WSOC: Southland Conference releases postseason awards


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

First Team

DHallie Field2Northwestern StateSo.Frisco, Texas
DDalton FishSoutheastern LouisianaJr.Pflugerville, Texas
DNicole Henry2Northwestern StateJr.Tomball, Texas
DJamie JezierskiStephen F. AustinR-Fr.Spring, Texas
DEmma JonesSoutheastern LouisianaFr.Dripping Springs, Texas
MFIsabella Beletic2UIWSr.Corpus Christi, Texas
MFMegan GordonSoutheastern LouisianaSr.Clophill, England
MFMadison Ledet2LamarSr.Nederland, Texas
MFAlexis WeaverNorthwestern StateSr.Venice, Fla.
FChristina Arteaga4Abilene ChristianSr.Pflugerville, Texas
FEmma Hawkins2Central ArkansasSo.Forney, Texas
FEsther Okoronkwo2LamarR-Sr.Richmond, Texas
FKatelyn Termini2Stephen F. AustinSr.Frisco, Texas
GKAcelya AydogmusNorthwestern StateJr.Cape Coral, Fla.

Second Team

DEve ClarksonUIWSo.Whalley, England
DSophia Manibo2LamarSr.Beaumont, Texas
DMeg SheppardLamarSo.Nederland, Texas
MFNatalie Jones2Abilene ChristianSo.Lubbock, Texas
MFBrooke JonesSam HoustonSo.Aledo, Texas
MFKaisa Juvonen2LamarSo.Tampere, Finland
MFMegan PaulAbilene ChristianR-Sr.Wylie, Texas
FMya GuillorySoutheastern LouisianaSo.Prairieville, La.
FHavana Johnson3McNeeseSr.Coeur D’Alene, Idaho
FChristine KitaruLamarJr.Nairobi, Kenya
FMakenzie MaherSoutheastern LouisianaSo.Denham Springs, La.
GKNicole PanisLamarSo.Opmeer, Netherlands

Third Team

DEllen JossAbilene ChristianJr.Louisville, Ky.
DPaige KanipesStephen F. AustinJr.Houston, Texas
DMegan RickertHouston BaptistSr.Round Rock, Texas
DGabby SymmankAbilene ChristianSr.McKinney, Texas
MFAbby GibsonCentral ArkansasSo.Magnolia, Texas
MFCaylon McMillanStephen F. AustinR-Sr.Forney, Texas
MFSophie SmithStephen F. AustinR-So.Colleyville, Texas
MFHannah Walsh2UIWSo.Preston, England
FDestiny DavisStephen F. AustinSr.San Antonio, Texas
FOlivia DraguicevichNorthwestern StateSo.Pflugerville, Texas
FTeia HaynesStephen F. AustinJr.Cypress, Texas
FSierra WannamakerUIWFr.San Antonio, Texas
GKMadeline Talbot2Stephen F. AustinSr.Shreveport, La.

2 – Two-time all-conference selection
3 – Three-time all-conference selection
4 – Four-time all-conference selection