Boyds, Md., (10/20/20) – The Washington Spirit held their second annual Spirit Awards to honor the top performers and performances from the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup and Fall Series.
The awards handed out were Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year, Defender of the Year, Young Player of the Year, Goal of the Year and Humanitarian of the Year. The awards were voted on internally among coaches and players.
Player of the Year – Bayley Feist
Feist had a breakout year in which she played in nine games, made eight starts, and played 701 minutes.
The second year midfielder recorded 19 total shots during that time, created seven chances for the Spirit and scored two goals.
Feist was also a key factor on the defensive side, making 24 tackles and forcing nine interceptions.
With the Spirit midfield often having to take up new positions due to injuries to Andi Sullivan and Jordan DiBiasi, Feist was a rock in the middle.
Players’ Player of the Year – Paige Nielsen
Nielsen was an Ironwoman for the Spirit in 2020, playing every minute of every game in both the Challenge Cup and Fall Series for a total of 810 minutes.
In that time, Nielsen forced 24 interceptions, made 14 tackles, made a total of 755 passes, recorded a passing accuracy of over 85% in both tournaments, and scored a goal in the opening game of the Fall Series against Sky Blue.
The centerback’s outstanding and consistent performances were recognized and honored by her teammates.
Defender of the Year – Sam Staab
After being drafted in the first round of the 2019 NWSL College Draft, Staab stepped into a core role within the team immediately as the other half of the Spirit’s dynamic centerback duo.
Because of that, Staab was recognized with the Defender of the Year award. The center back completed her second consecutive Ironwoman year, after playing every single minute of the Challenge Cup and the Fall Series. Staab made a total of 659 passes, recorded a passing accuracy of over 85% in both competitions, made seven tackles, forced eight interceptions, and scored a late equalizing goal against Portland in the Challenge Cup.
Young Player of the Year – Ashley Sanchez
The Spirit had plenty of youth on the squad this season, but Sanchez’s performances were rewarded with the Spirit’s 2020 Young Player of the Year Award to go along with her 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup Future Legend Award.
The fourth overall draft pick in 2020 had an immediate impact on the Spirit’s offense.
The 21-year-old played in nine games, started in eight and played a total of 670 minutes. Additionally, Sanchez created the highest number of chances for the Spirit with 13, earning one assist.
Goal of the Year – Kumi Yokoyama
Newcomer Yokoyama takes home the award for goal of the year after scoring a beautiful right-footed, game-winning goal against Sky Blue FC in the Spirit’s final Fall Series game. It was Yokoyama’s first goal with the Spirit, and she made sure it was an unforgettable one.
It's a good day to be @yoko10_official 🙌
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) October 3, 2020
Humanitarian of the Year – Ashley Hatch
Hatch was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year award for her work creating the program Boots from Pros. Hatch was inspired to create Boots from Pros in order to give her extra boots to those in need.
The program works by having a coach, teacher, athletic director, etc. fill out a form on behalf of the youth player. Once the request has been submitted, they will begin the process of matching a professional player’s boots with a youth player in need with the same cleat size. Once a match is found, Hatch assembles a box that includes the boots, a message from the pro player who donated them, and other Spirit swag. In 2020 alone, Hatch and Boots from Pros have donated 12 pairs of cleats to local youth players.
Coach of the Year – Ian McCaldon
Spirit Goalkeeper Coach Ian McCaldon was named coach of the year for his work with the team during the 2020 season.
McCaldon has spent two full seasons with the Spirit after joining the team in 2019. McCaldon has worked closely with 2019 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Aubrey Bledsoe, Devon Kerr and Katie Lund to improve technical and tactical aspects of goalkeeping by utilizing using video analyses from training sessions and games.