Nichols, Steller Headline Spartans' Six All-NAC Honorees

Nichols, Steller Headline Spartans' Six All-NAC Honorees

WATERVILLE, Maine – After leading the Castleton women's soccer team to an 8-1 league record in the regular season and the No. 2 seed in the North Atlantic Conference Tournament, six members of the squad have been honored by the NAC in the end-of-year honors, including two major award winners, announced Monday by the league office.

Rylee Nichols was named NAC Rookie of the Year and landed First Team All-Conference honors, while Kate Steller was named Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year. Kaitie Sanders earned First Team All-NAC honors, while Julia Carone, Bronwen Hopwood, and Kiley Baran were named to the All-NAC Second Team.

Nichols has enjoyed a stellar freshman season for Castleton. She is tied for third in the conference in goals (13) and leads the team in points (29) overall. After switching positions early in the season, Nichols has found the back of the net in nine of her last 14 matches, including three multi-goal performances. She netted a career-high three goals against Green Mountain and scored two goals against Thomas and Maine Maritime in the regular season. She tallied two game-winning goals and converted the only penalty kick she took, which came at an important time as the go-ahead goal in a 2-1 victory over Husson in the final conference match of the regular season. Nichols registered a point in every conference match of the regular season and finished with 24 points on 11 goals and two assists in nine contests against NAC opponents.

Steller is recognized for both her academic and athletic excellence through her undergraduate experience. She is an Athletic Training major, who has been named to the Castleton Dean's List throughout her career. She is a member of the Iota Tau Alpha Athletic Training Honors Society and the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society. She serves as a member of the Athletic Training club and is a teacher's assistant for Evaluation and Management of Injuries to Lower Extremities, Upper Extremities, and Practicum. She is also an academic tutor for all Athletic Training classes and is a member of Student Support Network. She was a co-presenter of the Female Athlete Triad at SHAPE conference in Killington, Vt. On the pitch, Steller has made 15 starts this season and leads all defenders on the team with five points on a goal and a career-high three assists.

Sanders was named First Team All-NAC after another strong season as a key defender on the back line for the Spartans. As one of two players on the team to start every game, Sanders registered three assists -- all against conference foes -- in the regular season. Defensively, Castleton has conceded just six goals to conference foes this season for a 0.66 goals-against average, which is tied for the lowest mark in the NAC.

Carone landed Second Team All-NAC honors after posting 17 points on seven goals and three assists in 18 games played during the regular season. The freshman midfielder was second on the team in goals (6) against conference opponents this season as she collected 15 points with six goals and three assists in nine starts against NAC foes. She netted two-game winning goals in the regular season as she opened the scoring in a 7-0 victory over Green Mountain and tallied a key goal in a 5-2 win over Maine Maritime at home.

Hopwood has had a solid season for Castleton, recording 16 points on five goals and a team-leading six assists thus far. She tallied 13 of her points against NAC foes this season with four goals and five assists. The junior forward has helped lead the team to an average of 4.0 goals per game in NAC action, which is tied for first place. Hopwood netted the game-winning goal against Lyndon, opening the scoring under five minutes into the contest. 

Baran has had a strong season in goal, ranking third in the conference in goals allowed (12) and second in goals-against average (0.95). After making the transition to keeper early on, Baran posted a 9-3-1 record in the regular season with three shutouts in 13 starts. In nine conference starts, Baran has a 0.74 goals-against average paired with a .838 save percentage to support her 8-1 record. She is coming off a career-high 10 saves in the regular-season finale against Keene State that helped lead the team to a 1-1 draw against one of the top teams in the Little East Conference.

Kaitlin Cole was named to the 2017 NAC Sportsmanship Team. The NAC Women's Soccer Sportsmanship Team 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 Corrie Hoyt was named NAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, while the Chargers' head coach Meghan Medbery was named Coach of the Year. To view the full NAC awards release, click here.

Castleton (9-7-2, 8-1 NAC) is set to host New England College in the NAC semifinals at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Spartan Stadium.