Following a third straight Northeast Conference (NEC) women's soccer regular season crown, Central Connecticut became the first school since 2006 to sweep the entire lot of major year-end awards. The Blue Devils, who went 6-0 in conference play to secure the top seed and serve as the host for today's 2020-21 NEC Championship match, collected a total of 14 awards it was announced by the league.
CCSU senior forward Jenna Rae Covello was voted the NEC Offensive Player of the Year and classmate Brianna Williams earned NEC Defensive Player of the Year accolades in a vote of the league's head coaches. Junior Roma McLaughlin was bestowed with NEC Midfielder of the Year for the second season in a row. Junior Amanda McQuillan was recognized as NEC Goalkeeper of the Year, while freshman striker Kelly Brady made an immediate impact on a veteran CCSU squad to claim NEC Rookie of the Year plaudits. Head coach Mick D'Arcy, was honored with his third consecutive NEC Coach of the Year award and unprecedented seventh overall honor by his peers.
Covello, an All-NEC first teamer in 2019 and All-Rookie selection in 2017, became the first Blue Devil to collect NEC Offensive Player of the Year honors. The senior forward led the Blue Devil attack that ranked first amongst NEC teams in goals per game (2.50) over the course of the regular season. The Plymouth, CT native is tied for second in the NEC in goals (three) and ranks third in points (nine). She also netted one game-winner.
CCSU has developed a stranglehold on the NEC Defensive Player of the Year award with Williams becoming the program's seventh consecutive recipient. She joined such luminaries as four-time winner Jennifer Cafferky (2014-17) and two-time honoree Shauny Alterisio (2018-19). Williams, a Tomkins Cove, NY product who started all six games for CCSU, served as the anchor of a Blue Devil backline that surrendered just one goal and allowed only 14 shots on goal over the course of six matches this season.
McLaughlin's resume continues to grow over her first three seasons in New Britain. Along with a pair of NEC Midfielder of the Year accolades, the Donegal, Ireland native was the 2018 NEC Rookie of the Year. McLaughlin is also a three-time first team All-NEC selection and earned All-American status in 2019. The creative center mid is currently tied for second on the circuit with three goals and ranks fourth with seven points.
A 2019 NEC All-Rookie team honoree who rose to the occasion in CCSU's landmark NCAA win over Rutgers during that same freshman campaign, McQuillan did not allow a single goal over 450 minutes this season and posted a league-leading five shutouts. She is one of two netminders nationwide who sport a 0.00 GAA and 1.000 save percentage. From Ireland, McQuillan also joined a long line of CCSU keepers to be honored with this award, including Nikola Deiter (2012), Nicki Turley (3x winner, 2014-16), and Ashley Cavanaugh (2x winner, 2017-18).
Brady provided a youthful boost to a potent CCSU attack this spring. The freshman from Tomkins Cove, NY is tied for the NEC lead with 1.50 points per game, and also ranks first with three assists. Her three goals and nine points are good for second-best in the conference at this time. Brady tallied at least one point in five-of-six matches this season and was also named the NEC Rookie of the Week on March 15. She is the eighth CCSU player to be named NEC Rookie of the Year: Jane McFarlane (1997), Denise Thomas (2000), Jessica McCavanagh (2003), Rosie Maguire (2011), Jennifer Cafferky (2014), Carla Jackson (2016) and McLaughlin (2018).
D'Arcy, who has won 211 games - including two in the NCAA Tournament - over the course of his storied career in New Britain, has guided CCSU to eight of the program's 10 conference championships to go along with eight regular season crowns. The Blue Devils will be making their fifth straight NEC Tournament appearance and 16th overall under D'Arcy's watch this week after finishing 6-0 vs. NEC opposition and conceding just one goal on the year. His seven NEC Coach of the Year awards are the most in league history.
Senior Erica Bardes was recognized for the second straight as a First-Team All-NEC selection. She helped anchor a CCSU defense that has allowed just one goal on the year, while tallying one goal and three assists. Junior Zoë McGlynn has helped solidify the CCSU midfield and started every game this season, while contributing an assist.
Freshman Kristina Kelly joined Brady on the All-Rookie Team. She started five of six games this season and scored two goals - both game-winners - in her first two career games. She also added an assist.