Kadeisha Buchanan won the Missouri Athletic Club's Hermann Trophy on Friday night, joining national team captain Christine Sinclair as the only Canadian women to win the award.
The 21-year-old defender from Brampton, Ont. – who helped lead West Virginia University to the NCAA College Cup final – beat out Morgan Andrews (USC) and Andi Sullivan (Stanford) for the high-profile honour billed as U.S. college soccer's version of the Heisman Trophy.
Sinclair won in 2004 and 2005.
"When I first stepped into this college soccer arena, I had little knowledge of this award – sorry, I'm from Canada," Buchanan said, prompting laughter from the audience at the award presentation ceremony.
"I only knew Christine Sinclair won it twice and I knew that I wanted to get on that list with her."
Buchanan started 90 of 91 games for the Mountaineers. The lone game she missed was the Aug. 19 season opener against Penn State while she with Canada at the Rio Olympics, where she won bronze.
Buchanan anchored a Mountaineer defence that posted an NCAA- and Mountaineer-best 18 shutouts this season.
West Virginia allowed just 62 opponents' goals and posted 55 shutouts since Buchanan joined the team in 2013. This season, the Mountaineer defence allowed just 12 opponent goals and did not allow a goal throughout the Big 12 Conference regular season.
A dream season ultimately ended in defeat Dec. 4 when the Mountaineers lost 3-1 to USC in the NCAA championship game. Buchanan still turned heads, earning NCAA Tournament Defensive MVP honours en route.
Buchanan was also a finalist last year when the award went to Penn State's Raquel Rodriguez.
The men's award went to Ian Harkes of Wake Forest University. Albert Ruiz (Florida Gulf Coast University) and Gordon Wild (Maryland) were the other men's finalists.
Canadian-born Teal Bunbury won the men's award in 2009. A dual citizen, Bunbury plays internationally for the U.S.
The winners were determined by Division I coaches who are members of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
Ashley Lawrence, a teammate of Buchanan's on the Canadian national team and on West Virginia, was one of 15 semifinalists for the Hermann women's award. Canadian forward Brian Wright (University of Vermont, Ajax, Ont.) was a men's semifinalist.
Buchanan is expected to join Lawrence in France for the next step on their soccer journey, but they will likely be wearing different uniforms. Lawrence has signed for Paris Saint-Germain while Buchanan appears headed to European champion Olympique Lyonnais.
The two Canadians, who have won 109 caps for Canada between them, have been teammates since they were nine years old in Brampton.
West Virginia coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said in a recent interview that the best is yet to come for Buchanan.
"The more she understands how good she is and what she's capable of, she's going to be unstoppable," said the Mountaineers coach.
For Buchanan, that likely means not over-relying on her athleticism to get out of risky situations.
Buchanan ended her senior year surrounded by Canadians, thanks to Izzo-Brown's extensive scouting north of the border.
Buchanan was paired at centre back with Quebec City's Easther Mayi Kith.
The fullbacks were Montreal's Amandine Pierre-Louis and Bianca St-Georges of St-Felix-de-Valois, Que., with Rylee Foster of Cambridge, Ont., playing 17 games in goal.
Lawrence, used most recently at fullback by Canadian coach John Herdman, played midfield for West Virginia.