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Lamar soccer rakes in Southland awards

Cardinals lead the way in Southland postseason awards

BEAUMONT, Texas — After posting another stellar year on the soccer pitch, the Lamar University women's soccer program took home some very impressive honors following the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Esther Okoronkwo was named the Southland Player of the Year and Forward of the Year. Madison Ledet was dubbed the Southland Conference Midfielder of the Year while being named to the All-SLC First Team with Okoronkwo. Sophia Manibo, Meg Sheppard, Kaisa Juvonen, Christine Kitaru and Nicole Panis all received second team honors for their play this season.

"I'm excited for the players who have been recognized by the league coaches and sports information directors," said head coach Steve Holeman. "We have really good representation on the first and second teams and I know they are eager to get back on the field to play again."

Okoronkwo saw a stellar senior year for the Cards as she led the team in goals (8), assists (6), shots (46) and shots on goals (26). The preseason MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List honoree saw her at the top of each stat category for the Southland as she was first in goals, shots on goal, assists, shots, game-winning goals and points. In the 3-0 win over Central Arkansas, Okoronkwo became just the ninth player in conference history to net her third career hat trick. She was also named Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Week twice during her senior campaign.

Ledet, a Nederland, Texas native, saw another impressive year during her senior season. She finished second on the team in assists during conference play with four. She also finished the year second in conference in assists with four while helping lead the Cardinals to an 8-3 overall record on the year with one contest with multiple assists.

From Nairobi, Kenya, Kitaru saw an impressive year for the Cardinals in her first season with the program. Played in all 10 conference contests for Lamar and finished second on the team in goals scored during conference play with four. Kitaru finished second in the points column with 10 points during conference play. She finished the conference season seventh in the Southland in goals scored with four. She also averaged a point a game during conference play which is sixth best in the conference.

A Netherlands native, Panis had a stellar year for the Cardinals in the 2020 season. In her first season in Beaumont, Panis tallied 61 saves in conference play and posted a 1.16 goals against average. She ranked second in conference in saves with 61 and a .841 save percentage. Panis ranked first in conference in saves per game at a 6.10 average. She earned SLC Goalie of the Week honors twice this spring. She also played in all 911:22 minutes of conference matches during the season.

Manibo was the leader of the Lamar backline this season that produced four shutouts on the season. Manibo tallied one goal and one assist in her senior season. She also led the team in minutes played in conference contests with 912 minutes played.
Alongside fellow Cardinal teammates, Sheppard tallied 844 minutes in conference play this season that contributed to a LU defense that allowed on average 0.91 goals per game by opponents.

A native of Tampere, Finland, Juvonen tallied 775 minutes during the conference season and helped lead a midfield to four shutouts on the year including a win over Northwestern State on March 19. She tallied her first points of the season with an assist in a 3-0 win over Central Arkansas.

Player of the Year: Esther Okoronkwo, Lamar
Freshman of the Year: Emma Jones, Southeastern Louisiana
Newcomer of the Year: Makenzie Maher, Southeastern Louisiana
Defender of the Year: Nicole Henry, Northwestern State
Midfielder of the Year: Madison Ledet, Lamar
Forward of the Year:  Esther Okoronkwo, Lamar
Goalkeeper of the Year: Acelya Aydogmus, Northwestern State
Coach of the Year: Christopher McBride, Southeastern Louisiana

The Southland Conference Soccer All-Conference Teams are nominated and voted upon by the league's head coaches and SIDs. Each team consists of four defenders, four midfielders, four forwards and a goalkeeper.