Lexi Eaton had one of the best lines of Wednesday night, noting how she felt like a surprise winner at BYU's annual "Y Awards."
Eaton, nominated as the department's comeback athlete of the year, gave a sly smile and turned an individual commendation into a team honor:
"I definitely feel like this is an upset. But as we found out a couple of weeks ago, the women's basketball team is pretty good at that," said Eaton, whose recovery from knee surgery was one of the virtues that resonated with Cougar fans and colleagues this year.
The women's basketball team was the big winner at the Marriott Center.
Jeff Judkins was selected the department's best head coach. Jennifer Hamson, who also plays volleyball, was called to the stage as the top female athlete — another vote taken by peers.
The Cougars were throttled in the West Coast Conference tournament championship game in early March, but still earned an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
As a No. 12 seed, the Cougars made waves from there — all the way to becoming only the third team in history at that ranking to advance to the Sweet 16 (and BYU's first visit that far since 2002).
The Cougars also hung around with national power UConn for about 30 minutes.
Judkins choked up on stage after accepting his award, thanking his team, staff and wife for supporting him during the "good days and the bad days."
Could there have been many bad days for a group that was also selected by its peers as the top women's team?
"Sometimes when you're good, or have the chance to be good, it's harder," Judkins said. "You just don't want it to somehow be a season that slips through your fingers. You want the opportunities to happen."
Eaton's "comeback" nomination as a high-scoring guard may have been a little bit of a surprise, considering star football player Taysom Hill was another choice coming off a significant knee injury the previous season.
Hamson's selection wasn't a shock, considering she's been a conference player of the year in two sports — and how the crowd applauded whenever her name came up.
"We're going to miss that kid," Judkins said of the popular 6-foot-7 Hamson. "She caused a lot of problems for other teams. You couldn't have scripted a better senior year for her."
Basketball player Tyler Haws — only a junior — was selected for his community service, and also as the top male athlete (a tie with volleyball's Taylor Sander).
Jamaal Williams, who finished his sophomore year at running back, was picked as the top crowd pleaser. (That category included Matt Carlino, who announced Tuesday he's leaving the BYU basketball program to play his senior year elsewhere.)
Besides Eaton's one-liner, Kyle Brown brought one, too.
Brown (track and field) once recorded a perfect score on the ACT in high school. Now he has the highest GPA among Cougar athletes.
"I'm grateful to be recognized as the nerdiest athlete at BYU," Brown said.
He joked that coaches told him highlight film would include Brown at the BYU testing center.
Most of the night was laughs, though there were a few tears.
Some winners reminisced during acceptance speeches about obstacles overcome, or their time in Provo.
Judkins choked up talking about the support of his wife, Mary Kaye.
He appreciated the awards for his team, but will also miss the less recognized days.
"This team never had a bad practice," he said.
Of note: Mike Littlewood accepted baseball player Jacob Hannemann's award (male rookie of the year) early in the show. The player is getting ready for his second season of minor-league baseball. ...BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson, whose decade-long term will wrap up this summer, was presented (along with wife, Sharon) with a framed BYU No. 1 jersey and a "Whoosh, Cecil" from the crowd after it had a video replay of a made free throw. ...Haws brought his grandfather, Ralph, on stage to accept an award, saying, "He is the greatest example in my life of selfless service." ...Softball's Gordy Bravo made it to the show just in time to accept a top-newcomer award. The Cougars needed eight innings to defeat Utah State at nearby Miller Field not long before the program started.
Female Rookie of the Year (Freshman or redshirt freshman): Gordy Bravo, softball
Male Rookie of the Year: Jacob Hannemann, baseball
Assistant Coach of the Year: Stephanie Perkins, track and field
Outstanding Senior Female Athlete: Erica Owens, soccer
Outstanding Senior Male Athlete: Devin Young, volleyball
Walk-on of the Year: Tia Withers Welling, volleyball
Comeback Athlete of the Year: Lexi Eaton, basketball
Cougar Club Memorial Award (outstanding junior): Francis Sargeant, tennis
Performance of the Year: Taysom Hill (259 yards, 3 TDs rushing against Texas)
Crowd Pleaser — Female: Tambre Haddock, volleyball
Crowd Pleaser — Male: Jamaal Williams, football
Floyd Johnson Service Award: Tyler Haws, basketball
Volunteer of the Year: Randy Larson
Play of the Year: Kelton Caldwell (walk-off home run to put BYU in West Coast Conference tournament).
Spirit of Sport Awards: Natalie Stewart, track; Uani Unga, football.
Kimball Memorial Award (academic): Kyle Brown (track and field).
Coach of the Year: Jeff Judkins, women's basketball
Athletes of the Year: Jennifer Hamson, basketball; Taylor Sander (volleyball) and Tyler Haws (basketball).
Game of the Year: Women's soccer vs. Oklahoma
Teams of the Year: Women's basketball, Men’s volleyball.