Three Spartans Earn Major Awards; Five Honored on All-NAC Teams

Three Spartans Earn Major Awards; Five Honored on All-NAC Teams

WATERVILLE, Maine – Three members of the Castleton men's soccer team have earned major North Atlantic Conference awards, highlighting the five total Spartans' All-NAC honorees, which were announced Tuesday by the league office.

Head Coach John O'Connor earned his third Coach of the Year award, Thomas Kirk was named Defensive Player of the Year and earned First Team All-NAC honors, while Seraphin Iradukunda was named Rookie of the Year and landed First Team All-NAC recognition. Joining Kirk and Iradukunda on the first team include Fidele Rutayisire and Aaron Parker, while Jack Kingdon was tabbed Second Team All-NAC. 

O'Connor has guided Castleton to the No. 1 seed in the NAC Tournament after posting an unbeaten record (8-0-1) in conference play for the first time since 2010. Castleton finished the regular season with a 36-4 goal differential over nine conference tests with six shutouts and only once allowing more than one goal in a game. Castleton currently ranks in the top 25 in the country in four categories, as the Spartans are 19th in both total goals (49) and shots-on-goal per game (9.39), 21st in total points (132), and 25th in scoring offense (2.72). The fifth-year head coach stated before the season that he wants his team playing its best soccer heading into the postseason, and the Spartans are doing just that as they posted four consecutive shutouts to close out the regular season, including three straight 6-0 victories.

Kirk has had another strong season for Castleton as he repeats as NAC Defensive Player of the Year after leading the Spartan back line that posted the lowest goals against (4) and goals-against average (0.43) in conference contests. Kirk and his teammates allowed no more than four shots on goal in five of the team's nine conference games. He started in all 18 games this season and set a new career high in goals (3), assists (5), and points (11). Notably, one of his biggest goals of the year came off of a free kick from 40 yards out in the second half that tied the match at 1-1 against Norwich.

Iradukunda has spearheaded the Castleton offensive attack as he leads the league in scoring with 22 points, 10 goals, and four game-winners against conference foes. He netted at least one goal in six of the team's nine conference games, including four games in which he scored two goals and seven games in which he recorded at least one point. His biggest performance thus far this season came in a 2-0 victory against Colby-Sawyer, as he recorded both goals in the victory to help the Spartans eventually lock up the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Overall, the freshman forward is tied for first in the league in goals (13) and game-winners (5), and is currently ranked third in points (30), while also posting four assists so far this season.

Rutayisire has started every game this season and finished second on the team in conference scoring with five goals and two assists for 12 total points in nine league contests. Three of his five goals came as game-winners, including a tally in the 83rd minute to hand Thomas its first regular-season conference loss since 2015. He also scored the lone Spartan goal in a 1-0 victory over Lyndon to help the Spartans remain unbeaten in conference play. Collectively, the sophomore has scored six goals and dished off two assists for a total of 14 points. 

Parker has had a stellar senior season in goal and helped anchor a Spartan defense that allowed a league-low 21 goals and registered a league-best 1.13 goals-against average in overall contests. The senior keeper was instrumental in helping Castleton concede less than half a goal per game on average in NAC games, as the Spartans also tallied six shutouts versus conference opponents. In NAC action this season, Parker has posted a 0.51 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage to go with his unscathed 8-0-1 record. Overall on the season, Parker has started every game in goal and is 10-6-2 with a 1.24 goals-against average and a .784 save percentage.

Kingdon sits third on the team in conference scoring with one goal and eight assists in nine conference matches this season. The sophomore closed out the regular season with two goals and four assists over the last four matches, including the game-winning tally in a victory against SUNY Canton that sparked the Spartans' four-game winning streak. On the season, Kingdon has recorded three goals and leads the team with nine assists for 15 total points.

Derek Blouin was named to the 2017 NAC Sportsmanship Team, which is reserved for those who have distinguished themselves through demonstrated acts of sportsmanship and ethical behavior. The honorees are individuals who have positively affected the soccer culture and environment and whose behavior clearly demonstrates sportsmanship and integrity that go beyond the playing rules and etiquette.

Colby-Sawyer's Denali Sexton was named Player of the Year and Husson's Josh Bellomo earned Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year to round out the major award winners. To read the full All-NAC release, click here.

Castleton (10-6-2, 8-0-1 NAC) is set to host New England College in the NAC semifinals Wednesday night at 6 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.