CASTLETON, Vt. - The Castleton University men's soccer program celebrated its' 2018 season with the annual team banquet and awards ceremony, held in the 1787 Room of the Castleton University Campus Center during the past week.
"I always look forward to this event for our program," said Castleton head coach John O'Connor. "It's a great chance to get our players, parents, alumni and those who support our program back and reconnected after the holiday break."
A crowd of 64 in attendance included the 2018 Castleton team, staff, parents, and supporters of the program. Among the special guests were Castleton University President Karen Scolforo, Ed.D. and Assistant Dean for Athletics & Recreation Deanna Tyson.
Following a buffet brunch, the ceremony opened with sophomore goalkeeper Alex Fernald and senior defender Tom Kirk. The pair were both recognized with the Spartan Academic Achievement Award. Fernald and Kirk were two-of-eight Spartan players named to the Dean's List in the fall and among 14 on the team who earned a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.
Fernald - a psychology major - and Kirk - physical education - maintain a 3.86 and a 3.78 cumulative grade-point average, respectively. Both were also recognized as members of the Little East Conference All-Academic team along with Jacob Godfrey, Peter Lynn, Abinash Rai, Cam Rossi-Crete and Mason Thompson.
Rookie of the Year recognition was awarded to freshmen defensive midfielder Diatourou Drame after he recorded an outstanding season for the Spartans. Moved from central defender to defensive midfielder before the teams 2-0 win over SUNY-Potsdam, he helped to anchor the team while initiating the attack through key tackles, interceptions and balls won in the air. An outstanding athlete and competitor, Drame finished third on the team in shots while chipping in with one goal and one assist.
Senior Cam Rossi-Crete was bestowed with the 2018 "Bubba" Award by assistant coach Amir Pasic. Named after former Spartan Cass Lyons, the award is given annually to the player who "most exemplifies the values of heart, determination and commitment to the betterment of Castleton men's soccer."
Rossi-Crete, a co-captain and two-year starter at left back, appeared in 16 contest, missing three due to a foot injury. He helped lead a defense that included two freshmen, to five shutouts and a 1.66 goals-against average during the program's inaugural season in the Little East.
During Castleton's first ever Little East game, Rossi-Crete netted the game-tying goal with less than two seconds remaining in regulation, helping lead the team to a 1-1 overtime draw with the eventual LEC Tournament champion Western Connecticut.
"Cam has always worked hard at everything he did, whether it was academics, recovering from an injury or understanding his teammates, in order to be a more effective leader," stated Pasic. "He led by example and you never had to worry about him going in the wrong direction."
Marking his second Offensive Player of the Year award, Seraphin Iradukunda followed up a superb rookie campaign by once again leading the team in goals (11) and points (27). Also leading the team in shots taken, he finised second in game-winning goals (3) and was named to the All-LEC First Team.
"Seraphin continues to expand his game and understand how to not only score goals but create scoring chances for others," O'Connor stated.
"Yes, he was our Offensive Player of the Year but more importantly, he's a team guy through-and-through. He cares about the team's success far more than any goal he scored," remarked Pasic prior to presenting the award.
Another repeat winner, this time the Defensive Player of the Year, senior co-captain and central defender Kirk made it a trifecta as he garnered DPOY for the third time in his career. The backbone of the Spartan defense, Kirk, started in 18-of-19 games with a goal and two assists on the attacking side. He capped his heralded career by being voted to and playing in the New England Intercollegiate Soccer League Senior All-Star Game at Brandeis University.
The second annual John Werner Coaches Award went to senior midfielder Sean Springer. Voted on by the coaching staff and presented by assistant coach Nihad Basic, the award is named for legendary Hall of Fame Spartan head coach John Werner and awarded to the "unsung player" of the season.
A reserve midfielder for the Spartans, Springer was the spark off of the bench, playing in 16-of-18 games with a couple of starts. The junior transfer from intrastate rival Northern Vermont University – Johnson, he finished his career with two goals and three assists. Yet, his contributions to the program and team went far beyond what the statistics show.
"He's a genuine person and exemplifies everything a coaching staff looks for in a player when it comes to behavior, attitude and work ethic," said Basic. "He was a bright spark and an injection of intensity and energy when he came into the game. His handshakes after every goal displayed his enthusiasm for the team and his pride in wearing the Spartan uniform."
The final award of the afternoon went to sophomore midfielder Jacob Godfrey as he was named Most Valuable Player. Godfrey started and played nearly every minute of the 19-game season as a defensive midfielder, contributing two goals and an assist. Similar to Springer, Godfrey's value transcends what the stat sheet showed.
"Jacob did the things that don't get noticed, except by your teammates and coaches. His goal was to make his teammates better and help the team win. It's not a role that garners a lot of accolades but he succeeded by using his skill, bravery, competitiveness and his keen soccer knowledge. He still has his best soccer ahead of him," stated O'Connor while discussing Godfrey's performance throughout the season.
The awards portion of the banquet was followed by the annual tribute to the team's graduating seniors: Kirk, Lynn, Scott Schoffield, Rossi-Crete and Springer. Each senior received parting gifts, while one of their 2018 teammates addressed the audience.
Prior to wrapping up the banquet, Colby Gay and Godfrey were named as the 2019 captains, which was followed by end-of-the-season video.
Castleton men's soccer will open its 2019 season on Friday, August 30 as the Spartans travel to Worcester, Mass. to play Clark University. Kick-off is slated for 4 p.m.