Photo by Robyn McNeil, ISI Photos.
Sky Blue FC of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) officially announced its 2016 team awards on Friday, with recipients being named for Most Valuable Player, Defender of the Year, Most Improved Player, Rookie of the Year and its Golden Boot Award.
“We underwent a very difficult process in determining these winners,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “Individual awards within the team are challenging to decide because of the fantastic collective effort that every player gave us this season. We are very fortunate to have each of these award winners on our team, but we are equally as proud of everyone else on our roster who contributed to our success.”
And without further ado, we present the recipients of the 2016 Sky Blue FC team awards.
Most Valuable Player – Sarah Killion
The flow of play for Sky Blue FC in 2016 was orchestrated through the midfield, and the maestro of the production was Sarah Killion. The second-year player, whom Sky Blue FC selected as the second overall pick in the 2015 NWSL College Draft, started all 18 games in which she appeared this season, accumulating 1,620 minutes of action. On the year, she registered three goals and one assist, and she was consistently the player who set up scoring plays for her teammates on the offensive end while still always holding down her defensive responsibilities. Humility and selflessness are two of her biggest attributes, but her value to the club is not something that goes unseen by her coaches and peers. The combination of all these things makes Sarah Killion the 2016 Sky Blue FC Most Valuable Player.
Defender of the Year – Christie Rampone
Two characteristics that have always been consistent with team captain Christie Rampone are her leadership and the ability to play at an elite level every single time she steps onto the field. Just when it seemed as if there was nothing she had not already accomplished, the 41-year-old New Jersey native added another incredible feat to her resume in 2016, becoming just the second Sky Blue FC player in NWSL history (CoCo Goodson-2013) to play every minute of every match during the season. Long known as being the ultimate teammate and mentor, Rampone often played with a back line that included two rookies and one second-year player starting beside her, in addition to being in front of two different goalkeepers who had one start among them coming into the 2016 season. Needless to say, Christie Rampone is the deserving recipient of the 2016 Sky Blue FC Defender of the Year Award.
Golden Boot Winner – Sam Kerr
For the second consecutive season, Australia international Sam Kerr is the Sky Blue FC Golden Boot winner, which is awarded to the player who accumulated the most goals during the season. Despite playing in just nine matches and making six starts this year, Kerr recorded five goals in 616 minutes of action. In another impressive feat, Kerr scored in four consecutive matches towards the end of the 2016 NWSL campaign, and she has now registered 11 goals and two assists in just 18 games played (15 starts) for Sky Blue FC over the past two years.
Most Improved Player – Kristin Grubka
Defender Kristin Grubka did not start the first six games of the season before being inserted in the Starting XI for Sky Blue FC’s seventh match of the year. She never left the field again over the remainder of the 2016 campaign. Playing alongside team captain Christie Rampone at center back, Grubka improved with each passing game while continually sacrificing her body to make goal-saving stops and end dangerous offensive threats by the opposition. A hard-nosed defender who puts the team above everything else, Kristin Grubka is your 2016 Sky Blue FC Most Improved Player.
Rookie of the Year Class – Caroline Casey, Leah Galton, Raquel Rodriguez, Erin Simon, Erica Skroski
Heading into the season, not many pundits gave Sky Blue FC much of a chance to contend for a playoff spot. However, one of its major unknowns soon became a huge strength for the club, as a powerful rookie class became an instrumental piece of the puzzle in its pursuit of success. Sky Blue FC head coach Christy Holly was just a few days into his tenure when the team headed into the 2016 NWSL College Draft in January, yet the Ireland native arrived on draft day with a tactical game plan and a tremendous amount of research. With the second overall pick, he took Costa Rica international Raquel Rodriguez, who was named the NWSL Rookie of the Year earlier this week. He then went up top with his next selection by taking England international Leah Galton, who recorded three goals and four assists in just 14 games played. He then improved the back line by taking defender Erica Skroski, who played all but six minutes of the 2016 NWSL season. The final selection of the draft was goalkeeper Caroline Casey, who made nine starts this year and registered 32 saves. One last addition to the 2016 Sky Blue FC Rookie of the Year class is defender Erin Simon, who the team was fortunate enough to acquire through open tryouts in March. Simon made 18 starts over 19 appearances while also adding two assists to the offensive stat sheet. In a season where so many first-year players performed like savvy veterans, these five players assemble the 2016 Sky Blue FC Rookie of the Year class.
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