BELLINGHAM, WA—(WWUVikings.com) Western Washington University junior defender Sierra Shugarts has been named the National Soccer Coaches Association of American Division II National Player of the Year.
Shugarts (Federal Way, WA) helped lead the Vikings to an undefeated 24-0-1 record and the NCAA Division II National Championship with a 3-2 win over three-time defending champion Grand Valley State.
In the 21-year history of the award, Shugarts is just the second defender to be named the national player of the year. Deshaunne Running was the recipient of the first Division II Player of the Year Award in 1996 starring as a defender for the University of Denver.
(Cover photo: WWU Vikings)
“We are all so happy for Sierra. This award could not go to a more deserving student-athlete,” said head coach Travis Connell. “As the team captain and leader of our defense she directly impacted the incredible mental toughness of our entire team and the unbelievable consistency of our defense. Time and time again throughout the season she was matched up against record breaking opposing strikers and every time she rose to the challenge. It is rare for a defender to win this award, but in this instance, they got it right.”
Shugarts served as team captain for the Vikings championship team and filled her trophy case with several individual honors leading up to being named the NSCAA National Player of the Year. She was the GNAC Player of the Year, two-time GNAC Defensive Player of the Week, D2CAA All-West Region and All-American (first team), NSCAA All-West Region and All-American (first team) and was named the Defensive MVP of the NCAA Division II Championship. And adding to that, she was an All-GNAC Academic selection with a 3.35 GPA.
“This means so much to me, but I could not have done it without my teammates,” said Shugarts. “It is so amazing to get this award as a defensive player because usually there are never enough stats to back up how much a defense does. I am proud to represent my team and my defense as a whole with this award.”
In the championship game vs. Grand Valley State, Shugarts led the defense to an impressive performance that did not allow a shot by NCAA goal leader Gabriella Mencotti and just three shots by two-time defending NSCAA Player of the Year Marti Corby.
For the season, Shugarts directed the back line to a 0.396 goals against average (5th in the nation) and school-record 17 shutouts (T3rd in NCAA II). WWU allowed only 10 goals all season (25 games) and held opponents to just 57 shots on goal. Not once in the 25 games did an opposing team manage to record more than 5 shots on goal, with 14 games featuring 2-or-fewer shots on goal. In the national semifinal vs. Kutztown the Vikings did not allow a shot, let alone a shot on goal.
Not to be outdone, Shugarts also scored 4 goals with one assist (9 points), including a pair of game-winning goals.