Newcomer of the Year // NSW Awards // Season 15

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Whether they were a transfer from a different school, moving from club to varsity, or starting a career as a freshman, these athletes came onto the scene taking their leagues by storm. Alex Campbell has our nominees for Newcomer of the Year sponsored by Advantage Acura.

Kira Hutson

After only playing club volleyball during her first two years at Metea Valley High School, Newcomer of the Year nominee Kira Hutson joined the Mustangs girls’ volleyball team as a junior this fall. Her decision to do so paid off not only for her, but for her new teammates as well. Coming off of a 4-10 season the previous spring, Hutson helped lead Metea to their first ever IHSA state championship in any sport, winning the 4A title with a final record of 40-2. The 6’4 outside hitter was named 1st Team All-State, as well as a 1stTeam All-American by PrepVolleyball, following a season in which she set a new single season program record with 477 kills, including 25 over the course of the state semifinal and final matches. She also rarely made mistakes when she went on the attack, posting a hitting percentage for the season over .500. With a year left to play where she’ll hope to repeat her sweep of both individual and team accolades, she’s already committed to play for the University of Florida Gators, who this season finished third in the SEC.

Sofia Olaru

Newcomer of the Year nominee Sofia Olaru wasted no time making her mark on the DVC, announcing herself as a dominant force in the girls high school tennis scene within her first few weeks at Naperville Central. In conference competition, as the Redhawks number one singles player, few opponents were able to put up much of a fight. She won her DVC conference tournament semifinal match without losing a game, and won the conference final in straight sets as well. She entered the Benet Academy sectional as the number-one-ranked girls singles player, and backed that up with more strong showings. She made her way to the sectional final by dropping just three games over the course of three matches. In the final, she defeated fellow freshman Clare Lopatka of Benet Academy 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the 2A State tournament. She won her first three matches in state competition before falling in the quarterfinal and eventually finishing in 7th place overall, which you’d bet on her to improve upon in the coming years.

MacKenzie Hare

Newcomer of the Year nominee MacKenzie Hare might only have spent one season in the DVC, but she racked up a full career’s worth of honors in that short time. After averaging 30 points-per-game in her junior season at Bartlett High School, Hare’s family moved to Naperville and she joined the Huskies’ girls basketball team. She was an immediate star at Naperville North, averaging 20.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 steals-per-game to lead the Huskies to both conference and regional championships. Together with teammates like Sarah Crossett and Abby Drendel, North advanced all the way to the sectional championship game, before falling to Benet Academy. Hare was also named 1st Team All State and was nominated for the McDonald’s All American Team. Hare also eclipsed 2,000 career high school points this season, and her four years of preps excellence earned her an offer to play for the Marquette University Golden Eagles. One of the best DVC basketball players in recent years, Hare won’t be soon forgotten despite her brief tenure with the Huskies.

Mason Hofmann & Jack Reif

Next it’s another inclusion for Naperville North, and a two-for-one at that with the star freshmen water polo duo of Mason Hofmann and Jack Reif. The two first year players combined for a staggering 207 goal involvements, with 78 goals and 27 assists for Hofmann and 58 goals and 44 assists for Reif. The pair served as perfect complements for the team’s leading goal scorer, senior Tyson Berg. Their individual success in the pool translated into team success for the Huskies, who posted a 23-5 record this season and won a sectional championship for the first time since 2014. They fell in the state quarterfinals but Reif, who’s mom Kelly is the Huskies’ head coach, scored three of Naperville North’s six goals in their final game of the campaign against Lyons Township. Both players were named 2nd Team All State, and the Huskies are certainly set up for success in the years to come with such a powerful one-two punch.

Zawadi Brown

And finally, we had two athletes for one nomination but how about one athlete who starred in two different sports? And better yet, two sports that were played simultaneously! It was quite the spring for Neuqua Valley sophomore Zawadi Brown, who shined both inside the track and on it. For the Wildcats girls’ lacrosse team, Brown scored 27 goals in 17 games to help lead them to an undefeated regular season in DVC play and a sectional semifinal upset win over the St. Charles Co-Op. They went on to lose a heartbreaker in the sectional final to Benet by a score of 14-13 with Brown scoring three goals. But her lacrosse season pales in comparison to what she did on the track as Brown earned All State honors in the 200 meter dash, 400 meter dash, and as the anchor for the Wildcats’ 4×100 meter relay team, while also qualifying for state in the long jump. All of that after a sectional performance where she won the 200, 400 and 4×100 relay and finished second in long jump. Quite the busy spring and an impressive breakout season for Brown.

And the Newcomer of the Year goes to….Kira Hutson! Congratulations, Kira! We can’t wait to see what you have in store for your senior season in the black and gold!

For more prep sports content, visit our Naperville Sports Weekly page!