PARKLAND, WA– (GoLutes.com) Takara Mitsui became Pacific Lutheran’s first Northwest Women’s Soccer Conference Player of the Year in 20 years to lead a trio of First-Team All-Conference performers as five players and head coach Seth Spidahl earned recognition for the Lutes’ success in 2014.
Mitsui was named NWC Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first Lute to claim a Player of the Year honor since JoDee Stumbaugh and Jennie Lee split the honor in 1994. Spidahl was named Coach of the Year, the first time a PLU coach has received the honor since Colleen Hacker in 1992. Kaylie Rozell and Kelly White joined Mitsui on the all-conference first team, while Lauren Larson andEmily Hanna earned second-team recognition.
The Lutes concluded the 2014 season last weekend, falling in their final two road matches to Willamette and Linfield. Even with the season-ending defeats PLU posted its best record in 20 years with a 14-5-1 mark and tallied a program-best 12 conference wins to tie for second place in the NWC standings. That finish was the highest conference ranking since 1994.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Spidahl said. “We just kind of ran out of gas. Three consecutive weekends down in Oregon, mixed in with an emotional UPS home win just was a lot to ask. It was gut-wrenching a little bit not to be able to finish what we started, but I’m super proud of the team.”
The Lutes’ historic year carried over into the postseason recognition, as PLU placed three players on the all-conference first team for the first time since 1997. Mitsui led the conference in save percentage (.873) and goals-against average (0.47) while allowing only nine goals in 19 matches with 10 individual shutouts during a sophomore campaign that saw her step into the starting role after splitting time in goal in 2013. White earned first-team honors after being named to the second team last season, scoring three goals and adding one assist while anchoring a defense that led the NWC with only 10 goals allowed and 12 shutouts.
“Takara and Kelly were our mainstays in the back,” Spidahl said. “All of our back four – Lena, Megan and Nicoya – were strong, but Kelly was certainly our leader back there. And Takara, I’ve always thought she was the best goalkeeper in the conference all year. She’s got a great attitude, she’s competitive, she works hard and she’s good, so I’m really happy that she got that honor.”
After tying for the team lead with seven goals last season to earn first-team recognition as a freshman, Rozell became the first PLU repeat first-teamer since Stumbaugh in 1994-95. She tied for second on the team with six goals, including three game-winners, and has now earned first-team all-conference recognition in each of her first two seasons at PLU. Last season she became the Lutes’ first first-teamer since 2005.
Larson returned to the NWC second team for the second time in three years after injuries limited her 2013 campaign. The junior forward led PLU and tied for third in the NWC with eight goals while tying for the team lead with 3 game-winners.
“She worked hard over the summer, and it paid off and she got rewarded and recognized by the coaches,” Spidahl said of Larson regaining her all-conference form.
PLU’s final all-conference honoree was Hanna, who transferred to PLU from Highline Community College and stepped right into the starting lineup. She finished the season among the team leaders in minutes and tied for fourth in the league while leading the team with five assists.
“She exceeded beyond expectations and what I thought she was going to do,” Spidahl said of Hanna. “She was outstanding for us in several different positions, so I’m really happy for Emily.”
Puget Sound’s Amalia Acorda-Fey was named NWC Offensive Player of the Year after ranking second in the conference in both goals (9) and points (21) to help lead the Loggers to their 13th consecutive NWC title. Three-time NWC Offensive Player of the Year Emily Fellows was a unanimous first team selection for her fourth straight year, becoming only the fourth player in conference history to achieve that feat.
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