Three Kansas soccer players were named to the first All-Big 12 team, the conference announced Monday. Senior defender Caroline Van Slambrouck, junior midfielder Liana Salazar and junior forward Ashley Williams were the ones named on the list.
Because this team has been compared to the 2004 team all season long, it is appropriate to mention this it is the first time three Kansas teammates have been named to the conference first team honor in the same season since 2004.
Salazar earned her second-consecutive first team honor of her collegiate career, but this time was a unanimous vote, which was a first in Kansas soccer history. It's Van Slambrouck and Williams’ first time on the list.
“It’s a reflection for the rest of team on the season that we’ve had,” coach Mark Francis said. “To have three kids on the first team, you’re not going to do that unless you’ve won some games. So it’s an honor for those individual players but I think it’s reflective of the whole team.”
Van Slambrouck was a centerpiece of the best defense in the Big 12. The defense allowed more than one goal in a game just one time this season. The Kansas defense surrendered a conference low 12 goals, which is the second-lowest goals-against average in Kansas soccer history (0.63).
“It’s really exciting and a very prestigious honor,” Van Slambrouck said. “It means a lot to me because it shows that you’re recognized by the conference as a significant player.”
Williams and Salazar were key pieces to the offensive puzzle this season. The two combined scored 18 of Kansas’ 33 goals and eight game-winning goals.
Although the honor is individually awarded, it still takes a team effort to be able to land teammates onto the short list. Williams said she appreciates the individual honor and admitted she couldn’t have won it without the team’s help, but there is still work to finish in the Big 12 tournament before any celebrating is done.
“We wouldn’t have gotten [the honor] without our team,” Williams said. “It means a lot to us, but we’re definitely more focused on the team award we can win at the end of the week.”
Also being awarded this season was senior midfielder Jamie Fletcher, who was named to the All-Big 12 second team after missing half of the season due to injuries, and freshman defender Kayla Morrison, who was placed on the Big 12 All-Newcomers Team.
“I was very excited for them that they made it because I think it was very well-deserved,” Francis said.