COLONIE — Morgan Burchhardt’s college career may be through, but the accolades keep coming her way.
One of the all-time soccer greats at The College of Saint Rose and an academic star, as well, Burchhardt Tuesday night was named the Grand Collegiate Capital District Sports Women of the Year in a ceremony at The Desmond Hotel.
Burchhardt’s story is one of great accomplishment in a variety of circles, and one of perseverance, too, with the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School graduate missing the 2016 and 2017 soccer seasons due to injury before leading the Golden Knights to an NCAA final four appearance in her sixth and last season at the institution.
“This season, I didn’t care who scored,” said Burchhardt, who compiled over 100 points in her Saint Rose career. “I was on a mission to get the girls to the final four.”
As part of Tuesday’s inaugural Capital District Sports Women of the Year Awards Event, 13 student-athletes in all were honored for athletic success, outstanding academic performance and service to their communities, three in the collegiate division and 10 in the high school division. Lydia Ware, who left her mark at Averill Park as one of its all-time best sprinters, was the Grand Scholastic Capital District Sports Woman of the Year award recipient.
“I think every girl here deserves that award for their own reasons,” Ware said. “What makes this special is all of us have succeeded in so many ways. There’s such diversity in this group.”
Burchhardt led a group of Saint Rose players to the NCAA Division II semifinal round last fall after making it there as a freshman back in 2014.
“When I was a freshman, I went to the final four, and I was on the field with previous national champions [from the 2011 campaign],” Burchhardt said. “They took me under their wing, and I’ll always remember that. I knew one day I was going to do that. It was just a matter of time.”
Burchhardt missed the 2016 and 2017 seasons due to a torn ACL in her left knee, which required two surgeries, but refused to let that setback end her playing days. She finished her collegiate career fourth in program annals with 114 points, which included 52 assists for the No. 2 spot on the all-time Saint Rose list, and 31 goals.
“I’m very proud of what I did at Burnt Hills, and I’m very proud of what I did at Saint Rose,” Burchhardt said. “I always wanted to reach that national level.”
Burchhardt’s last collegiate goal was the game-winner, a 35-foot blast on a free kick, which sent Saint Rose past Bloomsburg 2-1 and into the NCAA final four, where the Knights’ season came to a halt.
“It’s a special moment,” the four-time Northeast-10 All-Conference selection said of the goal, which, at the time, had given Saint Rose a 2-0 advantage late in the first half. “It’s something I’ll always remember.”
Burchhardt is one of only eight players in school history to record 100 career points, and in her final season, she was one of 14 active players in the country with 30 goals and 20 assists. She is the only player in school annals to record 10 or more assists in four separate seasons.
“I never wanted to disappoint,” Burchhardt said. “I always wanted to put on a show.”
Following the 2019 season, Burchhardt was named a United Soccer Coaches third-team All-America pick and earned United Soccer Coaches first-team All-East honors. She was a Northeast 10 first-team All-Conference pick and made the NE-10 Championship All-Tournament Team and made the NCAA National Championship All-Tournament Team. For her academic work, the double business major was named a United Soccer Coaches second team Scholar All-American and a United Soccer Coaches first team Scholar All-East.
Burchhardt was a former two-year Executive Board member of the Saint Rose Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a four year member of SAAC, and was named the recipient of the 2019 Michael Simpson Striker Award, which is bestowed upon a Golden Knights men’s or women’s soccer player who is active in community service as determined by the athletics coaching staff.
She is a volunteer at Capital City Rescue Mission, organized Penny Wars, a fundraiser for the Strength in Numbers non-profit organization, coaches U-10 and U-12 girls’ teams with Albany Alleycats Premier, and is a Delaware Community School Volunteer.
“I strongly recommend Morgan for this honor,” Saint Rose women’s soccer coach Laurie Darling Gutheil wrote in a pre-event testimonial. “She is a well-rounded, disciplined and academically superb student-athlete who demonstrates the highest level of character, leadership and commitment while performing her sport at the national level. In addition, Morgan has demonstrated the ability to overcome significant adversity in her sport and return to national prominence.”
While at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Burchhardt helped the Spartans win four Section II soccer championships.
Ware played soccer to go with her exploits with the Averill Park track and field team, and completed her career with several state meet appearances and all-star team selections while setting four individual school records and contributing to six relay school records.
“I have an innate desire to keep improving,” said Ware, who will run track at Roberts Wesleyan University in Rochester. “I am never satisfied. I like to see myself improving, and track is great for that.”
Academically, in addition to being her class valedictorian, Ware was a member of the National Honor Society and participated in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program, where she earned High Honors after finishing in the top 30% of selected students.
Aside from serving on the Averill Park Student-Athlete Advisory Council and co-founding the APHS Science Club, Ware is a dedicated volunteer at Brunswick Church, which she’s attended “since probably a couple days after I was born.” At her church, Ware is heavily involved in Music Ministries, Child Nurture Ministries and Vacation Bible School.
“I love to help younger people grow, and I do that by setting an example,” Ware said.
“Lydia is one of those few student-athletes that you come across that just has it all,” Averill Park athletic director Mark Bubniak wrote in a pre-event testimonial. “She is a tremendous student, talented athlete, and serves her school, community, and church in a variety of ways. I believe that Lydia is the definition of the Capital District Sports Women of the Year. I honestly do not know how she does so much with such little free time yet continues to excel at all that she does.”
The other scholastic division honorees were MacKenzie Brown (Rensselaer), Amelia Canetto (Taconic Hills), Morgan Fish (Fort Edward), Rachel Hunsicker (Lake George), Brytney Moore (Northville), Brooke Pickett (Stillwater), Makenzie Terrell (Middleburgh), Lauren Willis (South Glens Falls) and Rachel Wnuk (Galway). Liz Brady (RPI) and Megan Flynn (Russell Sage) were also honored in the collegiate division.
“This is such a great event, and it will continue for years to come,” Burchhardt said. “I am proud to be a part of the first class.”
The 2020 Capital District Sports Women of the Year Awards Event was originally scheduled to take place on May 12, but that was postponed due to the coronavirus. Tuesday’s event was limited to the award winners and their parents, though a live web stream video of the festivities was available at CDSWOY.COM.
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.