Four Engineers Named to CoSIDA Men's Academic All-District Team

Seniors Craig Cheney, Joey Rafidi, Paul Syta and Edwin Zhang
Seniors Craig Cheney, Joey Rafidi, Paul Syta and Edwin Zhang

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Four MIT student-athletes were named to the Capital One Academic All-District At-Large team, as announced by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) on Thursday afternoon. Seniors Craig Cheney (Sherwood, Ore.), Joey Rafidi (Los Angeles, Calif.), Paul Syta (Fairport, N.Y.), and Edwin Zhang (Falls Church, Va.) will represent MIT on the national ballot and will vie for Academic All-America honors, which will be voted on next month.                                              

Cheney enjoyed a successful four-year career on the MIT water polo team, leaving his mark in a variety of ways. He wrapped up his senior season second on the team in both goals (49) and assists (22), and first in steals (73), ejections drawn (40), blocks (15) and rebounds (16). His 204 career goals has him atop the top 10 list in the MIT record book. He was an Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) second team All-American and was among a group of 29 male student-athletes from all divisions to receive an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship to pursue a master’s in mechanical engineering at MIT. He previously researched at MICA, where he did Jaipur prosthetic foot testing.

A two-year captain on the fencing team, Rafidi is appearing on the national ballot for the second time in his career, after being named to the 2013 CoSIDA Academic All-America first team. At the NCAA Championship in March, he received the Elite 89 Award for achieving the highest grade point average among his competitors. Rafidi went on to finish ninth for the second year in a row and was the only Division III epee qualifier in a field of 24 participants. At the New England Championships, he earned MIT’s first individual title in 19 years. An electrical engineering and computer science major, Rafidi has a patent pending for a medical device that alerts caregivers to the onset of pressure ulcer development in spinal cord injury patients. In addition, he built a motorized arm to practice fencing drills.

Syta played and started all 31 matches as a setter on the Engineers’ volleyball team, helping lead MIT to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. He tallied 750 assists, 226 digs, 126 kills, 51 blocks, and 31 aces en route to United Volleyball Conference (UVC) All-Conference second team honors. Last month, Syta was named an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) second team All-American, becoming the first setter to represent MIT on the list. A mathematics and business major, he was an actuarial intern at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he performed due diligence on pension clients’ financial statements to ensure compliance with IRC requirements.

Just yesterday, MIT men’s tennis senior Zhang received the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Northeast region’s Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award for the second consecutive year. He ended the season with a record of 14-7 in singles action and 15-4 in doubles. He helped lead the Engineers to its 16th straight New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) title by winning both singles and both doubles matches throughout the weekend, being named the NEWMAC Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row and the Tournament Most Outstanding Player. The electrical engineering, computer science and mathematics major has held internships with Kamcord, Crittercism, Northrop Grumman Corporation and Cooliris, Inc.

The Academic All-America teams are set to be released at the beginning of June.