Winners were announced on Saturday for the third annual Kevin Gray Player of the Year Awards, co-sponsored by Sporting Kansas City and Global Sports International. Today's ceremony, held at Sporting Park, recognized soccer players, coaches and ambassadors in the Kansas City area while honoring the late Kansas City Sports Commission president Kevin Gray.
“It’s remarkable that in just three years, the Kevin Gray Awards have become synonymous with the highest level of soccer achievement in Kansas City," said Sporting Kansas City Chief Operating Officer Greg Cotton. “Kevin was a true friend to (Sporting Club CEO) Robb Heineman and me, and many others in the Kansas City soccer community. These awards are a fantastic tribute to the man and what he meant to those who had the chance to know him. The recipients of the Kevin Gray Awards may never have met Kevin or know his story, but they will have benefited from his contribution to the sport we all love.”
Female Youth Player of the Year recipient Jaycie Johnson scored a stellar 63 goals and notched eight assists in 24 games this past season at Lee's Summit West High School. Johnson earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors and will be continuing her career at the University of Nebraska this Fall.
Paul Dean won the Male Youth Player of the Year and is currently the captain for the Sporting Kansas City Academy's under-18 team. Dean led his Blue Valley North High School team in scoring in 2011 and has committed to prolong his soccer career at Rockhurst University in the Fall.
In the Adult Player of the Year category, Sporting Kansas City defender and two-time MLS All-Star Matt Besler accepted the award. The Overland Park, Kan. native has solidified his place in the U.S. Men's National Team with seven appearances in 2013.
Coach of the Year award winner Rick Pribyl led the Blue Valley Northwest High School girls varsity squad through an extremely successful season. His team went 14-1-1, finishing with a state championship after defeating Blue Valley North 2-1 to claim the crown.
Soccer Ambassadors of the Year Chris and Beth Christoffersen were responsible for starting the Kansas State Youth Soccer Association, one of the first structured competitive youth soccer leagues in the Midwest.
“I believe there to be no better person than Kevin Gray to have the award named after. Kevin was a champion for and a supporter of soccer for over 20 years,” said Global Sports International Manager Huw Williams. “The difference in selecting winners for this year's awards has changed from previous years. Now it has become much harder because the player talent pools are so much larger. We are now seeing a growing number of Kansas City based players go on to play at the collegiate and professional levels.
The 2013 award winners will be recognized on the field at Sporting Park during halftime of tonight's match between Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC. Visit SportingKC.com/KGA for more information on the Kevin Gray Awards, including the nomination process and past recipients. The 2013 finalists are shown below (winners in bold).
Male Youth Player of the Year
Paul Dean: Blue Valley North, Sporting Kansas City Academy U18
Seo-in Kim: Blue Valley West, Sporting Kansas City Academy U18
Clay Stewart: Olathe South, Sporting Blue Valley Ajax 96-97
Female Youth Player of the Year
Jaycie Johnson: Lee's Summit West, Sporting Blue Valley ECNL U18
Emily Herndon: Blue Valley Northwest, Sporting Blue Valley ECNL U18
Sydney Miramontez: Shawnee Mission West, Sporting Blue Valley ECNL U18
Adult Player of the Year
Matt Besler: Sporting KC, US Men's National Team, Notre Dame, Blue Valley West
Andy Gruenebaum: Columbus Crew, Kentucky, Blue Valley North
Nia Williams: FC Kansas City, Missouri State, St. James Academy
Coach of the Year
Rick Pribyl: Blue Valley Northwest Women's Team
Rob Herringer: Benedictine College Men's Team
Chris Lawson: Rockhurst High School