WINTHROP, Mass. – Freshman forward Bienfait Badibanga (Burlington, Vt.) was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Rookie of the Year to lead a seven player contingent of Norwich University men's soccer players on the GNAC All-Conference teams on Monday.
Badibanga became the first player since Roger Motaze in 2007 and just the fourth overall in program history to earn the GNAC's top rookie award. Badibanga joins Motaze, Rob Harlow and Sani Siric as the only players to win the GNAC Rookie of the Year award.
Badibanga was joined on the GNAC All-Conference First Team by senior defender Matt Mazzola (Ridgefield, Conn.), who became a three-time GNAC All-Conference honoree.
Five Cadets were named to the GNAC Second Team; including freshman Amerle Nemeye (Burlington, Vt.), as well as seniors Matt Hilton (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Chris Clain (Proctor, Vt.) and Brendan Germano (Monroe Township, N.J.). Junior Dashiell Vermilya (Montpelier, Vt.) rounded out the second team selections.
Badibanga led Norwich with 11 goals and three assists for 25 points. His 11 goals tied for the GNAC lead with GNAC Offensive Player of the Year Brett Mattos from Saint Joseph's (Maine), while his 25 points ranked third behind Mattos and SJC's Cody Elliott, who each had 26 points.
Badibanga was named the GNAC Player and Rookie of the Week twice during the season and had two hat tricks in his inaugural season in the Maroon & Gold.
Mazzola captained the Cadets' backline for the third straight season and earned his second straight GNAC All-Conference First Team honor. He helped lead a defensive unit that surrendered only 14 goals all season, ranking second in the league and 50th in the entire nation.
He closed his NU career as one of the top defenders in program history, playing in 62 games and earning 54 career starts. He earned GNAC Second Team All-Conference honors as a sophomore in 2016.
Norwich's five selections to the GNAC Second Team led all teams after Saint Joseph's (Maine)'s record-setting eight first team selections.
Nemeye scored six goals and dished out six assists for 18 points in his inaugural season for the Maroon & Gold. His 81 shots led the league by 20 shots. He earned two GNAC Rookie of the Week selections. His six assists led the team and his 18 points ranked tied for eighth in the GNAC.
Germano was named to the GNAC Second Team for the second year in a row after posting an 11-3-4 record with a 0.75 goals against average and a .813 save percentage. He also recorded seven shutouts. All of his stats ranked second in the GNAC behind Saint Joseph's (Maine)'s Blake Mullen.
Hilton, Clain, Vermilya all earned GNAC All-Conference honors for the first time in their careers.
Hilton had two goals and an assist for five points after he played and started in all 18 games while serving as a captain in 2018. Hilton was a consistent four-year contributor with four goals and eight assists for 16 points. He played in all 75 of the team's games over the last four seasons.
Clain played in 14 games, while starting in 11 this season to help lead the Cadets' defensive back line with Mazzola. He played in 65 career games with 44 starts, while scoring four goals and dishing out three assists for 11 points.
Vermilya was one of just four players to play and start in all 18 games this season as a defensive midfielder. He tallied one assists with 13 shots. He has played in 53 career games, making 41 starts, while tallying one assist in each season.
Norwich closed the 2018 season with an 11-3-4 record and lost in the GNAC Semifinals to Johnson & Wales. The Cadets made it to at least the GNAC Semifinal round for the 15th straight season and have now posted 13 straight seasons with 10 or more wins.