October 30, 2013

Women's Soccer Takes Home Two Major Awards as Six Players Receive Postseason Recognition

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – For the first time since joining the America East, the UMBC women's soccer took home a major award, with the league's front-runner snagging two of the six key distinctions. The Retrievers' staff was named Coaching Staff of the Year by the league's coaches and red-shirt junior Jessy Brown (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) garnered Co-Midfielder of the Year recognition. Six UMBC players were honored for nine conference honors, the most-ever by the women's soccer team, as announced by the conference office on Wednesday.

Head coach Leslie Wray and her staff earned just the second Coach of the Year honor in program history for the Retrievers after completing the conference's biggest turnaround ever, going from worst in the America East in 2012 to first in the league in 2013. UMBC enjoyed a 10-win increase from a year ago and matched the program's highest win total ever, posting an 11-5-2 mark. The Retrievers added in a share of their first-ever regular season title on Sunday and the No. 1-seed in the upcoming America East Championship, leading to a top-10 ranking in this week's NSCAA/Continental Tire NCAA Division I Women's Northeast Poll.   

Brown picked up three awards on Wednesday, receiving a midfielder's highest distinction, along with spots on the America East First Team and the All-Academic Team. The 2013 America East Women's Soccer Fans' Choice Player of the Year Alexa Quaranta (Baltimore, Md./Perry Hall) joined Brown to become just the third UMBC women's soccer players to be named to the AEC First Team.

Senior goalkeeper Lauren Kadet (Oakville, Ontario/St. Thomas Aquinas) became a two-time selection of the America East Second Team. Also selected to the 13-member squad was sophomore back Amira Walcott (Beltsville, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt) and freshman midfielder Meg Kowalski (Freehold, N.J./Freehold Township), who also received All-Rookie Team honors.

Brown enjoyed a breakout season after returning from an ACL injury that sidelined her throughout most of the 2012 campaign. The red-shirt junior, who entered the season without a goal, propelled the Retrievers with six goals, including a conference-best five game-winners. Brown became the first-ever UMBC women's soccer player to earn back-to-back America East Player of the Week honors after punching home the game-winner in three straight contests. The Plantation, Fla., native capped off the regular season by earning her third conference Player of the Week honor and receiving national recognition as TopDrawerSoccer.com Player of the Week.   

After starting the season on the Retrievers' backline, Quaranta moved to the forward position due to a number of UMBC injuries and proved to be just the spark the black and gold needed. The sophomore matched UMBC's highest goals output since 2005, scoring seven goals on the year, including five in a five-game span during conference play. Quaranta, a two-time America East Player of the Week, ended the regular season ranked in the top-five in shots, points, goals and game-winning goals.  

Kadet led the conference in saves per game in each of her first three seasons in Baltimore and in 2013 became UMBC's all-time saves leader, amassing 379 stops in her career. Kadet blanked four opponents in her senior season to tie for fifth on the program's all-time shutout list. The veteran has played every minute between the pipes this season and has helped the Retrievers to surrender under 20 goals for the first time since joining the America East. This is her third postseason honor in four seasons.  

A 2012 All-Rookie Team honoree, Walcott again proved to be a shutdown defender in 2013, while also adding an offensive threat to her repertoire. The second-year defender is tied for third on the team in points (eight), after connecting on three goals and two assists in the regular season. Walcott amassed five of her eight points during a four-game span in conference play. 

Despite battling injuries in her first campaign with the Retrievers, Kowalski ranks in the top-10 in the league in both assists (three) and assists per game (0.23). Four of the rookies' five points have come during conference play, including a pair of helpers in a 2-1 double overtime victory at Stony Brook.

Sophomore back Nikki Boretti (Crofton, Md./Archbishop Spalding) rounded out the awards by joining Brown on the AEC All-Academic Team. Boretti, a biology major, was one of two members of the 11-person team to post a perfect 4.0 GPA, while Brown has posted a 3.70 GPA also in biology. Boretti and Brown are just the fourth members of the Retrievers to be named to the league's academic squad, joining Aly Gazarek (2010, 2011) and Jessica Young (2005).

The league's leading scorer during conference play, junior Chanel Johnson (Hartford) picked up Striker of the Year, while teammate Stephanie Santos shared Midfielder of the Year recognition. Maine's senior defender Maggie Malone earned her first postseason honor, being named the Defender of the Year and earning a spot on the league's first team. The co-regular season champion Stony Brook Seawolves saw its defender Ashley Castanio receive Goalkeeper of the Year, while Vermont's freshman Nikki McFarland earned Rookie of the Year.

The America East Championship opens with quarterfinal action on Thursday, Oct. 31 when No. 3 Maine plays host to No. 6 Binghamton at 1 p.m., followed by No. 4 Hartford hosting No. 5 Vermont at 6 p.m. The Retrievers await the winner of the nightcap and No. 2 Stony Brook awaits the winner of the Black Bears and the Bearcats. The black and gold will host semifinal action on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. at Retriever Soccer Park, while the Seawolves are set for a 2 p.m. first kick on Sunday.