Junior Natalie Diorio (Byron Center) of the Ferris State University women's tennis team has been selected as the 2010-11 recipient of the FSU Athletics Department's Jimmy Swears Courage Award.
Diorio suffered a rotator cuff injury in the middle of the Bulldogs' 2010 fall season which impacted her ability to serve. She endured constant pain and discomfort but was able to complete the fall campaign. However, medical complications ensued from a diagnosis of the injury which caused Diorio temporary loss of her arm. Through her committment and spirited determination, Diorio came back in the spring and played an integral part in the team's noteworthy success.
In early November 2011, Diorio suffered a rare reaction to the dye injection during an MRI and lost the complete use of her arm for several weeks. The resulting pain caused her to lose sleep for several weeks and she could only rest comfortably upright in a chair. As a result, Diorio missed the entire winter offseason for practice and was told by her doctor that it would be years before she could play tennis again. However, Diorio battled though and worked her way back into the lineup after the New Year despite having to serve underhand.
"Congratulations to Natalie for exhibiting the spirit, toughness
and courage in battling through her situation to not only return to
playing tennis but to do so in the competitive collegiate
environment," said Ferris State Athletics Director Perk Weisenburger. "We are so
proud of what she has accomplished and we are pleased to honor her
courageousness with this award."
The Jimmy Swears Courage Award is presented to a deserving student or current personnel within the Bulldog Athletics program, who when confronted with a life-altering situation, has used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the odds. Nominees are an inspiration to their peers, serve as a role model to others and be a team leader while responding to adversity. Those individuals nominated for the award must be involved with the Bulldog intercollegiate athletics program and possibily include student-athletes, student managers, student coaches and/or student athletic trainers in addition to current athletics department personnel.
The award is named in honor of longtime FSU Athletics booster Jim Swears, who passed away Jan. 17, 2007, at the age of 64 following a lengthy bout with cancer. A local businessman and community activist, Swears was a strong supporter of Ferris State men's ice hockey, football, and basketball. He worked diligently to help develop and maintain FSU's status as a NCAA Division I men's ice hockey program. Additionally, Swears served on the board of directors for the Big Rapids Area Junior Hockey Association and was an active member of the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association. He was the 2006 recipient of the Northern Lights Lifetime Achievement Award for business and industry in the Big Rapids (Mich.) area.
"Natalie was a real trooper and never gave up for one second," said FSU women's tennis head coach Alex Palladino. "She fought through several tough matches on guts alone and as the spring wore on, she was able to begin serving overhand but with very limited power."
Diorio completed the 2010-11 season by posting a 19-5 record in singles play and was 18-7 in doubles competition. She compiled a 17-3 mark at the number sixth singles position this past campaign and sports a current 42-19 career ledger in singles action. The 5-8 Diorio completed the 2011 spring season with identical 8-3 records in both singles and doubles.
Diorio played a key role this season in helping Ferris State post a 20-5 overall record, which included a 9-2 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) mark. She helped the Bulldogs clinch a number four regional ranking and earn a spot among the NCAA Division II National Tournament's final 32 teams.
Courage Award Recipients
2010-11 - Natalie Diorio (Women's Tennis)
2009-10 - Richard Weisenberger (Men's Golf)
2008-09 - Aaron Lewicki (Men's Ice Hockey)
2007-08 - No recipient
2006-07 - Mark Bomersback (Men's Ice Hockey)