Morrisville State College's Leva and Houghtalen Receive NEAC Inspirational Awards

Morrisville State's Elizabeth Leva (left) and Ryan Houghtalen (right) overcame adversity in 2016-17 to earn the NEAC Inspirational Award.
Morrisville State's Elizabeth Leva (left) and Ryan Houghtalen (right) overcame adversity in 2016-17 to earn the NEAC Inspirational Award.

GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – Morrisville State College’s Elizabeth Leva and Ryan Houghtalen have been selected as recipients of the 2016-17 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Inspirational Award.

Each year, the NEAC honors student-athletes within the conference that have endured personal hardships leading to bravery or dedication within athletics through participation, volunteerism, coaching or administration. Leva and Houghtalen are two of five student-athletes to receive a NEAC Inspirational Award this year.

A member of the Mustangs’ field hockey and women’s lacrosse teams, Leva was preparing for her senior season when she was involved in a serious car accident in the summer of 2016. The Hoosick Falls, N.Y. native suffered a serious head injury after the car she was riding in was struck by a drunk driver, leaving Leva’s future as a student-athlete in question. While she was recovering from the injuries sustained in the accident, Leva remained on the sidelines with her field hockey teammates at the start of the fall. After missing the first month of the season, Leva returned to competition in a new role on the field. Leva appeared in just two games in goal, her original position, but she represented the Mustangs on the field in 14 games and made eight starts.  

Leva returned to the lacrosse field in the spring but an early season head injury caused another setback and sidelined her for nearly a month. Persevering through another recovery process, Leva returned to the field to help lead Morrisville State to its second NEAC title in three years and wrapped up her lacrosse career with a second appearance to the NCAA tournament. The Mustangs’ midfielder compiled 29 goals, 13 assists and 88 draw controls in 15 games to earn NEAC Third-Team All-Conference honors.

“Elizabeth is a leader in every sense of the word by competing with class, dignity and respect,” said Brandy Thurston, Morrisville State College Associate Athletic Director for Sports Information and Compliance. “Although she suffered some setbacks, Elizabeth didn’t let any situation deter her from seeing her athletic career through to the final whistle. Her character, work ethic and leadership are all admirable.”

Just a few days into the 2016 soccer season, Houghtalen went to Urgent Care for what he thought was a muscle strain in a lower extremity. After meeting with the attending physician, the Mustangs’ junior defender was diagnosed with cancer. Houghtalen underwent surgery to remove the mass a few days after receiving his diagnosis, leaving his season and collegiate career in doubt. However after a short recovery period, Houghtalen was cleared to return to the field and made an immediate impact on his team. Within 24 hours of his return, he scored his first goal as a Mustang and added an assist in a win.

Houghtalen, who hails from Syracuse, N.Y., started 13 of the 15 games he appeared in while scoring two goals and two assists. His second goal of the season came in the NEAC Championship game to help lift the Mustangs to their third-straight conference title. In addition to his successful return to play, Houghtalen also earned NEAC Scholar-Athlete accolades in 2016-17.  With his dedication and commitment going beyond his efforts as a full-time student-athlete, Houghtalen also devotes his time to serving his country in the armed forces and often reports for duty.

“Ryan is a natural leader who leads by example with the utmost dignity and respect,” added Thurston. “Despite facing adversity in the beginning of the season, Ryan persevered without any excuse and was able to return to the soccer pitch while also maintaining his commitments outside of Morrisville State. He is a committed young man who wants the best for those around him.”

Throughout the week, the NEAC will be recognizing its 2016-17 Inspirational Award winners with the final recipient to be announced Friday at neacsports.com.

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The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) has fourteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Bryn Athyn College, Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University – Abington, Pennsylvania State University – Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville State College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Wells College, and Wilson College.  Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M&W Lacrosse, M Volleyball), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse, M Volleyball), Pennsylvania State University – Altoona (M Volleyball), and Rutgers University – Camden (M Golf).  The NEAC has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of field hockey and men’s and women’s tennis.  For more information, please visit: www.neacsports.com.