Gizzarelli and Akana Named Student-Athletes of the Month

Gizzarelli will graduate with hopes of being a physician's assistant

Dec. 18, 2012

Cross country runner Lia Gizzarelli (Newburgh, N.Y.) and volleyball standout Taylor Akana (Kaneohe, Hawaii) have been named Siena College’s Leo Dufort Student Athletes of the Month representing the month of November.  Both student athletes have excelled both on the field and in the classroom.

Gizzarelli, a senior biology major on the women’s cross country team, currently holds a 3.9 GPA, one of the tops in the school.

“I am honored to be recognized as a student athlete of the month,” she said.  “I work very hard to not only be a leader for my team at practice each day but also to be a leader in academics. Excelling in the classroom is extremely important to me and I am very appreciative towards everything Siena has offered to me during my four years here in both academics and athletics.”

On the course, Gizzarelli helped the youthful Saints to several successful finishes.  Her top performance this fall was a top-25 finish in the Fr. O’Neil Invitational where Siena finished in fourth.

Akana holds a 3.8 GPA

Akana, a junior marketing major, holds a 3.8 GPA and is a member of the school’s 4.0 club in 2011. 

“I appreciate this recognition of any athlete that excels both on the court and in the classroom,” Akana said.  “Academic success was instilled in my life from early childhood and I see it as a challenge that serves as a stepping stone for postgraduate success.”

Success on the court is no stranger to Akana.  She comes off a season where she led the MAAC in kills, a feat that she has accomplished three straight years.  She also became the fastest player in conference history to 1,000 kills and became the first Siena junior to amass 1000 kills and 1000 digs.

The Leo Dufort Student Athlete of the Month Award is presented nine times annually (September-May) throughout the academic year. The award recognizes exemplary achievements in both academics and athletics. The late Leo Dufort received a B.S. in marketing and management from Siena in August of 1977. His entire academic career was completed on a part-time basis beginning in the spring of 1961, as a married adult while at the same time raising five children. He passed away suddenly of a heart attack while cross country skiing in February of 1993. His wife Jeanine wanted to do something to immortalize his memory. The original plaque was donated to athletics and the department began the Leo Dufort Student-Athlete of the Month Award to help carry out his legacy. Dufort graduated from Catholic Central High School in 1954, was a Navy Veteran (USS Bennington) who worked for JL Hammett Co. at the time of his death.