Jan. 17, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame senior defender Matt Besler (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West) has been named the 2008 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Scholar Athlete of the Year. Besler is the first student-athlete in program history to earn the distinguished honor.
Besler, a central defender, played every minute this season and helped the Irish post seven shutouts along with tallying three points on a goal and an assist. The two-time team captain helped Notre Dame register a 12-7-2 record this season and earn the No. 12 seed in the NCAA Championship. The Fighting Irish notched a 7-2-2 league mark and captured their second straight BIG EAST regular-season title.
On Thursday, Besler was selected eighth overall in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft by his home state Kansas City Wizards. That marked the highest a Notre Dame player had ever been taken in the MLS draft.
In the classroom, Besler finished with a 3.518 cumulative grade-point average and graduated in December with a degree in pre-professional studies and psychology from Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters. Besler was named to the Dean’s List in the fall of 2008 after posting a 3.846 semester GPA.
In December, Besler earned first-team All-America honors from the NSCAA in addition to garnering first-team Academic All-America accolades from ESPN the Magazine and the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). He is the first Notre Dame men’s soccer player to be named a first-team All-American and a first-team Academic All-American. Last season, he was selected to the NSCAA Scholar All-American second team.
The Kansas product also earned his third straight all-conference honor this season as he was named to the all-BIG EAST first team. In addition, Besler was one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. During the season, he was named to both the College Soccer News (Sept. 8) and Soccer America (Oct. 14) national teams of the week. He was tabbed as the BIG EAST defensive player of the week on Oct. 13.
For his career, Besler played in 90 games, including 73 starts. He started every match over the past three seasons and only missed one game during his collegiate career. Besler totaled 17 points on five goals and seven assists in an Irish uniform. He helped Notre Dame gain four straight berths to the NCAA Championship, including the program’s first two trips to the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2007.
Besler headlined a group of 22 NCAA Division I student-athletes that were named to the NSCAA/adidas Scholar All-America men’s team. Among that group was his Fighting Irish teammate Michael Thomas (Olathe, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas), who was named to the second team. Thomas, a junior midfielder, started all 21 games this past season and produced 21 points on eight goals and five assists. All of those numbers ranked him second among Notre Dame players. Thomas earned second-team all-BIG EAST accolades in addition to being named to the All-Great Lakes Region second team.