@ScoutSportsDesk ran six polls on Twitter to find out which Bradley athletes, teams and coaches deserve each glorious BESPY. The polls received an average of 157 votes.
Team of the Year — Men’s Basketball
The men’s basketball team arrived on the national scene for the first time in 13 years. The team beat SMU and Penn State in the early season Cancun Challenge. Despite losing its first five MVC games, the squad battled back to win nine of its last 13 regular season contests and earned the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament. Bradley defeated Missouri State, defending champion Loyola-Chicago and Northern Iowa in St. Louis to capture the program’s first MVC tournament title since 1988. The team made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and as the No. 15 seed, and fell to No. 2 seed Michigan State after leading at halftime.
Breakout Player of the Year — Walid Kherat
The defender did not see any game action in his first three seasons on the Bradley soccer team after making the team in a preseason tryout. Kherat, a fourth-year junior from Peoria, started all 17 games and logged the most minutes of any player. He was named the MVC Defensive Player of the Week Sept. 5 after recording his first collegiate assist and goal. He was also named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week for helping limit Bradley’s two opponents to a total of six shots on goal.
Male Athlete of the Year — Mitch Janssen
Janssen, a senior right-handed pitcher, led the Bradley baseball pitching staff this spring. As the Friday starter, he pitched to a 2.06 ERA. The Princeville native used his nasty breaking-ball to lead the team in strikeouts with 71 and limited opponents to a batting average of .199. Before this season his career ERA stood at 5.80. Janssen three-hit Southern Illinois in route to the first complete game of his career April 12. Since graduating from Bradley this spring, he plans to continue to work as a charter flight pilot.
Newcomer of the Year — Lasha Petree
Petree scored 13.2 points per game her freshman season, good for second on the women’s basketball team. Following the successful campaign, she was named the MVC Freshman of the Year and MVC Sixth Player of the Year. The highlight of her season came on Feb. 8 when she scored 13 points and recorded three steals in a 46-second span to earn a comeback win for Bradley over Indiana State.
Coach of the Year — Brian Wardle
Wardle, in his fourth year as the men’s basketball head coach, guided the team to the NCAA Tournament. He has improved or maintained the team’s record each season at the helm. His efforts led Bradley back from an 0-5 start in Valley play, in addition to an 18-point second half comeback in the MVC title game. The team only suffered one loss when Wardle wore his shiny red dancing shoes.
Female Athlete of the Year — Allison Apke
The junior first baseman hit third and was the heart of the Braves softball lineup this spring. She batted .349 and led the team in on base percentage. Apke slugged 12 home runs and became the program’s all-time home run leader. The Teutopolis, Illinois native was named to Second-Team All-MVC, First-Team MVC Scholar-Athlete and Third-Team NFCA All-Mideast Region after the season. She helped the softball team reach the semifinals of the MVC Championship for the first time since 2014.