For Kicks, Jessica, Katie

For Kicks Picks: 2016 CANWNT Player of the Year

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David J. Phillip

Canada Soccer announces the 2016 Canadian Women’s Player of the Year award shortly and we wanted to make sure we got our pick in before the actual announcement. The candidates list for the CANWNT Player of the Year award includes:

  • Kadeisha Buchanan
  • Sabrina D’Angelo
  • Jessie Fleming
  • Stephanie Labbé
  • Ashley Lawrence
  • Diana Matheson
  • Sophie Schmidt
  • Desiree Scott
  • Christine Sinclair
  • Melissa Tancredi
  • Shelina Zadorsky

If there is one glaring omission from this list it’s Josée Bélanger. She had a great year not just with the Canadian national team but also with the newest NWSL team, Orlando Pride. Like Ashley Lawrence, Bélanger was adjusting to an outside back role and was quite successful in that endeavour. Her versatility on the field lent itself well to a transitioning Canadian team in 2016.

Our pick for the CANWNT Player of the Year is: Ashley Lawrence. Followed by Janine Beckie and Christine Sinclair and, though we wish we could write more on both Beckie and Sinclair (oh wait you can read what Jessica thinks of Sinclair this year here), we want to focus more on our top choice. But let’s just say right now, Beckie and Sinclair both had fantastic years. Like when we think about it as CANWNT fans, it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy (akin to the feeling of hearing Earth, Wind & Fire’s September in September).

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Obviously, many CANWNT players had a great year — they wouldn’t have another bronze medal if all of our players didn’t play as well as they did in 2016 —but it was Ashley Lawrence who we believe should get the honour this year. Lawrence was dominant in her new fullback position (mostly left, but hey, she’ll play as a right back too) — an outstanding feat for a young player who had to adjust to her new role in a couple months (she learned the position in an Excel camp in May and was immediately put into the position in June friendlies). Making that switch is never easy, but Lawrence doesn’t get our pick for making the position switch alone. She gets our pick because she excelled in that position (along with at the beginning of the year playing really, really well in the midfield). Lawrence was absolutely incredible this year, and you can tell that by the fact that Canada played 20 games in 2016 and Lawrence saw minutes in every single one of them. Lawrence was also named Player of the Match in five games this year (two of them in Olympic matches), the highest on the team for 2016, and saw an average of 82.25 minutes.

Her shifting responsibilities in 2016 earned her a look for Player of the Year but her dominant game play made her the easy choice for our pick for the award. She has become one of the preferred corner kick takers, and provided strong delivery along the flank while becoming a sturdy defender. She was disciplined and hard to beat defensively, and chose her moments wisely when going forward. Lawrence doesn’t shy away from opposing attackers and can recover quickly on defense when need be. This year, Lawrence’s style and speed helped the team by opening up the field and created a flurry of much-needed offensive efforts.

Remember this sublime run and pass from Lawrence in the bronze medal match? Swoon.

When you look outside her play with the CANWNT, Lawrence also had a fantastic year with West Virginia University (WVU). She helped lead the team to win the Big 12 conference title (WVU remained undefeated in conference play in 2016) and to the NCAA College Cup, scoring the lone WVU goal against University of Southern California in the final. Throughout 2016, Lawrence played mostly in the midfield but fulfilled outside back duties when necessary. As a team captain with WVU, Lawrence ranks second on the team with 63 career points: 17 goals and 29 assists. This season alone she had 4 goals and 10 assists – the team leader for assists. 

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via WVU’s Facebook

 

According to rumours, Lawrence could be headed to Paris Saint-Germain after college. If she doesn’t head overseas to play, she is expected to draft within the first round of the NWSL College Draft being held on January 12th at 12pm PT/3pm ET. Wherever Lawrence ends up, she’ll command attention. Her versatility makes her one of the best under 23 players in the world. She can take charge in the midfield or on the flank, making her a spectacular asset on any team, in any league.

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