|Soccer earns WAC recognition|
RUSTON, La. - The University of Idaho women's soccer team earned unprecedented recognition at Thursday's Western Athletic Conference pre-championship banquet, as Vandals hauled four all-WAC honors, as well as Offensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.
Idaho set new standards for success in 2010, with program records for total wins (14) and conference wins (5), a team-high-tying third-place conference finish, and a berth to the first conference tournament in school history. The Vandals earned a No.3 seed in this week's WAC Tournament after being picked seventh in the pre-season coaches poll.
"To go from none to one last year, and then four this year, it shows the strides that this program has taken and it shows what hard work and buying in does for you," Idaho head coach Pete Showler said of the all-WAC awards. "Individual achievements are fantastic, but it comes down to the team. It's other coaches recognizing what they do, but it's also a compliment to their teammates helping them get to that level."
Idaho sophomore Chelsea Small (Solana Beach, Calif./Torrey Pines HS) was honored as WAC Offensive Player of the Year and was a first-team all-WAC honoree for the second-consecutive season. Small tied for the league lead with 13 goals, ranked second in the WAC in total points (30), and leads the conference with 120 shot attempts and eight game-winning goals, all of which are Idaho school records.
"I knew there were a lot of other good players out there, so I didn't really think it would go to me, but it's really exciting," Small said. "I just go out every game and try to do my best and have fun playing the game I've played since I was little. A lot of it is the girls around me and how good they do."
Sixth-year head coach Pete Showler was honored with the WAC Coach of the Year award - the first of his career and the first such award in Idaho history. Showler said that while his name goes on record, the award is a culmination of the efforts everyone involved with helping the Vandals to the nation's third-best win improvement last year in 2009 and then taking it a step further this season.
"It's very flattering and it's great to be recognized by your peer group, but to me, it should be Team of the Year," Showler said. "My two assistant coaches have to put up with my moans and groans, and a dodgy accent day in and day out, yet still they do a top-notch job and I can't thank them enough. I've got a volunteer assistant who played for me and came back for more, we have an athletic trainer who has been fantastic on and off the field, we have great administrative backing, unbelievable academic support staff and all the Vandal staff associated in many areas of the university, I cannot thank them enough, and then we've got 'the team.'
"My award is because the team stepped up and produced, and they believed, like we believed, that we could go out there and win games and win them well."
Sophomore Jill Flockhart, a midfielder from Salmon Arm, B.C. (Salmon Arm Secondary), was selected to the all-WAC first team, while sophomore defender Lauren Layton (Spokane, Wash./Mead HS) and junior goalkeeper Liz Boyden (Spokane, Wash./Ferris HS) were second-team all-WAC picks.
Flockhart, Layton and Boyden are the first Vandals to earn all-conference honors at their respective positions. The four all-WAC selections add to the already-long list of team highs for the Vandal women this season. Showler said he also was pleased to see every phase of the team represented on the team, from forward back through to goalkeeper.
"That really shows the balance in this team," Showler said. "The fact that every unit is recognized, it just shows great balance and commitment to every unit doing its part, and now they're getting their just rewards."
Small was the first all-WAC honoree in Idaho soccer history last season, and the team's four selections in 2010 give Idaho five total in program history. Showler is the first Vandal coach to be honored with a coach of the year award, while Small is the first player of the year honoree in Idaho soccer history.