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SAU soccer programs post record seasons

It’s been a wildly successful season for soccer at Spring Arbor University! Both men’s and women’s programs continued to excel and improve, and student-athletes from both ably demonstrated and were recognized for their character and dedication.

The men’s team enjoyed one of its best seasons in program history, boasting a 17-5-1 record, capturing its second straight Crossroads League regular season championship and advancing to the second round of the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship for the second time in three years. The team’s 17 wins were the third-most in a single season in program history and the most since 1979.

Four SAU student-athletes named to the 2018 NAIA Men’s Soccer All-America Teams, as announced by the association post season. Junior Jacob Crull was named to the All-America Third Team while senior Morris Kamara, sophomore Roderic Green and junior Alex Sokalski received Honorable Mention recognition.

It was the first All-America selection for Crull, who was also named the Crossroads League Player of the Year in 2018. A Carmel, Indiana native, the wing back emerged as one of the nation’s premiere players during his junior campaign. He led the Crossroads League in assists for the third straight season, recording a career-high 14, while also ranking sixth in the country. He racked up a career-best 24 total points, adding a career-best five goals to his assist total.

Kamara secured his second straight All-America Honorable Mention selection while Green and Sokalski received their first. Kamara, a senior forward, and Green, a sophomore forward, were a dynamic duo up top for the Cougars this season. Kamara tallied a team-high 15 goals, including seven game-winners – the most in the NAIA – while Green scored eight in his debut season with SAU. Spring Arbor led the league in goals scored this year with 53, averaging 2.3 per match.

Kamara, who was also recognized as the Crossroads League Offensive Player of the Year, capped off his spectacular career with 52 goals.

Sokalski, a junior center back from Dorchester, Ontario native, anchored an SAU defense that ranked among the nation’s best in 2018. The Cougars conceded just 19 goals in 23 matches this season for a 0.8 goals against average while also recording 11 shutouts.

The women’s team finished the season with an overall record 20-2-1 and advanced to the semifinal round of the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship for the fourth straight season. The senior class will go down as the winningest class in program history compiling an astounding 89-6-4 record, four Crossroads League championships, three national final appearances and two NAIA national championships.

Post season, the 2018 NAIA Women’s Soccer All-America Teams had four SAU players selected to the teams. Headlining the year’s awards was Bethany Balcer, who was named the 2018 NAIA National Player of the Year for the second time in as many seasons, and for the third time in her career. Balcer became the association’s first three-time Player of the Year. She scored 31 goals over the course of the season, including five during SAU’s national tournament run. Her 31 goals ranked seventh nationally, while her 11 game-winners were the second-most in the NAIA. She was also tied for the team lead with eight assists.

The senior from Hudsonville, Michigan concluded her career as the most decorated player in Spring Arbor history. Over her four year career, she has tallied 129 goals, which is not only a program record, but ranks fifth all-time in NAIA history. Balcer is a four-time Crossroads League Player of the Year and four-time NAIA First Team All-American.

Casandra Besteman and Malorie Henderlong were both named to the All-America Second Team while Lauren Orr was recognized as an Honorable Mention selection. Besteman, a senior midfielder, Henderlong, a junior center back, and Orr, a senior midfielder, were the backbone of a Spring Arbor defense that recorded 16 shutouts in 2018 – the second-most in the country this season. The Cougars ranked first in the NAIA in goals allowed per game, conceding just 10 goals over 23 contests for a 0.43 goals against average.

We are immensely proud of what these young men and women have accomplished, and look forward to seeing what they do in the future, whether it’s back on the field or out in the world serving their communities after graduation.