JERSEY CITY–Former four-year starting defender and two-time All-New Jersey Athletic Conference recipient Jessica Irizarry (Perth Amboy) of the New Jersey City University women’s soccer team, a May 2010 graduate of the University, has been selected as the 2009-10 Robert L. McNulty Memorial Soccer Award winner.
Irizarry, the program’s all-time leader in games played with 73, received the annual award during halftime of NJCU’s 3-1 victory over Montclair State University on Oct. 16.
The award is named in honor of former Jersey City State College men’s soccer coach, Robert L. McNulty, for whom the NJCU soccer field is named. McNulty was head coach of the Gothics from 1966-1977, and tallied 68 victories over the course of a 12-year career. Currently the second winningest head coach in program history, McNulty led the team to a 9-1-1 record in 1966, a 9-4-1 (4-1 NJSCAC) and conference title in 1968, and a 12-4-2 record and an ECAC appearance in 1975.
The award is presented annually to the soccer player, male or female, who best exemplifies the attributes for which McNulty was known: dedication to the sport of soccer, competitive spirit on the playing field, knowledge of the fundamentals of soccer and demonstration of leadership in the advancement and expansion of soccer.
Irizarry was one of the first recruits of current fifth-year head coach Robert Bielan when he served as an assistant coach in 2005.
“On the field, she was the most dominant player in the air in the NJAC in my opinion,” noted Bielan. “Defensively she was great in the air clearing out corners and set pieces. Offensively, she was a weapon on headers. No one in the NJAC wanted to challenge her in the air because they were going to lose and she had that respect from other players in the league. She challenged for everything in the air.”
Bielan added “as a leader, she did a great job as a captain as a junior. The following year, she became a resident assistant (R.A.) in the dorms and knowing she would miss a lot of the preseason, relinquished her role as captain. But on the days she missed practice, she would come down to the field and make the runs on her own [that she missed during practice]. That’s what a great leader does. She showed everyone she’s no better than any of her teammates [who did make practice].”
Irizarry, who completed her degree in Criminal Justice in May 2010, is the first women’s player to win the award since 2004. She earned All-NJAC honors in 2006 and 2007 and served as a team co-captain as a junior in 2008. She finished her career fourth in school history in minutes played with 5,608 and added 16 career points (four goals, eight assists, one-game winner) out of the back.
Irizarry began her career when the club was still in a rebuilding stage and due to her dedication and perseverance was able to be a part of the program’s steady climb—from a 3-15 record her freshman season (2006) to a 7-11 mark in 2007 and a 9-10 record in 2008. As a senior in 2009, her career culminated with the Gothic Knights winning a school record 13 games (13-9) and earning the first post-season bid in the first 17 years of the program’s existence, eventually advancing to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Metro Semifinals.
“Jess was one of the first to come into the program, play all four years and graduate in four years,” Bielan summarized. “She always had a positive outlook, always kept her teammates focused during games. She kept her GPA high and by finishing school in four years, she demonstrated how to balance college academics, athletics, a social life and being an R.A. I knew Bob McNulty personally, having gone to his camps. Having this award is a great way to honor the man on the field that’s in his name, and Jess was very deserving of winning this.”
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