Lamar forward Esther Okoronkwo is the 2020 Southland Conference Women’s Soccer Player of the Year, the league announced Monday along with the all-conference teams. Southland Player of the Year awards are presented by Ready Nutrition.
Regular-season conference champion Stephen F. Austin led the way with eight total all-league selections, followed by defending tournament champion Lamar with seven.
Abilene Christian, Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana each earned five spots, and UIW placed four on the teams. Central Arkansas was responsible for two selections, and Houston Baptist, McNeese and Sam Houston rounded out the lists with one all-conference player each.
An LSU transfer, Southeastern Louisiana forward Makenzie Maher is the Newcomer of the Year after starting all 11 matches for the Lady Lions and tying for fourth league-wide in goals (five) and shots on goal (17) against conference foes. She finished second on the team with 25 shots this spring.
Maher’s SLU teammate Emma Jones takes home Freshman of the Year honors, logging all but 30 seconds for the Lady Lions in her rookie campaign. She was a vital cog of the SLU defense that faced 11 overtime periods and surrendered just one golden goal. The Lions slashed their goals allowed in half from 2018, yielding just nine goals in 11 conference contests and posting five shutouts.
Okoronkwo also garners Forward of the Year laurels after pacing the Southland in every offensive category in conference play, including goals (eight), assists (six) and game-winning goals (four). In a 3-0 win over Central Arkansas, she became just the ninth player in Southland history to record three career hat tricks.
The Midfielder of the Year Award goes to Lamar senior Madison Ledet, who tied for fourth with four assists against Southland competition in her final campaign. She assisted on two goals against Southeastern Louisiana on Feb. 12, marking the fourth multi-assist game of her career.
Northwestern State junior Nicole Henry maintained her Defender of the Year title for a second-straight season, anchoring a Lady Demon back line that allowed five goals in league play and recorded eight shutouts. Often the last line of defense for NSU, she routinely thwarted opportunities and turned defense into offense.
However, the Demons were in good hands if someone managed to get past Henry with this year’s Goalkeeper of the Year, Acelya Aydogmus, in net. The three-time Southland Goalie of the Week posted the league’s top marks in goals-against-average (.443), save percentage (.872) and shutouts (7) in conference play. Aydogmus set a program record with six-straight clean sheets from Feb. 6-March 5.
Southeastern Louisiana’s Chris McBride becomes the first Lady Lion leader to garner Coach of the Year honors since Blake Hornbuckle in 2010. Picked 11th in the preseason poll, SLU far exceeded expectations as the team rattled off an eight-match unbeaten streak to claim the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament. The squad’s .683 win percentage is the highest since 2013.
Monday’s announcement saw 14 repeat honorees with Abilene Christian’s Christina Arteaga becoming just the seventh four-time all-conference honoree in league history and the first since 2014. McNeese’s Havana Johnson closed out her Cowgirl tenure with her third all-league award and second career second-team nod.
For participating teams, individual superlative winners and all-conference selections will be recognized before their first games at the 2020 Southland Conference Soccer Tournament in Beaumont, Texas, taking place April 13-17.
The Southland Conference Soccer All-Conference Teams are nominated and voted upon by the league’s head coaches and SIDs.
Player of the Year: Esther Okoronkwo, Lamar
Freshman of the Year: Emma Jones, Southeastern Louisiana
Newcomer of the Year: Makenzie Maher, Southeastern Louisiana
Defender of the Year: Nicole Henry, Northwestern State
Midfielder of the Year: Madison Ledet, Lamar
Forward of the Year: Esther Okoronkwo, Lamar
Goalkeeper of the Year: Acelya Aydogmus, Northwestern State
Coach of the Year: Christopher McBride, Southeastern Louisiana
2020 Southland Conference Soccer All-Conference Teams
|D||Hallie Field2||Northwestern State||So.||Frisco, Texas|
|D||Dalton Fish||Southeastern Louisiana||Jr.||Pflugerville, Texas|
|D||Nicole Henry2||Northwestern State||Jr.||Tomball, Texas|
|D||Jamie Jezierski||Stephen F. Austin||R-Fr.||Spring, Texas|
|D||Emma Jones||Southeastern Louisiana||Fr.||Dripping Springs, Texas|
|MF||Isabella Beletic2||UIW||Sr.||Corpus Christi, Texas|
|MF||Megan Gordon||Southeastern Louisiana||Sr.||Clophill, England|
|MF||Madison Ledet2||Lamar||Sr.||Nederland, Texas|
|MF||Alexis Weaver||Northwestern State||Sr.||Venice, Fla.|
|F||Christina Arteaga4||Abilene Christian||Sr.||Pflugerville, Texas|
|F||Emma Hawkins2||Central Arkansas||So.||Forney, Texas|
|F||Esther Okoronkwo2||Lamar||R-Sr.||Richmond, Texas|
|F||Katelyn Termini2||Stephen F. Austin||Sr.||Frisco, Texas|
|GK||Acelya Aydogmus||Northwestern State||Jr.||Cape Coral, Fla.|
|D||Eve Clarkson||UIW||So.||Whalley, England|
|D||Sophia Manibo2||Lamar||Sr.||Beaumont, Texas|
|D||Meg Sheppard||Lamar||So.||Nederland, Texas|
|MF||Natalie Jones2||Abilene Christian||So.||Lubbock, Texas|
|MF||Brooke Jones||Sam Houston||So.||Aledo, Texas|
|MF||Kaisa Juvonen2||Lamar||So.||Tampere, Finland|
|MF||Megan Paul||Abilene Christian||R-Sr.||Wylie, Texas|
|F||Mya Guillory||Southeastern Louisiana||So.||Prairieville, La.|
|F||Havana Johnson3||McNeese||Sr.||Coeur D’Alene, Idaho|
|F||Christine Kitaru||Lamar||Jr.||Nairobi, Kenya|
|F||Makenzie Maher||Southeastern Louisiana||So.||Denham Springs, La.|
|GK||Nicole Panis||Lamar||So.||Opmeer, Netherlands|
|D||Ellen Joss||Abilene Christian||Jr.||Louisville, Ky.|
|D||Paige Kanipes||Stephen F. Austin||Jr.||Houston, Texas|
|D||Megan Rickert||Houston Baptist||Sr.||Round Rock, Texas|
|D||Gabby Symmank||Abilene Christian||Sr.||McKinney, Texas|
|MF||Abby Gibson||Central Arkansas||So.||Magnolia, Texas|
|MF||Caylon McMillan||Stephen F. Austin||R-Sr.||Forney, Texas|
|MF||Sophie Smith||Stephen F. Austin||R-So.||Colleyville, Texas|
|MF||Hannah Walsh2||UIW||So.||Preston, England|
|F||Destiny Davis||Stephen F. Austin||Sr.||San Antonio, Texas|
|F||Olivia Draguicevich||Northwestern State||So.||Pflugerville, Texas|
|F||Teia Haynes||Stephen F. Austin||Jr.||Cypress, Texas|
|F||Sierra Wannamaker||UIW||Fr.||San Antonio, Texas|
|GK||Madeline Talbot2||Stephen F. Austin||Sr.||Shreveport, La.|
2 – Two-time all-conference selection
3 – Three-time all-conference selection
4 – Four-time all-conference selection