U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - At the conclusion of his ninth season, head coach Eric Seremet announced the annual award winners at the team banquet. Brandon Jones, a sophomore from Upper Arlington, Ohio, was dubbed the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Brandon Jones, MVP, Defensive MVP, Ground Balls Award
Jones, who led the team with 27 caused turnovers this season, has 55 career-caused turnovers in just two seasons; a mark that puts him at fourth in the program record books in that category. As a freshman, Jones tied Brian Gilbreath (2010) for first in single-season caused turnovers with 28 to his credit. At the conclusion of the 2017 season, Jones was ranked 22nd in the nation in caused turnovers.
The Upper Arlington, Ohio, native also claimed the team’s Defensive MVP honor and Ground Ball Award. Jones anchors an Air Force defense that averages 8.17 goals allowed per game, which is good for eighth best in the country at the conclusion of the season. The first-team all-SoCon defender finished the season with an average of 4.78 ground balls scooped up per game; the third best mark in the SoCon behind two face-off specialists. He picked up 86 ground balls on the season; a mark that ties him for second-most single-season ground balls in the program record books. He has the second-most (129) career ground balls on the team; a mark that is 10th-best in the program's career ground ball record book.
Chris Walsch, Offensive MVP
The two-time SoCon Offensive Player of the Year, Chris Walsch, was named the team’s Offensive MVP. Walsch, a native of Finksburg, Maryland, has started in all 51 career games; registering at least a goal in 45-of-51 career games played. The three-year starting attacker notched his 100th goal in a season-high five-goal performance against Bellarmine, April 1. He notched a career-best and team-high six assists against High Point, April 29. He led the team in goals (36), assists (28) and points (62) this season. He also leads the team in career G-A-P (108-75-183), career hat tricks (19), career game-winners (7) and is fourth on the team in career ground balls (70).
Walsch is the Academy’s first-ever Tewaaraton watch list player and has led Air Force in goals and points every year since joining in the 2014-15 season. He has 108 career goals, a mark that only one other Falcon in the modern-era has hit (Mike Crampton, 127g, 2011-14). He also holds the Air Force program record for career points (183).
Matthew Schwartz, Rookie of the Year
Freshman attacker Matthew Schwartz claimed the Rookie of the Year honor. Schwartz, a native of Mahtomedi, Minnesota, led all freshmen in goals (13), assists (11) and points (24). He started in 15-of-17 games played this season. He notched his first career hat trick against Detroit Mercy, March 11. He has two two-goal performances against top-20 teams; No. 17 Richmond and No. 5 Denver.
Trent Harper, Face-Off Award
The Face-Off Award was presented to sophomore Trent Harper. Harper, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, concluded the season with a .580 win-percentage. He had the highest face-off winning percentage in the conference and 11th-best in the nation. Harper was credited as the conference Defense Player of the Week, Feb. 28, for his part in a landslide win over Cleveland State where he registered a .762 face-off win-percentage on the game. He played a major role in Air Force climbing out of a four-goal first-half deficit against Jacksonville, by winning nine-of-eleven (.820) second-half face-offs. He went seven-for-seven in first period face-offs against Furman, finishing the game winning 14-of-19 face-offs (.737). He also registered a 0.875 face-off win-percentage as he dominated the face-off X against VMI, winning 14-of-16 face-off attempts. In the regular-season finale, he posted a team-best and career-high 21 face-off wins.
Nicholas Accardi, Most Improved Award
Senior defender Nicholas Accardi was dubbed the Falcons’ Most Improved Player. Accardi, a native of Rocky Point, New York, went from seven games play from 2014-2016, to starting in 16-of-17 games played in 2017. He finished the season with the second-most caused turnovers on the team (15), picking up the third-most ground balls (40). He picked up a career-high eight ground balls against Canisius and registered two caused turnovers in three games this season.
Mitch Rose, Unsung Hero Award
Senior goalkeeper Mitch Rose was named the team’s Unsung Hero. Rose, a native of Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania, went 7-3 while defending the Falcons' cage. The midfielder-turned-goalkeeper first saw action against Jacksonville, Mar. 25, where he helped fend off an upset loss to the Dolphins in overtime. He notched four saves against Bellarmine, who had the lowest scoring game of their season and most lop-sided loss in program history. He recorded a career-best 13 saves against Richmond in the SoCon championship game.
Will Albyn, Pace Weber Memorial Award
Senior defender Will Albyn was honored with the prestigious Pace Weber Memorial Award. The Falcons dedicated the 1998 season to the memory of Pace Weber, a three-year letterwinner on the lacrosse team. Pace and instructor pilot Capt. Glen Comeaux died when their T-3A Firefly training plane crashed on June 25, 1997, in Colorado Springs. The Falcons created an award in his honor that will be given each year to the person who best exemplifies Pace’s spirit. Albyn, a native of Centennial, Colorado, relentlessly grinded through four years of Falcon Lacrosse, earning the respect and appreciation of teammates and coaches alike for the energy and passion he brought to the program every day.