UNCW freshman defender Hjalmar Ekdal has been named the Colonial Athletic Association’s men’s soccer Rookie of the Year in a vote of the league’s nine head coaches.
Ekdal, the third player in program history selected as the CAA’s top rookie, also received a spot on the All-CAA First Team and the league’s All-Rookie Team to headline a group of seven Seahawks recognized by the conference.
Sophomore forward Phillip Goodrum joined Ekdal on the All-CAA First Team and a group of four UNCW players – junior midfielders Ben Fisher and Joel Bylander, sophomore defender Mark Lindstrom and senior midfielder Kalvin Kromer – earned selections on the All-CAA Second Team.
Freshman forward Emil Elveroth was the Seahawks’ representative on the All-CAA Third Team in addition to joining Ekdal on the CAA All-Rookie Team.
“This is well deserved recognition for the efforts of our entire squad this season,” Coach Aidan Heaney said. “Our team has played some excellent soccer this season and we look to continue our strong play in the CAA semifinals on Friday night. Having seven selections speaks volumes about the talent we have on our team and although these seven are highlighted, I am sure they share their awards with their teammates, who have all contributed to our team’s success this season.”
A starter in all 16 games, Ekdal has contributed two goals while leading the UNCW defensive unit. He was named the CAA’s Player-of-the-Week on Sept. 4 after netting the game-winning goal in the Seahawks’ 1-0 win over No. 3 North Carolina. The Stockholm, Sweden, product also claimed Rookie-of-the-Week distinction after scoring in UNCW’s victory over North Florida on Aug. 27.
“Despite being just a freshman, Hjalmar has fit in seamlessly at the center of our defense and has been an important contributor for us,” Coach Heaney said. “He is an intelligent player who reads the game very well and is very savvy at his position. He brings it every day in training and is a competitor. I see him continuing to excel in future years.”
Goodrum, the team’s leading scorer with seven goals and 17 points, scored five of his markers against CAA opponents, including a two-goal effort at William & Mary that earned him CAA Co-Player-of-the-Week honors. The Charlotte, N.C., native, who has started every contest this season, also struck for a goal in league fixtures against Elon, Hofstra and Northeastern.
According to Coach Heaney, “Phillip has taken on the responsibility of scoring goals in the absence of captain Julio Moncada, who has been unlucky with injuries this season. He has phenomenal energy, is a real handful for defenders and has scored some important goals for us. It’s good to see him recognized on the All-CAA First Team for his efforts.”
Named to the All-CAA Second Team for the second time in his career, Fisher has contributed two goals and five assists while starting 14-of-15 contests. The Chapel Hill, N.C., performer tallied the eventual game-winning marker in a 3-2 victory over North Florida and scored in a 2-0 victory over Longwood on Sept. 8. He has also registered four assists over the last eight contests and is tied for second in the CAA with five helpers.
Bylander, who claimed Second-Team All-CAA notice for the second consecutive season, has started all 16 contests at midfield and has tallied four shots. The Stockholm, Sweden, native also ranks among the team leaders with 1,234 minutes played.
“Joel performs an important role for our team and is a smart player,” Heaney said. “He anchors our midfield and is a link between our defense and midfield as well as requiring to break up the opponent’s attack.”
Lindstrom, from Gavle, Gastrikland, Sweden, receives his second straight Second-Team All-CAA nod after returning from an injury to start the last 10 games on defense. He has taken three shots this season and been a key cog in a defensive unit that is tied for second in the CAA with just 16 goals allowed in 16 games.
“Mark has worked very hard to get over an injury that delayed his start to the season,” said Heaney. “He is a top level center back who is composed on the ball and a strong individual defender that the other CAA coaches recognized.”
Kromer earned his first All-CAA honor after starting 13-of-15 games during his senior campaign. A native of Cary, N.C., he has scored twice with three assists, including the eventual game-winning marker at Coastal Carolina on Oct. 3. Kromer has started 60-of-69 career games, scoring eight goals with seven assists.
Coach Heaney said, “I am especially happy to see Kalvin recognized as a senior. He has been an integral part of our team this season and has led by example. He is very good on the ball, knits things together for us and has been a key contributor.”
UNCW’s third-leading scorer with nine points, Elveroth has produced four goals with an assist while starting 15-of-16 contests during his rookie campaign. The Halmstad, Sweden, forward received the CAA’s Rookie-of-the-Week honor after scoring the eventual game-winning goal in a 2-0 triumph over Longwood on Sept. 8. He also propelled the Seahawks to wins over Elon and Drexel by scoring the game-winning marker in each contest.
Emil is extremely coachable and continues to get better as he adapts to the college game,” according to the Seahawks’ coach. “He has excellent movement and I see him as a strong candidate to add to his four goals before the end of the season.”
UNCW, the No. 2 seed in this weekend’s CAA Championship, faces Charleston in a semifinal contest at James Madison on Friday, Nov. 10, at 4 p.m.