Men’s soccer co-captain Lucky Mkosana ’12 was named Ivy League Player of the Year on Wednesday, capping an exceptional regular-season performance that may rank as the best in his record-breaking collegiate career. Mkosana was also unanimously selected to the All-Ivy First Team and has now been named to four consecutive All-Ivy First Teams, although this is his first Player of the Year award.
Mkosana is the first Dartmouth player to win the award since Craig Henderson ’09 was selected in 2009. Co-captain Nick Pappas ’12, midfielder Kevin Dzierzawski ’13 and goalie Noah Cohen ’14 also earned League recognition for the first time in their careers. Pappas and Dzierzawski were named to the All-Ivy First Team and Cohen was given an honorable mention.
Mkosana said he was flooded with emails, text messages and phone calls on Wednesday and was “taken away” when he learned of the announcement.
“I am really excited,” Mkosana said. “Andrew Olsen [’11] was the first person that told me and then when I read about it online I was like, Woah.’ Other guys on the team were texting me congratulations all day.”
Mkosana recorded 10 goals and one assist this season, totalling 34 goals and 79 points in his career. He broke Dartmouth’s all-time records for goals and points with a goal against Cornell University on Nov. 5.
Mkosana’s statistics have placed him among the best offensive players in the nation this season. His 0.63 goals per game currently rank 22nd in the country, and he also ranks in the top 40 in goals and average points per game. He has received several other awards this season, including the Most Valuable Offensive Player award in the Dartmouth Classic and the Ivy League Player of the Week award in mid-September.
Mkosana credited the Player of the Year award to the support of his teammates and fans, and called this season’s Dartmouth spectators “the best hecklers in my career at Dartmouth.”
“It means so much to me,” he said about the selection. “It is what I was working for all of this year. I have been working hard and had in my mind that I had to work hard and score goals to get this award.”
As a freshman, Mkosana was unanimously named the League’s Rookie of the Year and selected for the All-Ivy First Team, among countless other awards. Mkosana netted 11 goals and tallied two assists in his first season with the Big Green.
He was again awarded a spot on the All-Ivy First Team as a sophomore, and for the first time was placed on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Northeast First Team. Mkosana registered 20 points, including four assists, to lead the Big Green offense during his second season.
Although his production declined due to injury during his junior season, Mkosana continued earning All-Ivy First Team honors for the third year in a row and was slotted into the NSCAA All-Northeast Third Team.
Mkosana said his life-long dedication to the sport culminated this season, preparing him for the Player of the Year award.
“I had in mind for my last year to do my rehab and have no injuries so I could play my best,” he said. “Since last winter, [head coach Jeff] Cook and the trainers have been pushing me really hard and I have been pushing myself to my limits, starting by running after practice this summer.”
Mkosana said that the request to choose a favorite memory from his Big Green soccer career was “a tough one.”
“There are so many,” he said.
When pressed, Mkosana said Dartmouth’s win against the University of Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament last season “was the best.”
Pappas has anchored a strong defensive unit for Dartmouth, helping the Big Green register six shut outs while holding its opponents to 1.18 goals per game. He has also worked hard to become a greater offensive threat, managing 13 shots this season. He scored in Dartmouth’s game against the University of Vermont on Oct. 4.
Pappas said that while “it is nice” to receive recognition for his performance this season, it is important to focus on the present.
“We have a game [today] and I need to be able to move on,” Pappas said.
Dzierzawski’s seven assists this season led the League, and he also ranks 23rd in the nation in average assists per game and 36th in total assists. He scored four goals and earned a spot on the Dartmouth Classic All-Tournament team earlier this season.
Dzierzawski said that it has been “incredible” playing for Dartmouth this season, adding that it is easy to “take for granted the people you play with.”
“Since my freshman year I have gotten to play with Henderson, Lucky and Dan Keat [’10], who I think if we had done better last year would have been Player of the Year,” Dzierzawski said. “These guys have gone on to play professionally and I am honored and hope I can take with me what I’ve learned from them and emulate it next year without Lucky.”
Cohen emerged as a force in goal for Dartmouth this season. He saved 69 shots, was named the League’s Player of the Week in late October and was selected for the All-Tournament Team at the Southern Methodist University Invitational at the beginning of the season.