selection, was named to the IWLCA Academic Honor Roll twice and is a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection. Montgomery is a Blackwell Scholar and a member of Psi Chi, the international psychology honor society.
Montgomery had a record breaking career for the Herons. The two-time Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year holds the Herons’ game (12), season (93) and career (233) records for draw controls and the career record for caused turnovers (120). Including her senior season, Montgomery is responsible for three of the top six seasons in the draw circle in program history. In addition, her name appears five times in the top-10 and 11 times in the top 25 on the single-game draw list. Montgomery’s 176 ground balls are tied for sixth on the all-time list. In 59 games, she produced 14 points on nine goals and five assists. A team captain, Montgomery helped the Herons capture three straight Liberty League Championships and make three trips to the NCAA tournament.
A four-year starter, Montgomery was named to five different All-America teams in her career. This season, she was named a first team All-American by the IWLCA and USA Lacrosse Magazine. Montgomery was named an IWLCA third team All-American as a first-year and earned a spot on the second team as a sophomore. In the pandemic shortened 2020 season, she was tabbed a first team All-American by Inside Lacrosse. In addition, Montgomery was named a 2019-20 College All-American Strength & Conditioning Athlete of the Year.
In the community, Montgomery is a One Love Foundation advocate and escalation workshop leader, furthering the foundation’s mission to teach young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships, empowering them to identify and avoid abuse and learn how to love better. She was a finalist for the 2020 Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award. Montgomery was also a member of William Smith’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Montgomery also spent a month in Nidjje, Uganda, working for the non-profit, Hope for Children and Women of Violence.
In her hometown, Montgomery has spent time coaching eighth, ninth and 10th graders on the South Jersey Select Girls Lacrosse Club.
The Woman of the Year Selection Committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will now choose the Top 30 honorees – 10 from each division – from the conference-level nominees. The Top 30 honorees will be announced in September. The selection committee will determine the top three honorees in each division from the Top 30, and the nine finalists will be announced this fall. From those nine finalists, the NCAA committee on Women’s Athletics will chose the 2021 NCAA Woman of the Year.
William Smith has had four alumnae honored above the conference level. In 1993, Cynthia Oyler Teerlink ’93 was one of 10 finalists for the award. In 1999, Lisa Krug ’99 was named the NCAA New York Woman of the Year. The NCAA previously announced 52 state-level winners, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico before narrowing the field down to 10 finalists. Under the current selection process, Olivia Zitoli ’14, Madeline Buckley ’14 and Caroline Conboy ’17 were Top 30 selections.