For the second time in three years, Spring Arbor University’s Jason Crist has been named the 2017 Select Sport America-NAIA Women’s Soccer Coach of the Year. In 2017, Crist’s Cougars took home the national championship trophy with a 2-0 defeat of Benedictine (Kan.) on Dec. 2 in Orange Beach, Alabama. The announcement occurred Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, at the United Soccer Coaches’ National Convention in Philadelphia.
Crist wrapped up his 18th season at SAU and currently stands with a 303-78-25 (.796) overall record. He is third on the NAIA all-time soccer coaching wins list, trailing Patrick Gilliam at Trinity International (Ill.) (309 wins) and Brian Harvey at Oklahoma City (360 wins).
The 2017 season was a banner year for the Cougars as they went 24-1-1, taking home their second all-time national title (first was in 2015), both under the guidance of Crist. The 24 wins were not only a program record, but the most for a championship-winning program since 2008. Junior Bethany Balcer was awarded the NAIA National Championship Most Valuable Player and senior Aubrey Schierbeek was named the NAIA National Championship Offensive Player.
Crist, who also directed SAU to its eighth consecutive Crossroads League title, tutored four NAIA All-Americans this past season, led by NAIA National Player of the Year Bethany Balcer. His program led the NAIA in shutouts (19), conceding just nine goals in 26 matches. The Cougars also ranked third nationally in goals scored (102), which shattered the previous SAU record of 91 set in 2016. Crist also won this award back in 2015 after his team won the title.
The 2017 Select Sport America-NAIA National Coach of the Year is voted on by the NAIA-Women’s Soccer Coaches Association and is announced at the annual National Convention. To be eligible, a head coach must be selected as their conference or unaffiliated group coach of the year or lead their team to the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship postseason play.
Also announced during the National Convention was the 2017 Champions of Character Select Sport America-NAIA Scholarship Recipient. The winner is Ottawa’s (Kan.) Ady Barraza. The recipient is determined by the Women’s Soccer National Championship Tournament Committee. The criteria taken into consideration are a display of exemplary character and sportsmanship on the field, on campus and in the community, surrounding the five core values of the Champions of Character program.