SFU women’s soccer team’s excellence displayed in GNAC awards

Jenna-lee Baxter, Emma Pringle, Katelyn Erhardsen and Annie Hamel lead Clan selections

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Seven SFU players were recognized in the GNAC awards. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

Despite losing a heartbreaking match on Thursday in the GNAC Semi Finals, there is still reason to be excited about the SFU women’s soccer team’s season. On Tuesday, October 30, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) announced the award winners for women’s soccer.

Given the SFU women’s soccer team’s fantastic season, finishing tied for third in the GNAC and leading the conference in goals scored, it was expected for the team to take home some of the awards. Nonetheless, it was exciting to see just which awards, and how many of them, the team received. Here are the highlights:

Jenna-lee Baxter wins GNAC player of the year

If ever there was a shoe-in for a player of the year award, this was it. Baxter led the GNAC in points with 32, tied for first in goals with 11, and tied for first in assists with 10. Watching her play this year, it was clear that she made everybody around her better.

On attack, she was capable of drifting into the wing or playing behind striker Emma Pringle in a supportive role. She was the team’s primary free-kick taker, and created countless opportunities on corners and other set piece plays.

Her presence also created opportunities for other attackers, as the defense was forced to defend her closely from up to 30 yards out given her shooting ability, leaving other attackers open. All in all, Baxter was clearly the best player in the GNAC this season, and arguably one of the best players in the entire nation in 2018. What a way to go out for the senior.

Emma Pringle named to GNAC All-Conference first team

Emma Pringle tied for the GNAC lead with 11 goals on the season. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

Two things are certain on Burnaby mountain come the fall: it’s going to rain, and Emma Pringle is going to score.

For the second straight season, she finished among the top two in scoring in the GNAC. Last year, she was one goal shy of Western Washington’s Gabriela Pelogi, while this year she finished tied with Baxter at the top. Her ability to score in a multitude of ways made her the perfect striker for this year’s Clan, as she was able to consistently finish off crosses from the team’s wingers, get behind the defence, and use her cannon of a shot from outside the box.

Scoring truly comes naturally to Pringle. For example, in a game where head coach Annie Hamel thought Pringle had an off night, the striker was still able to get a hattrick. Only special players are able to do that, and we look forward to seeing her continuing her Clan career as she goes into her senior year next season.

Katelyn Erhardsen named to All-GNAC second team

Katelyn Erhardsen tied for the GNAC lead with 10 assists. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

While Erhardsen may not have been one of the leading goalscorers in the GNAC this season, her importance as a winger for the Clan this year cannot be understated. Erhardsen finished the season tied for the GNAC lead with 10 assists, and also contributed with four goals of her own.

Her ability to beat defenders down the wing and put in picture-perfect crosses created havoc for opposing teams, and often ended in a goal by Pringle or another Clan attacker. She gave the Clan speed and width that opened up room for Pringle and Baxter to operate centrally, capping off the most dynamic trio of attackers in the conference.

Erhardsen took the next leap forward as a player in her senior year, improving on a three-goal, six-assist season in 2017. Another great way to end her Clan career.

Annie Hamel wins GNAC coach of the year

When speaking to the head coach before the season started, Hamel told The Peak, “Right now, we have the players and the experience to be playing an attacking brand of football, we want to play at pace, be mentally strong and grind.” This season, the team did that and more under her guidance.

There was not one game this season where the Clan did not look like an offensively dominant team, and while they certainly had some fantastic players up front, it is up to the coach to use their skillsets. Without Hamel’s attacking game plan, it is quite possible that we would not have seen the seasons that we did from Baxter, Pringle, Erhardsen and others. On attack, the team operated as one, often dominating possession and the scoring chances in a game.

This exciting brand of football made the Clan a must-watch team this year, and their place in the GNAC Championships is evidence that it worked.

Honourable Mentions

Four SFU players were also selected as honourable mentions to the All-GNAC team: goalkeeper Nicole Anderson, defenders Allyson Dickson and Carli Grosso, and forward Christina Dickson.

Anderson was tasked with the starting goalkeeper role in her freshman season for the Clan, and surpassed all expectations. She won the starting role at the beginning of the season and never looked back, and will be a key player for SFU in the upcoming years.

Allyson Dickson had a fantastic senior season for the Clan, and was a valuable member of the teams back line throughout the season. Her ability to defend and attack made her a versatile asset, and she was imperative to the attacking style of play that SFU played with, despite her role as a defender.

Grosso was a rock on defence all season, and displayed a high soccer IQ when playing as a centre back this season. Her ability to play the ball as a centre back can not be understated, and she cut out scoring opportunities for SFU opponents with consistency.

While other attacking players may have received more credit this season, Christina Dickson had a great year for the Clan. She scored four goals and had one assist, and also contributed defensively throughout the campaign.