Dec. 2, 2006
SAINT LOUIS, Mo. - Notre Dame junior forward Joseph Lapira (Lake Charles, La./Saint Louis Catholic) has been named the winner of the 2006 Missouri Athletic Club (M.A.C.) Hermann Trophy, the most prestigious individual award in intercollegiate soccer. Lapira becomes the first recipient of the award in the history of the Notre Dame men's program. The award is the official National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Player of the Year award for Division I competition.
Not only did Lapira win the men's award, Notre Dame sophomore forward Kerri Hanks took home the women's trophy. They become the first duo to take both the men's and women's awards from the same school in the same season. The winners were determined by voting among NSCAA Division I member coaches and were announced at a banquet in St. Louis, Mo., hosted by the Missouri Athletic Club, on Saturday evening. Lapira was presented with the prestigious crystal soccer ball, which has come to symbolize the highest individual achievement in intercollegiate soccer. Hanks was unable to attend the ceremony since she and her Irish teammates take on North Carolina tomorrow for the NCAA title in Cary, N.C.
Lapira, an NSCAA/adidas first-team All-American, leads all NCAA Division I men's scorers in points with 50 and goals with 22. He also notched six assists on the season. Lapira was selected as the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and was also a unanimous choice on the all-conference first team. The junior forward tallied seven multiple-goal games this season. He had a seven-game goal streak at one point, which included a stretch of five straight two-goal efforts. His season-high performance was a four-goal display in a 5-4 overtime win at No. 8 Indiana. He took down the Hoosiers with one of his 11 game-winners on the season. Lapira was named the National Player of the Week twice by College Soccer News, Top Drawer Soccer and Soccer Times and received the honor once from Soccer America.
"I just want to thank my teammates for their hard work, dedication and encouragement," said Lapira at the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy ceremony. "With their support, I was able to grow as a player on the field and a person off the field. I want to thank my coaches for giving me the opportunity to play and my family and friends for supporting me."
The Louisiana native continued his stellar play into the NCAA Tournament as he scored the game-winner in both Irish victories en route to the program's unprecedented run to the quarterfinals. He tallied the lone goal in wins over UIC and No. 5 Maryland in the second and third rounds, respectively. His goal against the Terrapins occurred in double-overtime to knock off the defending NCAA champions. Lapira also notched an assist in a 3-2 loss to Virginia in the quarterfinals, which ended Notre Dame's season with a 15-6-2 record.
Lapira tore his left lateral meniscus against UAB in the first match of the season, yet continued to play and post one of the more remarkable seasons in the nation and in Notre Dame history. He opted to postpone surgery on his knee until the offseason. Lapira's 22 goals this season ranks him in a tie for second all-time on Notre Dame's single-season list. Kevin Lovejoy also netted 22 goals during the 1979 campaign, while Lovejoy's total of 29 goals in 1978 tops the list. Lapira's 50 points are the third-highest single-season total in program history. Lovejoy also occupies the top two spots in that category with 63 in 1978 and 55 in 1979.
The junior forward is the first player in program history to win BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year. He is also the first Irish player to be named BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week three times in the same season. Lapira is the only Notre Dame player to win any weekly award from the league four times in a career. He was selected as the Offensive Player of the Week once as a freshman.
Lapira beat out fellow finalists Charlie Davies, a junior forward from Boston College, and Jay Needham, a senior defender from SMU, for the Hermann Trophy. Davies was tabbed as the Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year as he recorded 15 goals and six assists for 36 points. Needham earned Conference USA Defender of the Year honors this season by anchoring a Mustang defense that tied a school record with 14 shutouts. He also registered three goals and three assists for nine points. Maryland's Jason Garey, also a native of Louisiana, won the 2005 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy.