St. Paul - Gustavus Adolphus men’s soccer head coach Mike Middleton and junior forward Zach Brown (Eau Claire, Wis.) highlighted the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) post-season awards by being named the Coach-of-the-Year and the Player-of-the-Year.
To go along with the honors received by Middleton and Brown, a total five players including midfielder David Lilly (Jr., Maple Grove, Minn.), defender Zach Schmith (Sr., Sioux Falls, S.D.), midfielder Sean Sendelbach (Sr., Sioux Falls, S.D.), and goalkeeper Brett Ylonen (Jr., Lake Elmo, Minn.) were named to the All-Conference Team. This year’s total of All-MIAC honorees ranks third all-time at Gustavus and is the most since seven Gusties were named to the 1972 All-Conference Team.
“It’s a nice honor to get, but all the credit must go to the players,” said Head Coach Mike Middleton. “This is just reward for them and I’m in the lucky position of living vicariously through their talents, hard-work, and success. I said at the start of the season that this was a special team and a really fun group to be around. They have enjoyed great success, broken records, taken their fair share of disappointments, but always find a way to bounce back.”
Middleton earns the MIAC Coach-of-the-Year award for the first time in his career after guiding the Gusties to one its most successful seasons in the history of the program. Gustavus won the MIAC Championship for the second straight year and 14th time in school history after going a perfect 10-0-0 in league play. In the history of MIAC men’s soccer, only four teams prior to this season’s Gusties have won the conference title with an unblemished and perfect record. Gustavus was the first team to do so after going 10-0-0 on the way to the 1970 MIAC Championship. Saint John’s won the league title with a record of 9-0-0 in 1986, and Macalester has gone unbeaten twice in 1990 and 2001 with 10-0-0 records.
Coach Middleton jokes that it should be him carrying the team, when in reality; it is the other way around. “When I have been tired and techie, which only happens rarely,” laughed Middleton, “their joy, enthusiasm, and banter have been the best remedy. I simply can’t praise them enough.”
Prior to coming to Gustavus in 2009, Middleton was named the SUNYAC Coach-of-the-Year twice – once with Fredonia State in 1995 and another time with Cortland State in 2001. The Birmingham, England native, now in his 15th year as a head coach at the NCAA Division III level, also earned 200th collegiate victory this season with a 2-0 win over Macalester on Oct. 9.
Playing a critical role in Gustavus’s run to a second straight conference title was junior striker Zach Brown. Now a two-time All-Conference performer and Gustavus’s leading scorer the past three seasons, Brown becomes the fifth Gustavus player in program history to be named the MIAC’s Player-of-the-Year. He joins Scott Crowell (2000), Joe Hartwell (2004), Bobby Kroog (2005), and Mike Butterworth (2007) in the club of MIAC MVPs.
“A thoroughly well-deserved award for Zach,” commented Middleton. “He is one the key strikers in the league that other teams adjust their pre-game formations to counter. His movement has been excellent and is getting better all the time. Zach not only makes runs to create openings for himself, but he will often make an unselfish run to vacate space for his teammates.”
Brown was the MIAC’s leading scorer within conference play, totaling 21 points off of a league-best nine goals to go along with three assists. He scored two goals against Carleton, Macalester, and Bethel, and registered a league-best five game-winning goals. Brown’s point total against conference foes is the most by a Gustavus player dating back to the 2000 season.
“Defenders playing against him have little time to relax and are constantly being harassed,” continued Middleton about his junior striker.” “He has become the ultimate defender’s nightmare and has also committed himself to working hard defensively. Zach is rapidly becoming an excellent goal-scorer instead of just a scorer of great goals. We are all extremely pleased with the season he’s had and look forward to seeing what he can accomplish down the road.”
After earning All-Conference Honorable Mention recognition as juniors, seniors Zach Schmith and Sean Sendelbach take home All-Conference honors for the first time in 2013. Schmith was a key member of defensive unit that was virtually impenetrable through Gustavus’s ten league games. The Black and Gold allowed just four goals, shut out six opponents, and posted a league-best goals against average of 0.40 against the rest of the MIAC this season. Schmith, who is also a team captain, was rarely taken off the pitch and started in all 10 games.
Sendelbach, the driving force behind Gustavus’s possession style system, had a breakout season on the scoresheet with a career-best nine points within league play. He finished second on the team in goals with four against MIAC competition and also contributed one assist. A gritty and physical captain who Middleton leaves on the field for over 80 minutes per match, Sendelbach tallied the game-winning goal against Concordia on Sept. 21 and Saint John’s on Sept. 28.
Making his second straight showing on the All-Conference Team, David Lilly is the calming presence in charge of quarterbacking Gustavus’s offense alongside Sendelbach in the midfield. In league play, Lilly finished first in the conference in assists with six alongside St. Thomas’s Nick Rapisarda. He added two goals to give him ten points, which ranks eighth in the league in overall scoring. Dictating the tempo with style, Lilly dished out the assist on three of team’s game-winning goals against league competition.
Rounding out Gustavus’s All-MIAC performers is junior goalkeeper Brett Ylonen who appears on the list for the second year in a row. On the occasion a league opponent had a chance at the net, Ylonen was there to turn him away. He made 34 saves in conference play for an MIAC-best save percentage of .944. Ylonen went 10-0-0 in the MIAC, played in 857:05 minutes, and allowed just two goals for conference-leading goals against average of 0.21. The junior’s two goals allowed is the lowest mark in the MIAC since Luke Strom `11 allowed two goals in eight league games in 2010.
In addition to Gustavus’s five All-Conference honorees, Gustavus placed two players on the All-MIAC Honorable Mention Team in Charlie Adams (So., Stillwater, Minn.) and Ryan Tollefsrud (Jr., Spearfish, S.D.). Adams, a midfielder, played in all ten conference games and scored four points off of one goal and two assists. Tollefsrud, a striker alongside Brown at the front, scored three goals including the game-winner against Hamline in the regular-season finale on Nov. 2.
As part of a conference-wide sportsmanship initiative, the MIAC announced the eighth-annual All-MIAC Sportsmanship team for men’s soccer. Members of the All-MIAC Sportsmanship team are selected by their coaches and teammates as individuals who demonstrate ideals of positive sportsmanship both on and off the field of competition.
Junior Eric Schneider (Sr. Anthony, Minn.) serves as Gustavus’ representative on the All-Sportsmanship team for the second consecutive season. Schneider played and started in all 10 conference matches and was the team’s possession forward in charge of getting the ball on the feet of Brown and other strikers.