UM's Hance named SEC Freshman of Year

Conference soccer honors were announced as the SEC Soccer Tournament opens today in Orange Beach, Ala.

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - Ole Miss midfielder Jennifer Hance won SEC Freshman of the Year, and Hance and sophomore Chrissy Strini were named First Team All-SEC as announced Wednesday night at the SEC Soccer Tournament awards banquet in Orange Beach, Ala.

Hance, who hails from Sugar Land, Texas, is the second Rebel to ever receive the conference's Freshman of the Year award, joining 2002 recipient Kelly Renie. Hance and Strini were both recognized as All-SEC for the first time in their collegiate careers.

"It's great to be honored with so many other great soccer players," Hance said. "But the only reason we're here (at the SEC Tournament) is that we play together as a team and we have a great coaching staff that has encouraged us so much throughout the season."

"It feels great to be rewarded," Strini added. "But it was definitely a team effort. Our whole team has played really hard this season, and we want to win the SEC Tournament."

Joining Hance on this year's All-Freshman squad is defender Christine Breaux of Gonzales, La.

The Rebels were also presented with their trophy for being champions of the SEC Western Division. It is the program's third West title (1999 and 2000).

"From day one, we felt this was going to be a special season," said head coach Steve Holeman, whose team is one win shy of a school record. "In preseason practice, you could see how hard the girls competed, and it was exciting. It's great to have that reward at the end of the season for all the hard work they have put in day in and day out. Our first goal every season is to win the SEC West, and it's a special accomplishment after falling short for the past four years.

"In a soccer conference as talented as SEC, it's great to have players recognized for their hard work as well," Holeman added. "Jen is certainly a special player. Time and time again she has made big plays in big games."

Tennessee head coach Angela Kelly, Vanderbilt head coach Ronnie Coveleskie Hill, Alabama senior forward Libby Probst, Georgia senior forward Ali Williams and Vanderbilt junior goalkeeper Tyler Griffin also headline the 2005 Southeastern Conference Women's Soccer Awards.

Kelly and Hill shared the SEC Coach of the Year award while Probst received SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors. Williams and Griffin were named SEC Offensive Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, respectively with both earning First Team All-SEC honors.

Kelly receives a share of her third straight SEC Coach of the Year honor after guiding Tennessee to three straight SEC Championships. It was also the Lady Vols' fourth straight SEC East Division title. After guiding Tennessee to consecutive NCAA Sweet 16 appearances in 2002, 2003 and 2004, Kelly led her team to a league record 10-1-0 mark in SEC play and the top seed in this year's tournament for the second year in a row.

Hill earns her first SEC Coach of the Year honor after leading Vanderbilt to an 8-2-1 mark in SEC play and the best overall record in the league at 15-3-1. The Commodores tied with Florida for second in the SEC Eastern Division and are the fourth seed in the SEC Tournament. It is their best conference finish since finishing second in 1998. Hill has continued her steady climb in the SEC Standings after a 5-2-4 record in SEC play in 2004. Vanderbilt looks to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1998 after earning their first national ranking under Hill this season.

Alabama's Libby Probst garnered SEC Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors. Probst became the Crimson Tide's all-time leader in points, goals and assists this season while maintaining a 3.67 GPA in Chemical Engineering. She also led the SEC in goals scored and points in all matches.

Georgia's Ali Williams took home SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors. She led the conference in goal scored and points in SEC matches and finished the regular season second in goals scored and points in all games.

Vanderbilt's Tyler Griffin earned the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award, leading a Commodore defense that held SEC opponents to only six goals in 11 conference matches. Griffin helped lead the Vanderbilt defense to an SEC record 14 shutouts this season, including 12 solo shutouts which ties an SEC record.

Jennifer Hance of Ole Miss is the SEC Freshman of the Year. Hance totaled seven goals and three assists in her first season at Ole Miss, earning First Team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman Team honors for her outstanding play in midfield. Hance ranked sixth in the league in points and goals scored in all games and was tied for third in goals in SEC matches.

Ashley Ferree of the Rebels was also named to the SEC Good Works team. Feree is a member of Reading with the Rebels, a program which helps to promote reading to area students. She also participated in the SAAC Annual Canned Food Drive and is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. A native of Cordova, Tenn., Ferree has stressed the importance of being drug and alcohol free as a member of the Ole Miss Choices Program.

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