The regular season for men’s soccer wraps up on Thursday when all ten teams have their final matches of the year. There’s still a bit here and there to be decided when it comes to playoff seeding, as well as a stat leader or three, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make some award picks. Last year the league announced the end of season awards the day after the season ended, so we have to stay one step ahead of them.
Off we go, then.....
Offensive Player And Midfielder of the Year: Julian Gressel, Providence
This should be an easy pick for the Big East coaches. First of all, Gressel is currently tied for the conference lead in points, which makes him an obvious choice. Gressel wins the tiebreaker over Butler’s David Goldsmith in two ways. First, Providence is currently in first place in the Big East and will clinch sole possession of the regular season title with a draw or victory on Thursday night. Second, fellow Friar Mac Steeves was the preseason OPOY..... and he’s played in a grand total of two matches this season. Gressel has been the lone option for the Friars without their best offensive threat and not only has he succeeded at a personal best level, he’s leading the entire league and leading the Friars to a regular season title. Couldn’t be a better pick.
Defensive Player of the Year: Cory Brown, Defender, Xavier
This is literally the exact opposite from Offensive Player. Total shot in the dark. Brown was named Defensive Player of the Week twice, so I figure he has the inside track. I have literally nothing else to base this on, because Brown’s the only two-time DPOW and there’s no defensive players with multiple Weekly Honor Roll nods to match up with him. Brown was the Preseason DPOY, so we know the coaches already like him.
Goalkeeper of the Year: Alex Kapp, Creighton
I am almost 70% certain that this is wrong and I’m going to be kind of annoyed about it when I’m wrong. Of keepers that have played at least 1000 minutes this season - more than 11 matches worth - Kapp has the best goals against average and the second best save percentage. He’s been the starting keeper for the Bluejays the whole season, which is why he gets my pick.
The coaches are probably going to vote for Providence’s Colin Miller, though. He’s played in nine matches, all of which Providence has won. In fact, the Friars have just one victory when he doesn’t play. He’s allowed just four goals all season, and he’s stopping over 90% of shots on frame. As much as Gressel bombing away for PC has been crucial, making the move to Miller in net has been just as important to the Friars sitting atop the table. He just hasn’t been the starter all year, and so I can’t give him the award.
Freshman of the Year: Luka Prpa, Midfielder, Marquette
If Prpa has a big game on Thursday against DePaul, he might end up sneaking past Gressel and Goldsmith for the points title at the end of the year. He’s got 24, they’ve got 25. It’s possible. Prpa’s third in goals and third in assists in the league this season, and that’s tops amongst freshmen. On top of all of that, Prpa is the only player with multiple Freshman of the Week awards with three.
There are two other possibilities, but I don’t think they can trump Prpa’s resume. Butler’s Lewis Suddick has four fewer points, purely because he has four fewer assists since they’re tied in goals with nine each. Providence’s Danny Griffin isn’t in the top 10 in goals or assists, but he does have five game winning goals for the league leading Friars. Again, probably not enough to clip Prpa, but those aren’t insignificant accomplishments by freshmen.
Coach of the Year: Craig Stewart, Providence
If there are coaches in the Big East who refuse to vote for Stewart because he replaced Ben Seguljic with Colin Miller, watched Miller not allow a goal for four matches, then put Seguljic back only to lose multiple matches before going back to Miller, I’d understand. However, he finally did make the call to go back to Miller and Stewart figured out how to guide his team’s offense towards a regular season title without the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and that’s good enough for me.
All Big East Team
Cory Brown, D, Xavier
John Freitag, D, DePaul
David Goldsmith, F, Butler
Julian Gressel, M, Providence
Alex Kapp, GK, Creighton
Riggs Lennon, F, Creighton
Miguel Polley, M, Villanova
Luka Prpa, M, Marquette
Lucas Stauffer, D, Creighton
Lewis Suddick, M, Butler
Jared Timmer, M, Butler
As always, Gressel, Brown, and Kapp are automatic entries due to their individual awards. Stauffer and Freitag are pretty much just guesses, although Stauffer was a preseason defensive pick. From there, it’s pretty much just a collection of the top scorers in the league this season. Six of the top seven points totals are represented in the list, all of the five best goal totals, and the three best assist totals as well. I made the call for Timmer over DePaul’s Simon Megally in the midfield because he’s leading the league in assists and the Bulldogs have been nationally ranked for most of the season.
The list is midfielder heavy, because that’s where the scoring came from this season. There’s just two forwards, but if the coaches vote on a system where positions are required, then the official awards will tilt in that direction. I don’t have to adhere to any such rules, so I rewarded the most deserving players.