New York Nebraska volleyball standout Sarah Pavan maintained a 4.0 grade-point average in biochemistry while leading the Cornhuskers to a 33-1 season and the NCAA title.
Those achievements earned the junior from Kitchener, Ontario, the 31st annual Honda-Broderick Cup as the nation's female college athlete of the year Monday. She's the fourth volleyball player to win the award and second straight winner from Canada.
Which was tougher, earning a 4.0 or winning a national championship?
"They're both so difficult in different ways," Pavan said. "I'd probably say winning the national championship because there are so many factors that you can't control."
The 6-foot-5 left-hander took control in the championship game last December, registering 22 kills in a 3-1 win against Stanford and earning MVP honors.
Nebraska became the first team outside the Pac-10 in five years to win a title.
Coach John Cook guided the Cornhuskers to their second national title in seven years, the last in 2000. He first saw Pavan play in Salt Lake City when she was 16.
"Players like that are once-in-a-decade recruits," Cook said. "When I did the home visit and looked out the backyard, I saw the cornfield and train tracks. So I knew she would at least find something in common in Nebraska."
Pavan was among five finalists for the honor, beating out a powerful pair of Tennessee players - Candace Parker (basketball) and Monica Abbott (softball). Other nominees included Paula Infante of Maryland (field hockey) and Heather O'Reilly of North Carolina (soccer).
Canadian soccer player Christine Sinclair of the University of Portland won the Honda-Broderick Cup last year.
The award, presented Monday at Columbia University, was voted on by an executive board that recognizes athletic and academic achievement and community involvement.
Pavan led the Big 12 in kills with a 5.10 average, good for 10th in the nation. She's a two-time conference player of the year.
Her parents played volleyball, and Pavan plans to play professionally in Europe and become a pediatrician.
First, she's got another year at Nebraska, where the Coliseum is home of 90 straight sellouts. Does she expect to repeat?
"Yes," she said without hesitation. "I came to Nebraska to win more than one national championship."
Kylee Hanavan, a soccer player from Metropolitan State College in Denver, won the Division II athlete of the year award. Tennis and basketball player Liz Bondi of DePauw University in Indiana captured the Division III honor.
Hanavan, of Northglenn, Colo., led the Roadrunners to two NCAA titles (2004, 2006) and leaves as the career leader in goals (80) and assists (46).
Bondi, of Park Ridge, Ill., is the Division III singles tennis champion and led the basketball team to the national title.