The Big South Conference announced Tuesday afternoon the 2023 Conference Award Winners featuring eight Highlanders including Eileen Albers, Paige Olson, Helena Willson, Alexeis Kirnos, Jillian Silverstone, Lexi Radvanyi, Katelyn O’Donnell and Ben Sohrabi.
Highlighting the yearly list were three Highlanders earning “of the Year” awards in Albers’ Fresham of the Year, Willson’s Defensive Player of the Year and Sohrabi’s Coach of the Year.
Albers is the sixth Highlander to earn Freshman of the Year in program history and the second in the last three seasons to do so. The Melsungen, Germany native was electric in her debut season leading the team in goals (6) and points (15). Her six goals rank third-most overall in the conference and most among Big South freshman.
Albers’ three game-winners against Presbyterian, UNC Asheville and Winthrop also rank tied for most in the conference. She also became the first Highlander since 2021 and first freshman since 2015 to net a hat trick, doing so against Presbyterian. The Freshman of the Year award comes atop two other honors for Albers who was named first-team all-conference and to the all-freshman team.
Willson joins a historic list of Highlanders to earn Big South Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the fifth different player in program history to win the award. A Radford player has now earned the Defensive award in four of the last five seasons. Willson captained the defensive backline this season helping the Highlanders post seven shutouts including 0.88 goals against average against conference opponents which was best in the league.
The Leesburg, Va. native started and played all 17 matches totaling 1,471 minutes on the field and played in every minute of conference play. The senior also scored three goals this season to help in key victories over Appalachian State and Longwood. Willson also helped Radford earn top-100 ranks in Division I for stat categories such as goal differential and shutout percentage. The Defensive Player of the Year award also comes with first-team all-conference honors for Willson.
Head Coach Sohrabi rounds out the “of the Year” awards with his fifth Big South Coach of the Year award, the sixth overall in Radford’s history. Sohrabi led the Highlanders to their sixth regular season championship in program history this season posting a 10-5-2 overall and 6-1-1 Big South record. This season marked the 16th time Sohrabi has led a Highlander team to 10 or more wins. Radford as a team ranked top-two in shots, shots on goal, points, goals and assists in the Big South. Sohrabi’s five coach of the year awards are now two more than the next closest coach in Big South history.
Olson, one of the best forwards in the Big South this season, came up just short of the Offensive Player of the Year award but still earned first-team all-conference honors. The Roanoke, Va. native led the team, Big South and ranked top-20 in the nation for assists this season with nine. That mark ranks tied for seventh-most assists during a single season in Radford history. Olson also supplied two goals on the season including a game-winner in a pivotal match at Longwood late in the season.
Kirnos makes it back-to-back seasons as a part of the first-team all-conference list with another great performance in her fifth season at Radford. The Woodbridge, Va. native posted the third-most points on the team this season with an even four goals and four assists. It was the senior’s fourth straight season with four assists and third straight season with three or more goals. Kirnos also provided a game-winner in Radford’s win over Appalachian State earlier this season, helping seal the only win by a Big South school over a team with an RPI within the top-100 this year.
Moving on to Radford’s representatives on the second-team all-conference list, Silverstone makes her first appearance on a postseason award list after a stellar defensive season. After fueling Radford’s 2022 tournament championship, the sophomore hasn’t slowed down. The Charlotte Hall, Md. native started in all 17 games this season totaling a team-high 1,488 minutes. Silverstone helped the Highlanders post seven shutouts including 0.88 goals against average against conference opponents which was best in the league. Silverstone also earned her first career assist this season in a 2-0 win over Winthrop.
After an incredible debut season, Lexi Radvanyi was recognized, being named to the second-team all-conference and all-freshman lists. Radvanyi stepped up in a big way this season starting every game from Richmond onwards and posting one of the best stat lines among all goalies in the Big South. In 1,096 minutes played, Radvanyi posted 0.99 goals against average totaling 51 saves and four shutouts while facing 156 shots. The Leesburg, Va. native led the Big South or was top-two in all of those categories and was one of just two freshman starting goalkeepers in the conference.
Completing Radford’s end of year awards was academic standout O’Donnell earning the team’s all-academic award. O’Donnell will graduate next spring with a degree in Marketing and Management at Radford with a strong 3.76 GPA. She’s volunteered with various programs in the Radford community and has improved every season. In her career she has four goals and two assists including a goal that helped seal Radford’s 2022 Big South Championship.
The Big South Tournament is set to begin in a few days as the conference regular season champions will kick things off with the first semifinal match at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2. The first-seeded Radford will face the fourth-seeded Charleston Southern at the Matthews Sportsplex in Matthews, N.C. Should the Highlanders advance, the conference championship is slated for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5.