Game-Winning Goals, Tourney MVP Highlight POTW Picks
SFU's Koji Poon had a brace in his first collegiate game to help his team to victory.
SFU's Koji Poon had a brace in his first collegiate game to help his team to victory.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – The first full weekend of fall sport competition is officially in the books, as the Great Northwest Athletic Conference announced eight winners of its player of the week awards on Tuesday.

Teams competing in volleyball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, women’s cross country, and men’s cross country signaled the start of a busy fall season with all of the conference’s fall sports in action for the first time in 2023. A pair of cross country race winners, representatives from four different undefeated soccer teams, a tournament MVP and a player ranking in the top-five in the national statistics highlighted this week’s selections.


Offensive: Madison Hornback, Western Oregon

Named the MVP of the Stanislaus State Tournament, Hornback propelled the Wolves to their first 4-0 start since the 1999 season. The junior outside hitter from Oregon City, Ore., led all GNAC players with 3.92 kills per set and 4.62 points per set in the opening weekend of her 2023 season. Hornback had at least 11 kills and no more than three attack errors in all four of the Wolves’ victories while chipping in 44 digs, eight block assists, and five service aces. She notched a hitting percentage of .368 on the weekend, and had 18.0 points in the Wolves’ four-set win over Chico State.

Also Nominated: Leilani Elder, UAA; Ella Bines, UAF; Kylie Thorne, CWU; Julia Gordon, MSUB; Maren Dent, NNU; Karla Soto, SMU; Allison Wilks, SPU; Jocelyn Sherman, SFU.

Defensive: Christine Funk, Montana State Billings

Funk led the GNAC and ranked fourth in Division II over the weekend with 6.00 digs per set, a figure that was more than 1.5 digs higher than the next closest player in the conference. The junior libero racked up 108 total digs which also ranks fourth in Division II as she produced at least 23 digs in all four of the Yellowjackets’ games on opening weekend. Funk saved her best statistical performance for last, reaching a career-high 32 digs while adding three service aces against Lubbock Christian on Saturday evening.

Also Nominated: Reilly Plumhoff, UAA; Elizabeth Jackson, UAF; Emma Daoud-Hebert, CWU; Caroline McMahon, NNU; Emily Garten, SMU; Hannah Hair, SPU; Ezawa Malish, SFU; Bella MacLellan, WOU; Delaney Speer, WWU.


Offensive: Chloe Smith, Western Oregon

Smith scored a pair of important goals within the span of 70 seconds on Sunday, helping the Wolves start their season with two victories. After converting a penalty kick to give WOU a 1-0 lead over Colorado Christian in the 16th minute, Smith followed with an extraordinary finish that proved to be the game-winner in the 17th minute. Winning the ball off a defender well outside the 18-yard box, Smith blasted an unstoppable shot into the upper-left corner of the net to spot her team a 2-0 advantage. The breakout offensive performance came on the heels of 78 strong minutes in WOU’s 1-0 shutout win over Stanislaus State on Friday.

Also Nominated: Paige Savage, CWU; Madison Grande, NNU; Kaeli Ploettner, SMU; Jacqueline Blakeley, SPU; Kate Cartier, SFU.

Defensive: Sarah Loewen, Simon Fraser

Loewen distinguished herself among this week’s nominees by saving not one but two penalty kicks in the Red Leafs’ season-opening 0-0 draw at Cal State East Bay. Her first heroic moment came in the 33rd minute when she stopped a penalty kick and a follow-up strike to keep the match scoreless. SFU called upon its last line of defense again in the 81st minute, and Loewen denied another strike from 12 yards out to help secure the shutout. After her three-save performance in the season opener, Loewen made the only save required of her in SFU’s 1-0 triumph over Dominican as she completed back-to-back clean sheets.

Also Nominated: Makayla Roggow, NNU; Flavia Burrell, SMU; Landry Schoennauer, SPU; Sophia Pierce, WOU; Jayden Nguyen, WWU.


Offensive: Koji Poon, Simon Fraser

Getting his collegiate career started with a bang, Poon lifted SFU to a come-from-behind victory over Stanislaus State last Thursday. With the Red Leafs facing a 1-0 deficit at halftime, the true freshman scored his first collegiate goal in the 60th minute to pull the scoreline level. Just three minutes later Poon struck again, punching home what proved to be the match-winner in the 63rd minute. Poon followed his brace with a 72-minute effort in SFU’s 2-0 win over Westmont as the Red Leafs got their campaign started with a 2-0 record.

Also Nominated: Callum Bryan, MSUB; Jim Wagenaar, NNU; Angel Alvarado-Fajardo, SMU; Luis Zazueta, SPU; Alejandro Velasco, WOU.                                            

Defensive: Kolja Thomas, Montana State Billings

Leading the Yellowjackets to a 2-0 start to their season, sophomore center back Kolja Thomas contributed on both sides of the ball on opening weekend. Thomas provided a goal in the 38th minute of their match against South Dakota Mines on Friday, a finish that proved to be the game-winner in the hosts’ 2-1 triumph. Thomas followed with his second straight 90-minute performance on Sunday, this time helping MSUB to a clean sheet with a 1-0 victory over Carroll College.

Also Nominated: Nick Mueller, SMU; Cam Welty, SPU; Justyn Sandhu, SFU; Juan Suarez, WOU.


Men’s Runner of the Week: Johan Correa, Central Washington

Correa claimed the title at the Puget Sound Invitational, crossing the finish line in a virtual tie with Western Washington’s Sam Lingwall. Correa’s time showed 15:00.4 while Lingwall was a fraction behind in 15:00.5, giving the former a victory in the debut race of his season. Correa topped a field of 90 competitors in the 5k race.

Also Nominated: Brody Kemble, NNU; Sam Lingwall, WWU.

Women’s Runner of the Week: Ashley Reeck, Western Washington

Topping the women’s field at the Puget Sound Invitational, Reeck led a shipload of Vikings across the finish line as WWU swept the top-15 spots in the race. Reeck clocked in with a time of 17:41.0 to win the race by more than 25 seconds. The debut 5k race for the sophomore saw her best a field of 60 competitors.