The Grand Canyon University women’s soccer team found a ‘keeper that’s really a keeper. And the result was one of the best seasons in the program’s history.
And the agile 5’7″ goal keeper that led the Antelopes to an 11-win season was a local recruit that eluded the GCU recruiting net, but returned this year to record the second-best goals-against average in the PacWest Conference.
The team’s 11-5-1 record was the second-best in the 15-year program history.
Stephanie Phillips was a First Team All-State goalie at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, but started her college career at Washington State. After her sophomore year at WSU she returned to Phoenix to play at GCU – and made an immediate impact on a program that is beginning to assert itself as a contender in the PacWest.
The Lopes’ sophomore midfielder, Marina Nesic, was named the PacWest women’s soccer Player of the Year and Phillips earned Newcomer of the Year honors. It’s the first time a GCU player has won either of the awards.
They led the ‘Lopes (9-4-1) to a second-place conference finish and a No. 9 ranking in the NCAA D-II West Region.
It might have been an even better season, but Nesic played just eight games after suffering a season-ending torn meniscus. Twelve days earlier she had scored a PacWest single-game record of five goals in a Sept. 18 game in California. In the eight games she did play, Nesic had 10 goals and 23 points on scores and assists, which tied for the conference lead in both categories.
Phillips missed the season opener with a dislocated finger, but started 16 games this year, with three shutouts. She allowed just 12 goals, recorded 54 saves for a .818 save percentage, which was third-best in the conference.
The ‘Lopes also had the No. 1 player in the conference in shots per game, as junior forward Michelle Carels finished the season with 3.62 per outing, and was also tops in points per game (3.62) and goals per game (0.69).
And sophomore defender Milica Mihajlovic, a transfer from the University of Texas at Brownsville, was an All-PacWest First Team selection.
Coach Gill is in his third year at the helm of the women’s soccer program and is looking at prospects for improvement in the years ahead. He had six transfers on board this season and fills the roster out with a lot of youth.
The Lopes graduated just four players this season and have eight freshmen and six sophomores returning.
Gill may not be far from the goal he set for the program when taking over: getting into the playoffs.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)