AZUSA, Calif. -- Senior forward Andriy Budnyy was named GSAC Player of the Year as announced earlier this week by the conference. Additionally, senior forward Ian Leibbrandt, junior midfielder Skelly Kellar and sophomore midfielder Sven Simon were named to the All-GSAC team.
Budnyy, who leads the Cougars with 16 goals, won the award in unusual style. He played in only 3 of No. 7-ranked Azusa Pacific’s 10 conference games yet still managed to make quite an impression on the selection committee.
Budnyy becomes the third player in program history to be named GSAC Player of the Year joining P.J. Brown (1996) and Matt Evans (2000-01).
Despite appearing in only those 3 matches, Budnyy was second on the team with 9 points (4 goals and 1 assist) in conference action. His first 2 goals came against Biola with the second giving the Cougars a thrilling 3-2 win in the 101st minute of double overtime. He then torched California Baptist for 2 goals and an assist in a 3-0 win.
Budnyy’s conference body of work was smaller than most but included a more spectacular potential of dominance that he displayed while on the field. He demonstrated that in the Cougars’ Region II playoff opener by scoring a goal in his return in a 7-0 win.
His offensive ability helped Azusa Pacific set a new school record with 71 goals this season breaking the previous mark of 70 held by the 1978 team.
“I think in Andriy’s case I told the guys he has only played in 3 games but I thought he was the best player in the GSAC even last year and in the region,” said head coach Phil Wolf. “He obviously took a knock and has been out but I still think he deserves it and the coaches agreed with me.”
The Cougars All-GSAC picks Budnyy, Leibbrandt, Simon and Kellar all played large roles in the goal scoring capabilities of the team. Leibbrandt’s 4-goal performance in the win over Menlo displayed his ability to find the back of the net. He has now 114 career points which vaults him into third place on the Cougars’ all-time scoring list as he passes Kojo Asamoah’s mark of 109. He is second on the team with 34 points this season.
Simon has been a vital player for the Cougars particularly because of the way he stepped up his game when the team went through a period without the services of Budnyy and Leibbrandt. Simon has 26 points (8 goals and 10 assists) and has been quite a playmaker up top. He was the team’s leader in points during GSAC play accruing 5 goals and 4 assists. He scored the game-winner in a 2-1 win over Westmont. However, his biggest moment of the season might have come in a non-conference game against Mobile (Ala.). Azusa Pacific was concluding a stretch of playing 3 games in 4 games and trailing late against the Rams, 1-0. Simon scored in the 73rd minute to tie the game and turn the momentum in favor of the Cougars who would go on to win it, 2-1.
A 3-time All-GSAC pick, Kellar has been active in the central midfield throughout the year and is tied with Simon with a team-high 10 assists. Kellar’s durability is unquestionable as he is the only Cougars to start all 19 games this season. That comes on the heels of the 2004 campaign during which he started all 21 contests. He tied a school record with 3 assists in a win earlier this season over Judson (Ill.)
“Those guys all deserved it because they have been really important players for us. Each of them brings something different to us and they have all carried us at one time or another,” said Wolf.
The top-seeded Cougars (15-4) host the seventh seed Biola (11-7) in the Region II semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 1 p.m. at the Azusa Square.