KANSAS CITY, Mo. — University of Rio Grande junior Willian Paulino was named the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Player of the Year on Tuesday and is one of three members of the RedStorm’s national championship squad named to the 2015 NAIA Men’s Soccer All-America teams.
Paulino, a forward from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and freshman goalkeeper Ben Martinez (Montpellier, France) received First Team recognition, while sophomore midfielder Joao Paulo Antonio (Sao Paulo, Brazil), was a Second Team honoree.
The teams were selected by the NAIA All-America committee, which consists of the NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches Association Executive Committee, the National Championship Games Committee and four men’s soccer coaches who were selected based on geography. Each team – first, second and third – consisted of 11 members.
Paulino became the first RedStorm player to earn the National Player of the Year award since the its inception in 1997. He helped top-seeded Rio Grande to the 2015 NAIA National Championship title, after a 1-0 overtime victory over MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) on Dec. 5 in Delray Beach, Fla.
The 2015 Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) Offensive Player of the Year, Paulino ranked No. 12 in the NAIA in total goals (19), No. 15 in total points (43) and No. 17 in game-winning goals (5). His best offensive stretch of the season started with a two-goal match against Shawnee State (Ohio) on Oct. 7. That ignited a seven-match streak of scoring at least one goal. Overall during that period, he posted 10 goals, one assist and 21 points. He tallied at least one goal in 14-of-18 regular-season matches. In his three-year RedStorm career, Paulino has totaled 35 goals, 16 assists, 86 points and nine game-winning markers.
Martinez, who was named the Most Valuable Player and Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the national tournament, posted shutout efforts in the final four of Rio’s five tournament victories.
Martinez, who was also the KIAC Defensive Player of the Year, was in net for every second of the RedStorm’s 24 matches this season. He finished with a .787 save percentage and recorded 48 saves against 13 goals allowed – five of which were on penalty kicks.
Martinez also had 14 shutouts.
Antonio, like Paulino and Martinez a first team All-KIAC pick, finished as the team’s second-leading scorer behind Paulino with seven goals and 12 assists for 26 points. He had two goals in the RedStorm’s win over Bethel (Tenn.) to open the national tournament and added one assist in each of its next three tourney contests leading up to the title match.
Oklahoma Wesleyan was the only institution to land three players on the All-America First Team – defenders Fernando Machado and Stephan Milicevic and midfielder Perica Obradovic. Overall, the 20-1-1 Eagles boast the highest amount of any program on the First, Second and Third Teams with four players.
The 2015 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 Baltimore, Md., from Jan. 13-17, 2016.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.