The USF men’s soccer team was the recipient of two sets of accolades over the holiday.
In December, Bulls midfielder Jeff Thwaites, goalie Troy Perkins and forward Hunter West were included in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-South Third-Team. The men’s soccer program received a second boost with the award of a NSCAA Team Academic Award Friday.
For Thwaites and Perkins, the nomination was their second consecutive regional honor, while West’s inclusion, following on his Conference USA Freshman of the Year award, is further acknowledgement of the impact the freshman made at collegiate level.
Bulls assistant coach Jim Felix said the three players had warranted the accolade. Referring to Perkins, Felix said the Bulls’ goalkeeper was at least on par with the keepers rated No. 1 and No. 2 in both the All-South and All-American rankings.
“Troy is one of the best, if not the best goalkeeper in the country,” Felix said.
“I don’t think that he’s worse than those guys, but they play in higher profile conferences. He just works hard and does what he has to do.”
Although Perkins, who recorded seven shutouts during the 2002 season and was twice recipient of the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week Award, was pleased to be recognized, the award was somewhat bittersweet.
“Last year, I was named second team,” Perkins said. “This year, I was named third team. But, it’s gratifying to know that coaches hear things about you, and you’re not being overlooked by everyone.”
The second consecutive inclusion for Thwaites, who finished his career with 17 goals and 20 assists, was a good note for the senior to bow out on, said Felix.
“Jeff has had a tremendous career here, (and) that’s the icing on the cake,” said Felix.
By contrast, Felix said the nomination of 19-year-old West, coming so early in his collegiate career, speaks volumes of the potential within the young Bulls striker.
“For Hunter, it’s just the start of things. I hope he understands that he needs to keep working to improve,” Felix said.
“It’s a tremendous award for a freshman to get, that’s for sure.”West, who was the top scorer for the Bulls in 2002 with 14 goals, was one of only two freshmen nominated to the All-South Region team.
A collective 3.08 grade point average during the 2001-02 academic year will also see the Bulls’ scholastic achievements recognized with receipt of the NSCAA Team Academic Award at the College Coaches Luncheon in Kansas City Jan. 16.
USF was among only 67 programs that achieved the necessary 3.0 or higher collective GPA, and is the only Conference USA team honored.
Phyllis LaBaw, associate athletic director for academic support and development, said much of the credit for the award should go to the players and also the coaches.
“The coaching staff who have bought into our program, they make it a requirement of their athletes to adhere to our processes,” LaBaw said.
For Felix, however, the role performed by the Academic Support and Development team is invaluable.
“Our academic support here is second to none. People like Phyllis LaBaw, Carine Notter and Cindy Moore — they do an unbelievable job,” Felix said.
“It’s mind-boggling how they keep these guys on track.”
While academic awards may seem, at first glance, something of a sidebar, Felix said recognition of the academic support given to athletes at USF could only help in attracting high-school athletes.
“Parents like it. They know their son is going to be watched over academically and given every chance to succeed here,” Felix said.
Chris O’Donnell covers USF men’s soccer and can be reached at email@example.com