Saturday, January 12, 2008
Yamaguchi's prowess earns her the Hermann
Maria Burns Ortiz
Florida State's Mami Yamaguchi knew virtually nothing about the existence of the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy before the season began. Of course, she's very familiar with the award now after being named the nation's top player Friday night.
"I didn't really know about the Hermann Trophy," the junior forward from Tokyo said. "But I'm just really happy to receive such a great honor. ... I don't know how I can explain the feeling, but it's very special just to be here." Yamaguchi became the first Seminoles player to win college soccer's most prestigious award after leading the nation in points (66) and finishing second in goals (24) and assists (18). With one season remaining, she already is Florida State's all-time assists leader, having notched 30 in her first three seasons. She ranks second in team history in points (94) and goals (32).
Her efforts this past season helped the Florida State's women's team reach its first national championship game. Her eight assists in the NCAA Tournament are single-season and all-time school records.
"It was such an exciting season," Yamaguchi said. "Personally, I had a great season, but as a team, we also had a great season, playing for the national championship for the first time in school history. It's such a great accomplishment for us."
The Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Yamaguchi got off to a strong start and carried it through. She scored two goals in the first five games of the season -- matching her total in 2006 -- and kept that momentum going, scoring a goal in a school-record seven consecutive games.
"It's hard to really say [when she emerged as a Hermann contender]," Florida State coach Mark Krikorian said. "The season she put together was really a fantastic season, scoring big goal after big goal for us and helping to carry her load through the entire season."
In addition, Yamaguchi's technical ability helped set her apart.
"Her ball control is certainly among the best in the country," Krikorian said. "She's a multidimensional attacking talent. She's improved all the areas of her game during her three years here to put herself in a position to warrant the attention to be recognized as national player of the year."
Yamaguchi was also quick to credit her teammates and coaches for her success this season. Those around her would expect no less.
"It's a thrill for a coach to see that the greatest thing about her is that she just wants to help her team," Krikorian said. "I really look at this as a fantastic honor for our school and our team. I think it also says something about the level of success we're achieving as a team. All of us feel great about the award and are all-around happy for Mami and the team."
The Seminoles have plenty to feel good about as they head into next season. Not only will the team return the Hermann Trophy winner, but the national runners-up did not have a single senior on the roster in 2007.
Things are on the upswing in Tallahassee.Maria Burns Ortiz covers college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.