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Cooper headlines five in year end awards

Nov 12, 2021

SAN FRANCSICO – Headlined by their first-year phenom Nadia Cooper, Washington State was well represented among the Pac-12's elite in the year-end women's soccer conference awards as five different Cougs were recognized for their play. It was Cooper who brought home the most hardware as she was named both the Goalkeeper and Freshman of the Year by the conference's coaches while also earning first team and all-freshman honors.

It was a historic run of success for the young netminder as she became the first player in program history to earn not only the top freshman award but also the top goalkeeper award. She joins Coug legends Micaela Castain (2013) and Kim Lynass (1990) as the only WSU players to earn top honors in conference play with both Castain and Lynass taking home Player of the Year in their respective seasons. For Lynass it was her freshman campaign in the NCSC.
Putting herself among the best to ever do it, Cooper finished the regular season 9-1-3 between the posts while tallying seven solo shutouts despite not taking over the starting job until Sept. 12. She would go on to set the Cougs' all-time record for consecutive shutout minutes with 523:56 minutes to begin her career, snapping all-time great Gurveen Clair's record set in 2013. In addition, Cooper became the first true freshman in program history to record shutouts in her first two career starts. In 14 appearances, Cooper allowed just 8 goals, finishing the regular season 12th in the country with a .056 goals against average. The young keeper even got into the fun offensively when she snagged the game-winning assist at Colorado on Oct. 13 in her second career Pac-12 start. She would also earn two Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week awards for her play.

In addition, to Cooper, veterans Elyse Bennett and Mykiaa Minniss each played their way on to the conference's first team. For the standout captains, it marked the first time the two had earned first team honors in their careers after both Bennett and Minniss earned third team honors a season ago. The trio will also all go down as all-freshman team honorees as well after Bennett nabbed the honor in 2017 and Minniss in 2018 while Cooper added the distinction alongside of her first team award.
For Bennett, the selection to the top team was a culmination of a stellar career on the Palouse as she finished the regular season among the top goal scorers in the conference. For the year, Bennett posted a career-best 10 goals (6th in the Pac-12) and while adding 4 assists for a team high 24 points (6th in the Pac-12). She would twice come up with game-winners for the Cougs, including a dramatic 89th minute header on the road at Oregon to lead WSU to victory in Eugene in a critical match that had postseason implications. For her career, Bennett has notched 26 goals and 12 assists. She ranks 6th all-time in goals scored and in points with 64. Additionally, she has played 91 career games 2nd all-time only behind her teammate Sydney Pulver.
Nabbing all-conference honors for the second-straight season, Minniss captained an elite defensive unit for the Cougs that finished the regular season having allowed just 11 goals (one of which was an own goal) in 19 matches. The 0.58 goals against average is the second-best all-time in program history while ranking 11th in the country. As a unit the Cougs posted 12 shutouts on the year, the second most in program history including a record-setting six-straight in the middle of the season. Additionally, the Cougs captured the program's consecutive shutout minute record with nearly a full month of shutout soccer posting a record 578:45 minutes of scoreless soccer before seeing their run snapped. In a possible 1798:36 minutes, Minniss played a team-high 1769 minutes, rarely leaving the pitch. Offensively, Minniss tallied one assist on the year against Arizona.
Not to be outdone, the Cougs also saw a pair of players take home third team honors in Bridget Rieken and Sydney Studer. For Rieken, the award was the first of her career while Studer nabbed her second-straight award but first as a Coug. The two helped to anchor the team alongside of Minniss as Rieken played 1757 minutes while Studer registered 1670 with both starting all 19 games.
Helping anchor the Cougs' staunch defense, Rieken put her body on the line as the last line of defense for the Cougs as WSU routinely pushed the rest of their backline forward into the attack. Despite rarely pressing forward herself, Rieken did make the most of her chances when called into action for set pieces as the third-year centerback scored a career-high four goals and assisted on another tallying nine points. Not only did she record her first career goal on Sept. 5, she would go on to record her first career brace as the Cougs blasted Hawai'i 7-0 at Lower Soccer Field.
Making an immediate impact in her first year on the Palouse, Studer took over the Cougs' midfield attack as she scored two goals and recorded a team-high five assists in 2021. The senior transfer really made her mark down the stretch in Pac-12 play as she scored a brilliant game-tying goal against UCLA Oct. 24 to help WSU earn the draw against the conference champion Bruins and kick off the team's late season push towards the postseason. She continued her stellar play in the final weeks of the season as she recorded game-winning assists against both Oregon State and Washington to close out the regular season.
With the postseason set to kick off, the Cougs begin their road back to the College Cup Saturday, Nov. 13 at home at Lower Soccer Field where they will host Montana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. start.