AMERICUS - The Georgia Southwestern women's soccer team recently held its third annual awards banquet to recognize the individual and team accomplishments of the 2011 season, as well as honor the program's four seniors.
Head coach Tony Economopoulos announced the individual awards, voted on by the players:
Most Improved: Jordyn Birchett
Newcomer of the Year: Heather Thoele
Offensive Player of the Year: Julia Wells
Most Valuable Player: Ally Canganelli
The Lady 'Canes reached several milestones on the pitch in 2011. The defense posted the lowest goals against average in the school's NCAA era (since 2006). The offense recorded the program's first goals against four perennial Division II/Peach Belt Conference powers and the improvements haven't gone unnoticed, as attendance rose for the third-straight year, up 18.8 percent from 2010.
Academic accomplishments were also highlighted, as the Lady Hurricanes placed four girls on the Peach Belt Conference All-Academic Team.
Gracie Preston garnered her first career PBC All-Academic Honorable Mention honor this season. The Warner Robins native was a PBC Presidential Honor Roll Bronze Scholar last year as a freshman. Preston appeared in all 18 matches for the Blue & Gold this season, starting five of them in the backline.
Another Warner Robins native, Jennifer Starvetsky was also a PBC All-Academic Honorable Mention. The junior midfielder made her first appearance on the PBC post season academic award list. She was a PBC Presidential Honor Roll Silver Scholar as a sophomore last year. Starvetsky appeared in 18 matches for GSW this past season with 17 of those being starts. She tallied her second career goal this season in the Lady 'Canes 3-0 victory over Brewton-Parker.
Senior Brittney Hill made her second appearance on the All-Academic list. The 2011 Honorable Mention was also a 2010 Honorable mention. Hill is a two-time PBC Presidential Honor Roll member as well. She appeared in all 18 matches for GSW, starting in 12 of them. Hill went out in style with a poetic send off on Senior Day. Her lone goal of the season in the first half of the game against Montevallo tied the program's career goal record.
Ally Canganelli is the only Lady 'Cane of the four to garner more than Honorable Mention recognition on the 2011 All-Academic Team. The junior from Buford is making her second consecutive PBC All-Academic team after being earning Honorable Mention awards in 2010. Canganelli finished third on the team in goals. She scored in both of GSW's back-to-back wins over LaGrange College and Brewton-Parker in out of conference play. She was a 2010-11 PBC Presidential Honor Roll Bronze Scholar. Canganelli is a Nursing major with a 3.53 grade point average.
The Georgia Southwestern women's soccer team garnered two postseason awards, as well, this past year: the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's (NSCAA) Team Academic Award and the Peach Belt Conference's Team Sportsmanship Award.
The NSCAA's College Team Academic Award was presented to all teams that posted a 3.0 grade point average or higher for the 2010-11 academic year. The list of award recipients was released on Dec. 2. It was the first time in school history GSW received the award.
The PBC Team Sportsmanship Award is the Lady 'Canes second in three years.
"It's a great accomplishment for the girls," Economopoulos said. "This showed how hard they worked on and off the field. A true testament of their dedication to soccer and academics."
Hudson was a four-year member of the Lady Hurricanes program. She played in 70 matches during her collegiate career, starting 67 contests, which is the most in school history. The Miami, Fla. native is also the all-time leader in minutes played, having amassed over 5400 minutes on the pitch for GSW. Hudson, an anchor on the Lady 'Canes backline throughout her career, scored her first collegiate goal Oct. 5, 2011 against Columbus State, giving GSW it's first score against CSU in the history of the program.
Hill was another four-year member of the Lady Hurricanes. The all-time GSW leader, Hill played in 71 matches. She started 61 contests and ranks third in GSW history with over 5200 minutes of playing time. Hill holds several single-season records for GSW, including most points in a season, most goals, most shots on goal and most minutes played. Her four goals at Wesleyan College on Oct. 20, 2008 are the most in a game in school history. The Warner Robins native dished out a personal-best two assists against Florida College on Sept. 10, 2010.
Mueller was a two-year member of the Lady Hurricanes soccer program. A two-sport athlete, she came to GSW as a transfer from Central Florida Community College in the fall of 2009. Mueller played two seasons for the GSW softball team. A pitcher, she appeared in 31 contests and started nine games. For the soccer team, she played in 25 soccer matches for GSW and posted a personal-best two-shot performance against Flagler in October of 2010.
Swinson completed her first season as a member of the Lady Hurricanes soccer program. A two-sport athlete, as well, Swinson came to GSW as a transfer from Lee University in the fall of 2008. She played one season for the GSW softball team, starting eight games while appearing in 18 contests. For the soccer program, she played in 12 matches for GSW and picked up her first collegiate assist on Sept. 21 against Brewton-Parker.
Hudson, Hill, Mueller and Swinson received senior gifts.