Six Alumni Join Allegheny Athletic Hall of Fame

Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees

Allegheny College inducted six alumni into its Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 1, during the College’s Homecoming Weekend.

In a ceremony at Schultz Hall, Rebecca Smullin Dawson ’00 (swimming), Nick Catanzarite ’03 (basketball), Jane Och Sharpless ’03 (soccer), Liz Orr Sowa ’03 (soccer), Ben Rathfon ’05 (golf), and Giannina Coccaro Sardis ’06 (softball) joined the Athletic Hall of Fame as its 37th class. Following the induction ceremony, the six inductees were recognized at halftime of Allegheny’s football game against Oberlin, while Sharpless and Sowa were also honored during the Gator women’s soccer team’s match against Wittenberg.

A native of Allison Park and graduate of Hampton High School, Rebecca Smullin Dawson was a key member of the Allegheny women’s swimming program’s most successful era. Specializing in the butterfly and freestyle, she earned a total of 15 All-America honors between individual events and relays, and helped Allegheny finish in the top 15 at the NCAA Division III National Championships in all four of her seasons. She finished in the top five at Nationals twice in the 100 butterfly (1997 and 1998), while she was crowned All-America as part of the team’s 200 free, 400 free, 400 medley, and 800 free relay squads. After earning a Master of Public Health degree at Emory University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, she is now a professor of biology and global health studies at Allegheny. She also serves as an assistant coach for the Gator swimming and diving team, and as faculty athletic representative for the Allegheny athletic department.

Nick Catanzarite was one of the most prolific scorers in the history of Gator men’s basketball. In 99 career games, he amassed 1,483 points, good for an average of 15 points per game, the second-most in program history. A two-time All-North Coast Athletic Conference honoree, he also led the Gators in both steals and assists in each of his final three seasons, while his 389-for-470 career mark from the foul line is second all-time in the Allegheny record books.  After averaging 16.1 points in both his sophomore and junior seasons, Catanzarite had a memorable senior season of 2002–03, as he led the Gators in scoring (20 points/game), assists (97), three-point field goals (54), steals (91) and free throw percentage (.850). A native of Strongsville, Ohio, and graduate of Walsh Jesuit High School, Catanzarite graduated from Allegheny with a degree in psychology and minor in communication arts, and went on to earn his law degree from Capital University. He works as a partner for Walter Haverfield LLP in Cleveland, where he specializes in real estate law.

Jane Och Sharpless, a native of Pittsburgh and product of Upper St. Clair High School, was one of the most productive offensive players in Gator women’s soccer history. A four-year starter, she ranks in the top four in program history in every major offensive category, including career points (108), career assists (32) and career goals (38).  Having amassed 20 or more points in all four of her seasons, she ranked in the top four in the NCAC in scoring in each of her final three seasons. A four-time All-NCAC honoree, she was also a three-time National Soccer Coaches Association (NSCAA) All-Region honoree, and she was named First Team All-America by the NSCAA as a junior in 2001. The 2002–03 Allegheny Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year, she was named to the NCAC’s 20th Anniversary All-Decade Team in 2003, recognizing the conference’s top soccer players between the years 1994 and 2003.  Married to four-year Allegheny baseball standout Josh Sharpless, she went on to earn her M.S. in applied developmental psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, where she works as a neurotrauma researcher.

An anchor on the Allegheny defense, Liz Orr Sowa started every game of her four-year career for the Gator women’s soccer team. A native of Erie and graduate of McDowell High School, she led a defense that recorded 42 shutouts over her four-year career, helping the Gators to a 55-18-5 overall record. Named Allegheny’s Defensive MVP in all four years, she was a four-time All-NCAC and three-time NSCAA All-Region honoree. She also was voted the NCAC’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2002 and joined Jane Och Sharpless on the NCAC All-Decade Team in 2003. After graduating from Allegheny with a degree in political science, she was accepted into the Teach for America Program and taught on the Zuni Indian Reservation in New Mexico for five years. She works as director of a childcare facility in Wexford.

Ben Rathfon remains the most highly decorated player in the history of Allegheny men’s golf. The Clarion native is one of just three Allegheny golfers to be named All-America by the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) four times, and he is also one of just three players in the history of the NCAC to twice be named the conference’s Player of the Year. As a first-year student in 2001­­–02, Rathfon won four tournaments, including the 2002 NCAC Championship Series, and went on be named the GCAA Rookie of the Year, in addition to All-Region and All-America. As a sophomore, he earned his first NCAC Dick Gordin Player of the Year Award after finishing the season with a 75.4 stroke average, before winning a trio of tournaments in his third straight All-America campaign of 2003–04. As a senior in 2004–05, he tied a team record by winning individual medalist honors at five tournaments, was again crowned the NCAC Dick Gordin Award winner, and was named the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association’s Frank Fuhrer III Collegiate Golfer of the Year. Rathfon also earned the distinction of being the only player named to both the NCAC’s 20th (1994–2003) and 30th (2004–2013) Anniversary All-Decade Teams. He graduated with a double major in political science and economics, and works as an investment advisor.

A Miami, Florida, native, Giannina Coccaro Sardis was one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of both Allegheny College and the NCAC. A four-time All-NCAC selection, she ranks second in program history in career complete games (70), third in strikeouts (504) and shutouts (16), and fourth in career wins (48) and earned run average (1.63). She recorded two no-hitters for her career, including one in her final career home appearance on Senior Day against Denison in April 2006, and she was named the NCAC’s Pitcher of the Year in both 2004 and 2006. During her 2004 sophomore campaign, she won the NCAC’s pitching triple crown, as she led the conference in wins (12), strikeouts (146), and ERA (0.57). A season later, she led the league with 18 wins and placed second in strikeouts (133) and ERA (2.10), leading the Gators to their second consecutive NCAC championship and trip to the NCAA Regionals. As a senior in 2006, she posted a 1.81 ERA with 137 strikeouts in 116 innings pitched en route to her second NCAC Pitcher of the Year laurel. In addition, she was named to the NCAC’s 30th Anniversary All-Decade Team in 2013.

Photo caption:

From left: Rebecca Smullin Dawson ’00, Liz Orr Sowa ’03, Giannina Coccaro Sardis ’06, Nick Catanzarite ’03, Ben Rathfon ’05, and Jane Och Sharpless ’03