Yamaguchi honored as top NCAA player

by Jason Coskrey

Tokyo native and Florida State University junior Mami Yamaguchi capped one of the great seasons in college soccer history on Saturday by being named the 2007 female recipient of the MAC Hermann Trophy.

The award is given to the top player in NCAA Division I soccer by the Missouri Athletic Club and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).

“I am just so glad to win this great award,” Yamaguchi said in St. Louis. “I would like to first thank my teammates, coaches and Florida State University, without them I would not have received such a prestigious honor. I would also like to share this award with everyone back in Tallahassee.

“Finally, I would like to thank my parents. I wish they could have been here tonight, but I know that they are proud of me.”

Her parents, who woke up at 4 a.m. in Tokyo to listen to the national title game on gametracker in December and who Yamaguchi tries to call once a week, certainly have a lot to be proud of this year.

Yamaguchi became the first Florida State player to receive the Hermann Trophy after breaking single-season school records in goals (24), points (18) and assists (66). Her three hat tricks this season also made her the first Seminole to record three career hat tricks and the first to do it multiple times in one season.

Playing on a team she says fits her style of play perfectly, Yamaguchi was instrumental in leading Florida State to its third consecutive College Cup (soccer’s version of the Final Four) and first-ever appearance in the national championship game.

Yamaguchi registered three goals and eight assists in the NCAA Tournament, setting the single season and all-time postseason school records in assists, for the Seminoles, who fell to Southern California in the final.

Having just completed her junior season, Yamaguchi already ranks first in school history in assists, with 30, and sits second in points (94) and goals (32).

UCLA sophomore Lauren Cheney and Texas A&M senior Ashlee Pistorius finished second and third, respectively.

Connecticut’s O’Brian White won honors for the men.

“I am so thrilled for Mami,” FSU head coach Mark Krikorian said. “This award is not only an honor for the great season Mami had, but for the outstanding year our team had in 2007. We are so proud of Mami and all her achievements this year.”

Yamaguchi was also named the 2007 Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year, announced as a First-Team All-American by both Soccer Buzz and the NSCAA and joined teammates Becky Edwards and Amanda DaCosta, the 2007 Soccer Buzz National Freshman of the Year, on the All-Southeast Region Team this season.

The junior, who attended high school at Tokyo Metropolitan Toyotama, finished fourth in the nation with a 2.44 scoring average and led the country in scoring for a record six consecutive weeks at one point.

She finished the year as the only player to rank in the top 10 in the three major offensive categories — points per game, goals per game and assists per game.

She also set a school-record for points in league (ACC) play and tied another with six goals in ACC competition.

Yamaguchi came to the U.S. after catching the attentions of then-FSU coach Patrick Baker and current coach Krikorian, who was coach of the U.S. Under-19 team and coached against her in the Phillips Lightning Invitational Tournament in 2004 in Carson, Calif.

Yamaguchi scored two of Japan’s five goals in the tournament, which her team won.

After consulting with her father Koji, Yamaguchi chose to attend FSU over schools such as North Carolina and Santa Clara.

Yamaguchi, who also played for Japan’s top club team, Nippon Television Beleza, is still a member of the national program, which has stayed in contact with her since her move to the United States.