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Visser, Vroom Pick Up BIG EAST Honors



PROVIDENCE, R.I. St. John’s, the BIG EAST Red Division regular-season champion, took three of the six top honors at the annual awards banquet to kick off the 2008 BIG EAST Men’s Soccer Championship. Junior Joel Gustafsson was named the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, while teammate and classmate Nelson Becerra was honored as the Midfielder of the Year. Veteran St. John’s head Coach Dave Masur and his staff were selected as the BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year. For the second straight year, Connecticut senior O’Brian White was tabbed as Offensive Player of the Year. West Virginia’s Zach Johnson earned BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year accolades. Louisville’s Colin Rolfe was named Rookie of the Year. It was the first time a Louisville player had earned an individual men’s soccer award. Fourteen BIG EAST men’s soccer programs were honored, and 11 teams received multiple all-conference honors.

DePaul's Brian Visser and Steffen Vroom were named to the All-BIG EAST second team. Visser, a senior goalkeeper, has 11 shutouts heading into Friday's semifinal match against St. John's. Vroom, a junior forward, is tied for the BIG EAST lead with four game-winning goals this season. The two players mark the first time in DePaul's four seasons with multiple All-BIG EAST honorees. A year ago, Visser was the first DePaul player to earn All-BIG EAST honors when he was named to the league's first team.

The awards were presented Thursday night at the conference’s annual men’s soccer awards banquet in Tampa, Fla., on the eve of the 27th annual BIG EAST Men’s Soccer Championship. Competition begins on Nov. 14 with semifinal action at 5 and 7:30 p.m. ET at the USF Soccer/Track Stadium on the campus of the University of South Florida, a first-time host. The game will be aired live on CBS College Sports Network (CBS C). The semifinal games will feature St. John’s, No. 1 in the Red Division, versus DePaul, No. 3 in the Blue Division, in the early game and Notre Dame, the top seed in the Blue Division, against host USF, No. 2 in the Red Division, in the nightcap. The championship game will be held at noon on Nov. 16. The winners advance to Sunday’s championship final at noon, which will be televised by several regional cable outlets, CBSC and can be found streamed live on www.bigeast.tv for $3.95.

Gustafsson becomes the eighth St. John’s player to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. The junior defender has anchored a defense that has allowed just seven goals on the season. The St. John’s backline has allowed 88 shots on goal, just 4.6 per game, while shutting out its overall competition 14 times. In 11 conference games, Gustafsson and the Red Storm blanked their opponents eight times, allowing just five goals and 5.2 shots on goal per game. A top 10 team nationally since the third week of the season, St. John’s is ranked second in the nation in shutout percentage (0.71) and third in goals against average (0.39). Gustafsson is an All-BIG EAST First Team selection.

Becerra is the third St. John’s player to earn Midfielder of the Year honors, joining current assistant coach Jeff Matteo (2001), and Matia Damiani (2003) on the short list. The junior tops the team in points with 16, having recorded six goals, three of which were gamewinners, and four assists. He is tied for sixth in the conference in points and is tied for sixth in goals scored. In league play, Becerra again leads his team with nine points, on three goals and three assists. He is an All-BIG EAST First Team honoree.

This is the fourth Coach of the Year award for St. John’s, the third for Masur and his first since 1993. St. John’s owns a 15-1-3 overall record and went 8-1-2 in league action. This season marks the first time the Red Storm have earned eight league wins in a season since 2003 when the team went 8-2-0. St. John’s has won three straight games and is unbeaten in its last eight contests. STJ is currently ranked No. 3 by the NSCAA and No. 5 in the Soccer America rankings. Having beaten or tied nine ranked opponents, the Red Storm have been ranked as high as No. 2 this season. St. John’s has won six BIG EAST regular season titles (1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2003 and 2008).

White earns BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight year, after being named the preseason favorite for the award in each of the last two seasons. It is the ninth time a Connecticut player garners offensive accolades. The senior leads the team in points with 14 and goals with six, while also adding two assists in 14 games. He is tied for fourth in conference points per game (1.00), tied for fourth in goals per game (0.43) and tied for sixth in goals (6). White added two goals and five points in the eight league games he played. The 2007 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy recipient has had five multi-point games and four game-winning goals. White is one of two unanimous selections to the All-BIG EAST First Team. He has been named to the first team three times (2008, ’07 and ’06) and was an All-BIG EAST Second Team honoree as a freshman (2005).

Johnson is the second West Virginia player to garner goalkeeper of the year accolades in the last three years, joining Nick Noble (2006). The redshirt-sophomore started all 19 games, while recording eight shutouts. Johnson sports a goals against average of 0.64, allowing 13 goals in 1814:05 played. Johnson made 81 saves and faced 95 shots on goal, a 5.0 average per game. Johnson ranks first in overall competition with 81 saves. In 11 league games, he recorded five shutouts, allowed six goals and holds a 0.50 goals against average. Johnson is tied for third in league statistics in goals against average (0.50), save percentage (.895) and saves (51). He is an All-BIG EAST First Team member.

Rolfe earns Louisville its first major men’s soccer award since joining the BIG EAST in 2005. The freshman forward is tied for first on the team with five goals and 12 points, which also includes two assists. Rolfe netted two gamewinners, had five multiple-point games and played in all but one game this season. In 10 league games, Rolfe scored two goals and added an assist for five points. He had a three-point effort, notching a goal and an assist in Louisville’s 2-1 upset over then-No. 4/6 St. John’s on Oct. 4, the Red Storm’s only regular-season loss.

Notre Dame seniors Matt Besler and Bright Dike were named to the All-BIG EAST First Team. Besler has led an Irish defense that has allowed only 19 goals in 19 games and has helped to shut out seven opponents. Dike leads the league in overall points with 27 and goals with 11, while he has a conference best 13 points in 11 league games.

USF also has two honorees on the All-BIG EAST First Team. Senior Yohance Marshall has led a backline which has allowed just 11 goals in 18 games, holding a 0.59 goals against average. USF has shut out 11 opponents. Senior Kevon Neaves is second on the team in scoring, notching three goals and four assists for 10 points.

Connecticut junior Toni Stahl joins White as the other unanimous selection on the 2008 All-BIG EAST First Team. Stahl led a midfield that allowed just 12 goals and 87 shots on goal. He played in all but two games this season, tallying a goal and two assists for four points. 

Also earning first team honors is Louisville’s Aaron Clapham. The senior midfielder tops the league with eight assists, while also adding two goals for 12 points. The 2007 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Seton Hall Brayan Martinez was selected to the 2008 All-BIG EAST First Team. The sophomore midfielder tallied three goals and a team-leading five assists this season.

2008 BIG EAST Men’s Soccer Postseason Awards

BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year
O'Brian White, Connecticut, Sr., F

BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year
Joel Gustafsson, St. John’s, Jr., D

BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year
Nelson Becerra, St. John’s, Jr., M 

BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year
Zach Johnson, West Virginia, So., GK

BIG EAST Rookie of the Year
Colin Rolfe, Louisville, Fr., F

BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year
St. John’s - head coach Dave Masur; associate head coach Marc Reeves; assistant coach Jeff Matteo

All-BIG EAST First Team
Nelson Becerra, St. John’s, Jr., M
Matt Besler, Notre Dame, Sr., D
Aaron Clapham, Louisville, Sr., M
Bright Dike, Notre Dame, Sr., F
Joel Gustafsson, St. John’s, Jr., D
Zach Johnson, West Virginia, So., GK
Yohance Marshall, USF, Sr., D
Brayan Martinez, Seton Hall, So., M
Kevon Neaves, USF, Sr., M
*Toni Stahl, Connecticut, Jr., M
*O'Brian White, Connecticut, Sr., F

All-BIG EAST Second Team
Austin Berry, Louisville, So., D
Dilly Duka, Rutgers, So., M
Kyle Hall, Syracuse, Sr., F
Ryan Maduro, Providence, Sr., M
Akeem Priestley, Connecticut, Sr., M
Jerry Saintil, Seton Hall, So., M
Michael Thomas, Notre Dame, Jr., M
Jack Traynor, Notre Dame, Sr., D
Brian Visser, DePaul, Sr., GK
Steffen Vroom, DePaul, Jr., F
Hansen Woodruff, Syracuse, Jr., M

All-BIG EAST Third Team
Zak Boggs, USF, Jr., F
Jeb Brovsky, Notre Dame, So., F
Oscar Castillo, Connecticut, Sr., D
Tafadzwa Chiduku, St. John’s, So., F
Len Coleman, Georgetown, Jr., D
Neal Kitson, St. John’s, Sr., GK
Tim Ritter, Providence, Jr., F
Jordan Seabrook, USF, Sr., F
Michael Seamon, Villanova, Jr., F
Brad Simpson, Cincinnati, Sr., D
Ryan Soroka, St. John’s, Jr., M

All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Jeff Attinella, USF, So., GK
Peter Grasso, Georgetown, Sr., F
Gift Maworere, West Virginia, Jr., D
Michael Pezza, Connecticut, Jr., M
Tadeu Terra, St. John’s, So., M
Karol Wasielewski, Syracuse, Sr., D
* unanimous selection