EDINBURG — UTRGV’s men’s and women’s soccer teams cleaned up the Western Athletic Conference’s all-conference awards, combining for 17 All-WAC selections voted on by coaches throughout the conference between the Vaqueros’ two programs.
Senior William Akio headlined a list of seven UTRGV men’s soccer All-WAC picks after earning both All-WAC First Team honors and the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year award.
Akio has dominated for the Vaqueros on the pitch this season and established himself as one of the most dangerous strikers throughout the WAC.
He leads the team with 24 shots, 17 points and seven goals — three of which were game-winning scores — so far this year, while also tallying three assists, which ranks second on the squad.
Akio recorded multi-goal performances in three of the Vaqueros’ nine regular-season games and leads the conference in goals, points and game-winning goals heading into the WAC Tournament.
“(We were projected to be) the eighth seed coming into the season, so we’re not supposed to be here,” UTRGV men’s soccer head coach Bryheem Hancock said. “That’s why I told the guys: no one had us in here except for us. … We shouldn’t be here, so for us, there’s no pressure.”
Akio was joined by junior Elyad Shojaei on the All-WAC First Team while a trio of juniors — Moiad Ankir, Trevor Schneider and Reshaun Walkes — each earned All-WAC Second Team distinctions. Javier Chavez was also named to the All-WAC Freshman Team, and junior Jan Engels was recognized with an All-WAC Honorable Mention selection.
The Vaqueros seven All-WAC selections ranked second in the conference among men’s soccer teams, after UTRGV completed a 6-1-2 regular season and secured the second seed entering the WAC Tournament, as well as the No. 25 spot in the United Soccer Coaches poll this week.
UTRGV’s men’s squad will take on Air Force in the WAC Tournament semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Las Vegas.
“Playing together and with the confidence of the group … we’ll get the results,” Hancock said. “That’s been the mantra of the group: whatever it takes. Every man’s ready and we’re all one.”
The UTRGV women’s squad, meanwhile, locked up 10 All-WAC selections after completing a stellar 11-6-2 campaign.
The Vaqueros were led by junior Emily Zapata, who garnered All-WAC First Team honors after leading UTRGV with 39 shots, 16 points, six goals and four assists.
Zapata, a Laredo product, has now earned All-WAC recognition for the third consecutive season after being tabbed an All-WAC Second Team pick as both a freshman and sophomore.
UTRGV also led the conference with eight All-WAC Honorable Mention honorees which included senior Gina Steiner, juniors Anna Barkey, Maille Lunardi, Shi’Anne Swift, sophomore Anna Torslov and freshmen Libby Beilfuss and Mari Liis Lillemae.
Freshman Anna Frida Groedem was also recognized with a spot on the All-WAC Freshman Team.
“After the 2019 season, we graduated lots of starters,” UTRGV women’s soccer head coach Glad Bugariu said. “We replaced those with 16 new players, I believe, and, and there was always going to be a period of adjustment, which we obviously went through. But we went through with winning games as well, which is a big statement to the players and their willingness to get through certain challenges.”
The Vaqueros women’s soccer squad was eliminated in the WAC Tournament quarterfinals Tuesday, losing 3-0 to New Mexico State.
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