Rio men land 4 on All-America team

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – National runner-up University of Rio Grande placed four players on the 2016 NAIA Men’s Soccer All-America teams announced Tuesday by the national office.

Senior defender Heitor de Melo (Sao Paulo, Brazil), junior midfielder Jorge Guinovart (Barcelona, Spain) and senior midfielder Pau Delgado Rodriguez (Barcelona, Spain) were all named as first team selections, while sophomore goal keeper Ben Martinez (Montpellier, France) was an honorable mention selection.

The NAIA All-America committee consisted of the NAIA-Men’s Soccer Coaches Association Executive Committee, the National Championship Games Committee and four men’s soccer coaches—selected based on geography. Each team – first, second and third – consists of 11 members.

Delgado Rodriguez, the River States Conference Offensive Player of the Year, led the RedStorm with 20 goals and 49 points. His nine assists ranked second on the team.

Guinovart, the RSC Overall Player of the Year, was second among Rio’s team leaders with 14 goals and 40 points. His 12 assists led the club.

de Melo, the RSC Defensive Player of the Year, helped the RedStorm post 13 shutouts this season. Offensively, he also had three goals and three assists.

Martinez, a first team All-American as a freshman, recorded 11 solo shutouts and was part of two others. He started all 25 games for Rio, allowing just 14 goals with 42 saves and a .750 save percentage.

Hastings sophomore forward Daniel Whitehall was honored as the 2016 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Player of the Year. The Warrington, England, native led the NAIA in total goals (34) and was tops in total points with 77.

Whitehall was also named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player in the NAIA National Championship, helping his team secure the championship for the second time in program history with its 1-0 win over defending national champion Rio Grande in last Saturday’s title game.

Whitehall is the first player from Hastings to earn the honor since Derek Prinz in 2011.

Like Rio Grande, the University of Northwestern Ohio landed three players on the first team. Oklahoma Wesleyan was the leader in total selections, placing two on the first team and two on the third team. There were a total of 14 repeat selections from last year’s lists.

Among the others named to the first team were midfielders Sam Blackman of Grand View (Iowa), Eduardo Heringer of MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and Perica Obradovic of Oklahoma Wesleyan; defenders Michael Gonzalo of Northwestern Ohio and Fernando Machado of Oklahoma Wesleyan; forward Sean Latimer of Northwestern Ohio; and goal keeper Nikola Kahvedzic of Northwestern Ohio.

Aleksi Pahkasalo of Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) earned his second All-America honor, giving the Blue Raiders a record 69 selections. Rio Grande has now moved into second with 47 selections.

The 2016 Select Sport America-NAIA National Coach of the Year will be announced at the National Soccer Coaches’ Association of America (NSCAA) National Convention, held in Los Angeles, Calif., from Jan. 11-15, 2017.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing