GRAND RAPIDS – Zeeland West graduate and Cornerstone women’s soccer athlete Phoebe LaCroix never saw it coming.


Everyone around her did, though — that just speaks to her humility.


LaCroix has been named the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) recipient of the A.O. Duer Award Winner for the 2019-20 season.


“I did not expect it at all, honestly,” LaCroix said. “Our athletic director sent me an email saying I was nominated to represent Cornerstone for that award, then when I won it for the whole conference, it was very humbling to receive that and read over the letters of recommendation and reference I got from my professors, coaches and people who’ve known me for while.


“It was very humbling to receive that award.”


The prestigious award, sponsored by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) that is named after former NAIA executive director Al Duer recognizes a junior female and male student-athlete who excels in character, playing ability, and scholarship.


LaCroix is a quiet leader of the Golden Eagles women's soccer program, serving as a captain and the team representative on the Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT).


She has helped by serving on missions' trips with her teammates, leading by example on the field and being a proficient member of the classroom.


She has appreciated everything the Cornerstone administration has had to say about her.


“(Cornerstone athletic director Aaron Sargraves) told me I have been such a great leader because I’m also the captain of the soccer team and so he’s watched me over the past few years leading the team and the whole Cornerstone athletic community as a whole — just being humble and gentle, he said I’m not the most outspoken student-athlete on campus, but I lead by example, so that was cool to hear,” LaCroix said.


“My professors were saying really awesome thing about my character in the classroom as well and just carrying that over onto the field.”


LaCroix is an Exercise Science major and is an active member of the Exercise Science Club and a teaching assistant in Anatomy and Physiology.


"Over the last three years, nobody has done a better job as a captain than Phoebe LaCroix of the women's soccer team,“ Sargraves said. ”Not only has she excelled in leading her team as the most valuable player, but she does it the way we want our student athletes at CU to do. What stands out among the many attributes that Phoebe possesses is her ability to show forward thinking to help all of those around her.


“She may not be the most outgoing student athlete we have in terms of the words she shares, but when she speaks, people really tune in to what she has to say."


On the field, LaCroix has been one of the most impressive athletes in the program's recent history, improving each year and earning back-to-back All-WHAC First Team honors after being named to the WHAC All-Freshman Team in 2017.


LaCroix plays monster minutes in the midfield, and she finished the 2019 season with a team fourth best 11 points scoring four goals and tallying three assists. In her career, LaCroix has 13 goals and six assists in 54 games played. LaCroix earned WHAC All-Academic honors and NAIA Scholar Athlete honors in 2019 for the first time now that she achieved junior academic status.


"Phoebe is very deserving of this award. She is an outstanding leader both on and off the field,“ Cornerstone women’s soccer coach Randy Strawser said. ”She is very humble which is a big reason why her teammates respect her so much. She is a blessing to our team and she will be a blessing wherever she goes in the next step of her journey. She is an outstanding player and utilizes the gifts she has been given to elevate those around her."


LaCroix feels fortunate to have not had her season affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Hearing now the students at cornerstone that didn’t get a spring season, we were very lucky to have been able to play in the fall and we can’t even imagine what those students are going through, so we’re just trying to rally around them while they’re just processing what has been happening and lift them up through this and hope they’re able to play another season and stick around for another year and just process that emotionally and physically, too,” LaCroix said.


LaCroix is the first Golden Eagle to win the A.O. Duer Scholarship Award since Joe Corsten in 2018. She is also just the third athlete in Cornerstone history to earn the honor since the origin of the award, and is the first female to earn the award.


“It’s very awesome to represent the WHAC, just being a female,” LaCroix said. “Receiving this award has been surreal to me.”


LaCroix's nomination will now go on for national consideration in the NAIA. The national winner is selected by the NAIA Council of Faculty Athletic Representatives from a pool of candidates from member conferences. The winner of the national award receives a $1,000 scholarship and certificate of recognition.


After earning her undergraduate degree, LaCroix plans to study occupational therapy in graduate school.


“I have always been interested in the health field, but I’m not big around blood and needles,” LaCroix said. “I was interest in PT coming into Cornerstone and when I heard about OT, I really just fell in love with it and just hoping I can work in pediatrics and help out all the kiddos with their illnesses and injuries, or whatever they’re going through.”


— Contact Assistant Sports Editor Beau Troutman at btroutman@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @BVTroutman.