Six student-athletes from the Radford University women’s soccer team were tabbed with all-conference honors, the conference announced last week. The six Highlanders were led by Kayla Thomas, who was named the Big South Defensive Player of the Year.
Thomas was also one of the three RU players to be named First Team All-Conference. Joining Thomas on that first team were Nelia Perez and Gabi Paupst. Brianna Oliver and Courtenay Kaplan were named Second Team All-Conference, while Natacha Rangel-Ribiero garnered All-Academic Team honors.
Thomas recorded 15 matches with 90 minutes of gameplay on the defensive end, so her selection as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year came as no surprise. She had a stellar season that started off with a bang on Aug. 26 after being named Big South Defensive Player of the Week.
The Rolleston, New Zealand, native helped the Highlanders to 10 shutouts this season, including three of the last four matches. She also contributed on the offensive end by scoring a goal and tallying two assists in the first two matches of the season, for a total of four points. Thomas becomes the first Defensive Player of the Year from Radford since Che’ Brown was honored in 2013.
Nelia Perez was one of the Highlanders’ best offensive players in the regular season. She notched 10 goals and four assists for 24 points, which ranked her third in the conference. Her 10 goals were also third best in the league. Five of them were game-winners. Her goals and points were both tops for the Highlanders. This was her second consecutive season of being named to the All-Conference First Team.
Right behind her and the leading goal-scorer for most of the season was junior Gabi Paupst. The Grimsby, Ontario, Canada, native totaled eight goals in 16 matches on 51 shots. Paupst also notched three game-winning goals and chipped in with three assists. She led the team with three multi-goal performances, which helped her become a First-Team selection.
Setting Perez and Paupst up for scores was junior transfer Brianna Oliver, who landed on the Second Team. She tied for the team lead with five assists and added three goals to her statline. The midfielder ran the offense perfectly, helping the team to 13 wins. She took only 23 shots all season and landed 10 of those on frame. The Woodbridge, Va., native was efficient with her goals as two of the three were game-winners.
A solid goalkeeper added into the mix makes for a great team, and Courtenay Kaplan was that solid goalkeeper. She’s earned Second-Team All-Conference honors for the second time in a row. With only nine goals scored on her of the 140 shots faced, the numbers speak for themselves about her performance. She l for five solo shutouts. She came away with 61 saves and had five shutouts. She led the league with a 0.64 goals-against average.
Natacha Rangel-Ribiero rounds out the all-conference selections with a spot on the All-Academic Team. She currently has a 3.95 cumulative GPA as a chemistry major. The senior contributed in the classroom and on the field, totaling 87 minutes with one start.
— RU Athletics