Coming off of a strong 13-5-4 season, the Emerson women's soccer team had its success soured in a heartbreaking loss to Emmanuel in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship. While senior captain and forward Casey Whalen may have played her final game with the team, her accomplishments throughout the season did not go unnoticed.
Last week, Whalen was voted Player of the Year by the GNAC and was named to the first-team All-Conference.
"I really wasn't expecting to win," Whalen said. "I was really happy, but it was a surprise. In the last few games I hadn't done that well, and there were a million other competitors in the league that the award could have, and probably should have, gone to."
The GNAC Player of the Year award is voted upon by the coaches of all 13 teams in the conference, each one bringing his or her own nominees to the table. Head coach Jason Tassinari attributed much of Whalen's win to her personal goal total as well as the success of the team as a whole.
Those two Player of the Week nods back in October probably didn't hurt, either.
"Each year I played, the team progressed and succeeded in different ways," Whalen said. "Winning the award was just the icing on the cake."
Just the second Emersonian in history to be honored as a Player of the Year, the media studies and publishing major from Great Barrington, Mass., is riding high off of her success with the team this past season. In 2007, she scored a career-high 19 goals, four of them game-winners.
"When the ball got to her feet, she was able to keep it there," Tassinari said. "She has a knack for creating scoring chances, and she was able to score some big goals."
Whalen, who transferred to Emerson after a year at Goucher College in Baltimore, had little difficulty finding her niche with her new teammates. This year, the young team went on a nine-game winning streak mid-season and, with Whalen at the helm, became the first in program history to make it all the way to the GNAC finals.
"She's the type of player that every team wants and needs," said fellow senior captain and forward Mallory Moretti. "When she has the ball, you know that she is a major threat."
Whalen led the conference in both goals (19) and points (42) scored, appearing in 21 of the team's 22 regular and post-season games. As one of the three senior captains of the team, Whalen seemed a natural-born leader who understood the importance of balancing work and play.
"Casey is interesting because she has such a different personality on and off the field," Tassinari said. "On the field, she's competitive, intense, focused. But off, she's lighthearted, funny and able to keep the team loose. That's what made her a great captain."
With plans to get out of Boston and start a creer in the publishing industry, Whalen said that her advice for the rest of the players is rather typical.
"Enjoy it while it lasts, because it really does go by fast," Whalen said, "and keep a strong bond within the team."
Her teammates regard her as a strong captain who knows how to get her team in high gear, but also knows when to have fun.
"Not only does she provide comic relief, but Casey really holds the team together and is a very humble leader," said sophomore midfielder Kendra Davidson. "Every time we huddle before the game starts she says in a serious tone, 'As Marvin Gaye once said,' and then belts out, 'Let's get it on!'"