Nation's Top Soccer Player Is GNAC's Top Female Athlete
Sierra Shugarts anchored a Western Washington defense that allowed just 10 goals, and three in conference play, during the 2016 national championship run.
Sierra Shugarts anchored a Western Washington defense that allowed just 10 goals, and three in conference play, during the 2016 national championship run.
Sierra Shugarts
Sierra Shugarts

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – There is hardly an award that Western Washington’s Sierra Shugarts did not win this year.

National Champion. First Team All-American by both the NSCAA and the D2CCA. The defensive Most Valuable Player at the NCAA Division II Championship. Division II Player of the Year. All-Academic Team selection. Conference Player of the Year.

So it only makes sense that the conference’s athletic directors have also selected Shugarts as the 2016-17 Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s Female Athlete of the Year.

“This award means so much to me,” the junior said. “I am so thankful and blessed for everything my team and I have accomplished this season. We all worked extremely hard towards winning a national championship and I'm thankful that I get to represent my team and coaching staff as a whole for the hard work and dedication that we all put in.”

While statistics make it hard to quantify the contributions of a defender, it was clear that the Federal Way, Washington, native was the heart-and-soul of a Western Washington squad that mowed down opponents en route to the 2016 NCAA Division II national championship.

It was the contributions of the defense, however, that led the Vikings to the walnut and bronze. Shugarts and the Western Washington offense allowed just 10 goals the entire season and staked the Vikings to 17 shutouts in 25 matches, a GNAC single-season record. Against GNAC opponents, the defense allowed a conference record three goals against. In the national semifinal against Kutztown, the Vikings did not allow a shot.

And Shugarts was in the middle of it all, starting all 25 matches with 2,041 minutes played. On the offensive side, Shugarts finished with four goals and an assist, almost all on set pieces, and had a pair of game-winning goals.

While defenders are usually on the periphery when it comes to awards season, Shugarts was front and center. After being named the GNAC’s Player of the Year, Shugarts was selected to both the NSCAA and D2CCA All-West Region teams and later earned All-American honors from both organizations. She was selected as the defensive Most Valuable Player at the 2016 NCAA Division II Championship.

The topper came when Shugarts was named as the NSCAA’s Division II National Player of the Year. She is only the second defender ever selected for the award and the first in 20 years.

In January, Shugarts was named as one of five finalists for Female Athlete of the Year at the MTRWestern Sports Star of the Year Awards, a celebration of the top athletes in Washington. Her name was listed alongside those of Univ. of Washington standouts Julianne Alvarez (golf), Kelsey Plum (basketball) and Courtney Schwan (volleyball) and Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart.

"We are thrilled for Sierra,” said Western Washington head women’s soccer coach Travis Connell. “Her character and accomplishments make her an excellent representative of our team, WWU and the GNAC."

With as great as the 2016 season was, there is the potential for 2017 to be just as a special. Shugarts leads a stellar group of 19 returners from the national championship squad, which includes offensive stalwarts Gabriela Pelogi (11 goals) and Liv Larson (seven goals). The Vikings enter 2017 with a 24-match win streak.

Other GNAC standouts nominated for the 2016-17 GNAC Female Athlete of the Year include Nichole Bathe of Alaska (cross country), Kailyn Campbell of Central Washington (softball), Madi Farrell of Northwest Nazarene (volleyball), Morgan Hooe of Alaska Anchorage (volleyball), Alison McKay of Simon Fraser (volleyball), Kirby Neale of Saint Martin’s (track and field), Heather Tracy of Montana State Billings (softball), McKenzie Warren of Concordia (track and field) and Olivia Woods of Western Oregon (cross country/track and field).

Sierra Shugarts, Western Washington (Soccer)
Megan Mullings, Alaska Anchorage (Basketball)
2014-15: Lindsey Butterworth, Simon Fraser (Track and Field)
2013-14: Bobbi Kundsen, Montana State Billings (Basketball)
2012-13: Helen Crofts, Simon Fraser (Track and Field) & Ali Worthen, Seattle Pacific (Track and Field)
2011-12: Hanna Johansson, Alaska Anchorage (Basketball)
2010-11: Sarah Porter, Western Washington (Cross Country/Track and Field)
2009-10: Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific (Cross Country/Track and Field)
2008-09: Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific (Cross Country/Track and Field)
2007-08: Courtney Schneider, Western Washington (Volleyball)
2006-07: Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific (Cross Country/Track and Field)
2005-06: LeAnna McGahuey, Central Washington (Volleyball)
2004-05: Danielle Ayers-Stamper, Seattle Pacific (Track and Field)
2003-04: Liz Bishop, Western Washington (Volleyball)
2002-03: Kerie Hughes, Seattle Pacific (Basketball)
2001-02: Stephanie Huffman, Seattle Pacific (Track and Field)