PORTLAND, OR— (school release) Western Washington University junior soccer player Sierra Shugarts has been named the 2016-17 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Female Athlete of the Year, announced Wednesday from the conference office.
Shugarts (Federal Way, WA/Decatur) capped her junior season with the ultimate athletic honor voted on by GNAC athletic directors, adding to her already lengthy list of honors that included being named a First Team All-American, Defensive MVP at the NCAA Division II Championship, National Soccer Coaches Association of American (NSCAA) Division II National Player of the Year, GNAC All-Academic and the GNAC Player of the Year.
(Cover photo: Western Front Online by Morgan Stilp-Allen.)
“This award means so much to me,” said Shugarts. “I am so thankful and blessed for everything my team and I have accomplished this season. We all worked extremely hard towards winning a national championship and I’m thankful that I get to represent my team and coaching staff as a whole for the hard work and dedication that we all put in.”
With the help of Shugarts standout season, the Vikings were crowned the 2016 NCAA Division II National Champions, defeating three-time defending national champion Grand Valley State 3-2 on December 3 at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Missouri. And Shugarts was in the middle of it all, starting all 25 matches, leading one of the top defenses in the nation that allowed only 10 goals all season. On the offensive side, Shugarts finished with four goals and an assist, almost all on set pieces, and had a pair of game-winning goals.
While defenders are usually on the periphery when it comes to awards season, Shugarts was front and center. After being named the GNAC’s Player of the Year, Shugarts was selected to both the NSCAA and D2CCA All-West Region teams and later earned All-American honors from both organizations. She was selected as the Defensive Most Valuable Player at the 2016 NCAA Division II Championship. The topper came when she was named as the NSCAA’s Division II National Player of the Year, becoming only the second defender to win the honor in the 21-year history of the award.
In January, Shugarts was named as one of five finalists for Female Athlete of the Year at the Seattle Sports Star of the Year Awards, a celebration of the top athletes in Washington. Her name was listed alongside those of Univ. of Washington standouts Julianne Alvarez (golf), Kelsey Plum (basketball) and Courtney Schwan (volleyball) and Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart.
“We are thrilled for Sierra,” said Western Washington head women’s soccer coach Travis Connell. “Her character and accomplishments make her an excellent representative of our team, WWU and the GNAC.”
Shugarts becomes the fourth WWU winner of the GNAC Female Athlete of the Year award, joining Sarah Porter (Cross Country/Track & Field) in 2010-11, Courtney Schneider (Volleyball) in 2007-08 and Liz Bishop (Volleyball) in 2003-04).
|GNAC FEMALE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR|
|2016-17||Sierra Shugarts, Western Washington (Soccer)|
|2015-16||Megan Mullings, Alaska Anchorage (Basketball)|
|2014-15||Lindsey Butterworth, Simon Fraser (Track & Field)|
|2013-14||Bobbi Kundsen, Montana State Billings (Basketball)|
|2012-13||Helen Crofts, Simon Fraser (Track & Field) & Ali Worthen, Seattle Pacific (Track & Field)|
|2011-12||Hanna Johansson, Alaska Anchorage (Basketball)|
|2010-11||Sarah Porter, Western Washington (Cross Country/Track & Field)|
|2009-10||Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific (Cross Country/Track & Field)|
|2008-09||Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific (Cross Country/Track & Field)|
|2007-08||Courtney Schneider, Western Washington (Volleyball)|
|2006-07||Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific (Cross Country/Track & Field)|
|2005-06||LeAnna McGahuey, Central Washington (Volleyball)|
|2004-05||Danielle Ayers-Stamper, Seattle Pacific (Track & Field)|
|2003-04||Liz Bishop, Western Washington (Volleyball)|
|2002-03||Kerie Hughes, Seattle Pacific (Basketball)|
|2001-02||Stephanie Huffman, Seattle Pacific (Track & Field)|
The Vikings are coming off a 24-0-1 season in which they won the NCAA Division II National Championship. WWU has won a record five consecutive GNAC regular-season championships, advanced to the NCAA Championships in each of the last five seasons and played in the NCAA II Final Four in three of the last four seasons. Over this span the Vikings have combined to go 100-9-7 (.892), the second-best winning percentage among all NCAA Division II programs.
WWU is scheduled to open the 2017 season August 31 with a road match at Notre Dame de Namur. The first home match is tentatively scheduled for September 16 vs. Western Oregon. The Vikings head into the 2017 season with a 24-game winning streak (tied for 8th-longest in NCAA II history) and have a streak of 53 consecutive GNAC contests without a loss.