Senior Natalie Norris made Western Athletic Conference history Wednesday when she earned her third-straight WAC Defensive Player of the Year honor as voted on by the league's nine coaches and announced at the banquet. Norris is the first WAC soccer player to earn the Defensive Player of the Year for three-straight seasons.
"A three-time player of the year; she is the heart of our defense. She is a leader on our team. She does it all. I am just really proud that she was recognized for all of that," USU head coach Heather Cairns said.
Five Aggies were named to the all-WAC team led by Norris. She joins Aggie greats Shantel Flanary, Chandra Salmon-Christensen and Lindsey Smart in exclusive company, as the only Aggies to earn first-team honors for three seasons. Flanary earned first-team honors from 2009-11, while Salmon-Christensen was named to the first team her first three seasons and earned second-team honors last year. Smart achieved the feat from 2007-09. Norris was the backbone of the USU defense that allowed only two goals in WAC matches and 10 all season.
"Honestly, this is beyond anything I could have imagined, and I am still shaking at the thought that I got it. I sincerey thought that it was going to our keeper Ashlyn Mulford. Our goalkeepers have been the backbone of our team every single year. I think hands down if they don't deserve it than our entire backline deserves it rather than just one person. Getting a defensive award in general reflects how well we play as a unit," Norris said.
Senior goalkeeper Ashlyn Mulford, from West Valley City, Utah, is the second-straight USU keeper to earn first-team all-WAC honors after Molli Merrill was honored last season. Ali Griffin is the only other Utah State goalkeeper to be honored, earning second-team honors in 2008. Mulford ended WAC play with an amazing 0.29 GAA, allowing only two goals in eight league matches to lead the conference. She had four conference shutouts and has seven and a half total shutouts so far this season.
Earning her first all-WAC honor was junior midfielder Mari Miyashiro, who was the third Aggie to be named to the first team. Miyashiro scored seven points in conference play off of two goals and three assists.
Junior forward Jennifer Flynn, from Draper, Utah, earned her first second-team all-WAC honor of her career after finished seventh in the WAC in points scored in league matches with three goals and two assists for eight points. Flynn ended the season tied for first on the team overall with 14 points.
Sophomore defender Taryn Rose earned her second-straight second-team honor. Rose, a native of North Salt Lake, was the 2011 WAC Freshman of the Year.
Denver's Kristen Hamilton was named WAC Offensive Player of the Year, while the Pioneers' head coach Jeff Hooker earned WAC Coach of the Year honors. Texas State's Lynsey Curry was named WAC Freshman of the Year.
This is the fifth-straight season the Aggies have placed at least three players on the first team. Since joining the WAC in 2005, Utah State has earned 37 all-WAC honors.
USU captured its third-straight regular season title and now holds the top seed in the upcoming WAC Tournament Nov. 1-2, 4 in Logan. The top-seeded Aggies will begin play at the WAC Tournament in the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 2 at 2:30 p.m. USU will take on the winner of Thursday's quarterfinal match between No. 4 Louisiana Tech and No. 5 Seattle.
Soccer fans can watch the WAC Tournament through www.wacsports.com. The cost of the WAC Soccer Tournament All-Access Pass is $10.95.
First Team All-WAC
Kristen Hamilton, F, Jr., Denver
Kaitlin Bast, F, Sr., Denver
Chelsea Small, F, Sr., Idaho
Stephanie Verdoia, F, So., Seattle U
Nicholette DiGiacomo, MF, Jr., Denver
Melissa Busque, MF, Sr., Seattle U
Mari Miyashiro, MF, Jr., Utah State
Sam Harder, D, So., Denver
Jessy Battelli, D, Jr., Denver
Natalie Norris, D, Sr., Utah State
Ashlyn Mulford, GK, Sr., Utah State
Second Team All-WAC
Emily Brennan, F, Jr., Louisiana Tech
Maria Jose Rojas, F, Jr., UTSA
Jennifer Flynn, F, Jr., Utah State
Katy Van Lieshout, MF, Sr., Denver
Jill Flockhart, MF, Sr., Idaho
Julia Besagno, MF, Jr., Seattle U
Mo Rockwell, D, Sr., Louisiana Tech
Megan Molina, D, Jr., San Jose State
Emma Staley, D, Sr., Texas State
Taryn Rose, D, So., Utah State
Lara Campbell, GK, Sr., Denver
Offensive Player of the Year: Kristen Hamilton, Jr., F, DenverComment on this story
Defensive Player of the Year: Natalie Norris, Sr., D, Utah State
Freshman of the Year: Lynsey Curry, Fr., F, Texas State
Coach of the Year: Jeff Hooker, Denver
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.