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Owls rack up assortment of All-NCAC awards

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) unveiled its annual men’s soccer all-conference teams on Thursday, and Kenyon College claimed the league’s top three individual awards and Coaching Staff of the Year recognition. Overall, seven Owls players earned All-NCAC honors.

Each of Kenyon’s three first-team representatives earned Player of the Year honors. Alem Duratovic was dubbed the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, Eamon Dujakovich earned Midfielder of the Year recognition, and Aidan Burns brought home the Defensive Player of the Year award. Defenders Matt Nguyen and Max Thesing secured spots on the All-NCAC second team, while midfielders Alex Ramirez and Joey Martens appeared on the third team.

Dujakovich, a junior, earned his first all-conference honors after scoring an NCAC-leading 25 points and 11 goals. He is the fourth Kenyon player to be recognized as the NCAC’s top midfielder, and this marks the second straight season that an Owls player has won the award. Dujakovich’s 53 shots and 25 shots on goal are second-most in the conference, and his three game-winning goals tie for third.

Another first-time All-NCAC honoree, Duratovic earned a spot on the first-team after tallying 10 goals and 22 points thus far, second in the conference behind only Dujakovich. The Offensive Player of the Year award goes to an Owls player for the second consecutive campaign and the ninth time in program history. Amongst NCAC leaders, the junior forward ranks third with 50 shots and is tied for fourth with 22 shots on goal.

Burns appeared back on the All-NCAC First Team after claiming a spot last season, marking his third all-conference selection after a second-team spot in 2021. The senior’s Defensive Player of the Year award marks the 13th time a Kenyon player has held the honor. Despite most of his impact coming as a stalwart on Kenyon’s back line, the defender has dished out a team-leading five assists this season, tied for third-most in the league, and scored a goal.

Nguyen and Thesing combined with Burns to contribute to a staunch Kenyon defense. Nguyen, a sophomore, garnered his second straight second-team selection, while Thesing, a junior, earned his first All-NCAC nod. Nguyen joined Burns and Dujakovich as the only Owls position players to start all 19 games, and he led Kenyon position players by playing 1,630 of a possible 1,710 minutes. Thesing has split time as a midfielder and defender, starting 13 games and playing in 16. The second-team duo also contributed offensively, with Nguyen notching three goals, tied for fourth on the team, and Thesing tallying one goal and two assists.

A pair of midfielders rounded out Kenyon’s All-NCAC selections as Martens and Ramirez racked up their first all-conference honors. Martens is Kenyon’s third-leading scorer with five goals and 11 points, tying for ninth and 15th, respectively, in the NCAC, and he added an assist. Four of Martens’ goals went down as game-winners, which ties Duratovic for the most in the conference. Ramirez started all 15 games he played and has registered three assists, tied with three Owls for second on the team and 12th in the NCAC.

Leading the way for Kenyon’s wealth of team and individual success were head coach Travis Wall and assistant coach Nick Taljan, as well as goalkeepers coach Andy Brinkman. In their first season with the Owls, Wall and Taljan helped Kenyon compile a 15-4-0 overall record thus far while winning the program’s eighth straight and 14th overall regular-season NCAC Championship. The Coaching Staff of the Year award, changed in 2022 from Coach of the Year, is Kenyon’s eighth all-time. The Owls, the No. 17-ranked team in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll and the top team in the NCAA Region VII rankings, earned one of 23 at-large berths in the 2023 NCAA Division III Tournament, Kenyon’s ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth and the 18th overall appearance in program history.

After a rough start to the season that saw the Owls start 0-2 and get outscored 8-2 against two top-25 opponents, Wall and Taljan directed Kenyon to five straight wins. Following a narrow defeat on September 23, the Owls won 10 straight, including a perfect 8-0 mark in NCAC play. Kenyon has outscored opponents 46-21 this season, leading the NCAC with 2.42 goals per game and posting the league’s third-best defense at 1.11 goals allowed per game with nine shutouts. The Owls outscored opponents 22-3 over the conference slate, averaging 2.75 goals per game and allowing a minuscule 0.38 goals against average.

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