FORT MYERS, Fla. – FGCU volleyball great Dana Axner has been named to FGCU’s 2023 Hall of Fame Class, as announced by the university Friday.
Axner becomes the 10th FGCU student-athlete to earn the honor, and the third FGCU volleyball player alongside Amanda Carroll and Cortney VanLiew.
The FGCU Hall of Fame is the highest recognition given to student leaders at Florida Gulf Coast University. Each year, up to 10 students who demonstrate superior leadership, integrity and achievement as members of the university community are selected for this honor.
“Being selected to the FGCU Hall of Fame is a distinctive honor that really highlights the overall impact that Dana has had here,” said FGCU volleyball head coach Matt Botsford. “We are all aware of her achievements out on the court, but what makes Dana so special is that she has always been engaged within our university and Southwest Florida community in ways that transcend sport. She is a true leader, an exceptional student and now teacher, a caring and engaged citizen of this institution, and a consummate representative of all things FGCU. I am so happy to see Dana being recognized for her valued contributions to this amazing place.”
“We are thrilled at the news of Dana becoming our 10th phenomenal Eagle Scholar-Athlete to be bestowed FGCU’s highest honor for a student,” said FGCU Director of Athletics Ken Kavanagh. “She more than exemplifies what the Hall of Fame represents, and we were blessed to have her as one of our wonderful leaders the past five years on and off the court.”
The two-time ASUN Defensive Player of the Year and fifth year senior left her mark on the court as both FGCU’s and the ASUN’s all-time leader in career digs with 2,465. Axner achieved the feat in the ASUN Tournament Championship sweep of Liberty to punch the Eagles’ (26-7, 13-3 ASUN) ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
The prolific libero also garnered ASUN All-Tournament and ASUN Second Team honors this past season with 507 digs, second most in the conference by posting seven matches of 20-or-more digs and a season high of 33.
Axner’s 4.53 digs per set in 2022 placed fourth across the ASUN. Her back row presence helped FGCU harness one the nation’s lowest opponent hitting percentages, No. 29 at .168 percent.
Axner completed her undergraduate degree in secondary mathematics education, accompanied by a 3.90 GPA, and is now seeking her graduate certificate in educational technology. She is a three-time ASUN All-Academic Team honoree and the 2021 ASUN’s Fall Winner of Life.
She earned all-conference recognition all five seasons, including first-team distinction in 2018 and in 2019.
On top of it all, Axner – who was a 2022-23 member of the Eagles Council student-athlete advisory committee – actively led the team’s Hurricane Ian recovery efforts throughout the community.
EAGLES ATHLETES IN FGCU HALL OF FAME
Steve Binninger | Men’s Tennis | 2012 | Bioengineering
Shannon Blizzard | Swimming & Diving | 2013 | Chemistry
Deion Jones | Men’s Soccer | 2013 | Environmental Studies
Sarah Hansen | Women’s Basketball | 2014 | Chemistry
Kelsey Carpenter | Softball | 2015 | Exercise Science/Physical Therapy
Emma Svensson | Swimming & Diving | 2015 | Economics
Elizabeth Means | Women’s Tennis | 2016 | Business Management
Amanda Carroll | Volleyball/Beach Volleyball | 2021 | M.A. Educational Leadership
Cortney VanLiew | Volleyball/Beach Volleyball | 2021 | Accounting
2023 FGCU HALL OF FAME CLASS
College of Arts & Sciences
Kea Siuko Kamiya
College of Education
Marieb College of Health & Human Services
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Matt Botsford completed his ninth season as head coach of the FGCU women’s volleyball program after being hired on Feb. 10, 2014. In his tenure, Botsford-led teams have compiled a 210-66 (.761) overall record, including a 109-23 (.826) mark in ASUN play. Botsford the winningest coach in FGCU history and ranks 13th in the nation among all active DI coaches in career winning percentage. He has taken the program to heights it has not seen in the Division-I era (2007-present), registering at least 20 wins in eight of the past nine seasons (excluding COVID 2020) and at least 10 wins in conference play every year. This season (2022), Botsford recorded his 200th career win at FGCU with a 3-0 sweep of Queens en route to back-to-back ASUN Tournament Titles and a third NCAA Tournament appearance. In 2018, he led the Eagles program to its first regular-season championship since 2012 and its first-ever ASUN Tournament Title, NCAA Tournament appearance, NCAA Tournament win and victory over a ranked team. His first two campaigns resulted in ASUN regular season runner-up finishes, and the following two saw the Eagles advance to the tournament championship. Now, FGCU has made seven straight ASUN title match appearances, won four-straight regular season titles (five total under Botsford), including capturing three ASUN Tournament Championship crowns. On Sept. 10, 2016, Botsford led the Eagles to a five-set win over Indiana in Alico Arena, which signified the program’s first-ever win over a team from a Power-5 conference. In 2018, he also led his squad to a win over Miami (Fla.) – the program’s first-ever road Power 5 win and the Eagles followed that up with a straight-set win over the Hurricanes at a neutral site in 2019. In 2021, the Green & Blue posted its best-ever RPI of 31 and tallied 27 victories, tying the program record previously set in 2016, 2018 and 2019 seasons, and notched a NCAA First Round win over Texas Tech. The win over the Red Raiders marked the second NCAA First Round win for the Eagles following its 3-2 win over No. 13 UCF in Orlando in 2018. Furthermore, FGCU has now been the home to the ASUN’s Player of the Year for the six consecutive season.
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FGCU Athletics sponsors events in November and April to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (https://www.fgcu.edu/adminservices/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit https://www.fgcu.edu/adminservices/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.
FGCU teams have combined to win an incredible 97 conference regular season and tournament titles in just 15-plus seasons at the Division I level. Additionally, in just 11-plus seasons of D-I postseason eligibility, the Eagles have had a combined 48 teams or individuals compete in NCAA championships. In 2022, the men’s golf team became the first program to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Nine FGCU programs have earned a top-25 national ranking in their respective sport – including women’s basketball (No. 20 in 2021-22 and No. 22 in 2022-23), baseball (No. 15 in 2023), beach volleyball (No. 20 in 2022), and both men’s soccer (2018, 2019) and women’s soccer (2018) as five of the most recent. In 2016-17, the Green & Blue posted a department-best sixth-place finish in the DI-AAA Learfield Directors’ Cup and top-100 showing nationally, ahead of several Power-5 and FBS institutions. In 2018-19, the Eagles had an ASUN and state of Florida best seven teams earn the NCAA’s Public Recognition Award for their Academic Progress Rate in their sport. FGCU also collectively earned a record 3.67 GPA in the classroom in the fall 2022 semester and has outperformed the general University undergraduate population for 27 consecutive semesters. The past seven semesters (Fall 2019 – Fall 2022) saw another milestone reached as all 15 programs achieved a 3.0-or-higher cumulative team GPA. The Eagles also served an all-time high 7,200 volunteer hours in 2017 – being recognized as one of two runners-up for the inaugural NACDA Community Service Award presented by the Fiesta Bowl.