There were hints that Lyndsey Heckel was in the conversation for All-America status, none of which she took seriously until an email arrived this week from the United Soccer Coaches.
The center back of the University of St. Louis said assistant coach Chris Allen suggested it was possible during the season. She scoffed. Then she became the Atlantic 10 tournament’s most outstanding player and was named a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, which goes to the national player of the year.
The recognition continued Friday when Heckel became the first player in SLU program history to be selected as a first-team All-America.
“It certainly didn’t occur to me at all,” she said. “I don’t know what it takes to be considered. I just felt like I was doing my job and doing the same thing day in and day out. I thought I was someone who was reliable and consistent throughout the season.”
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SLU beat Florida State, Alabama and Notre Dame with three players named to the first, second or third teams. Midfielder Abbie Miller made the second team and goalkeeper Emily Puricelli made the third team.
As center back, Heckel was part of an SLU defense that was one of the stingiest in the country in terms of goals and shots allowed. She was also a big offensive contributor with six goals and an assist.
All three SLU players who are honored are from the St. Heckel joined former Billiken Alli Klug as players from Nerinx Hall High to become All-Americas. Miller is from Howell North and Puricelli is from St. Joseph’s.
All still have eligibility and are expected to return next season.
“It says we’re in uncharted territory now,” Heckel said. “Now we are almost expected to win the Atlantic 10 and make the tournament. Now, this is how we can win at the highest level?”
The women’s program has not previously had a player selected higher than the second team. This year brought more individual honors than ever.
The three All-America players were joined by forward Caroline Kelly on the All-East Region first team and forward Emily Gaebe was on the all-region second team. It came after the Billikens dominated the A-10 all-conference teams.
Oddly enough, Heckel was not projected as an all-conference performer in the A-10 in a preseason poll of the league’s coaches.
As the season progressed, the defense grew into one of the best, allowing 2.8 goals per game and ranking third in the nation with a .455 goals-against average.
“It was a collective unit, so I didn’t think of myself as the one person blocking shots,” Heckel said. “It was the whole back line, and if we were beaten, Emily was there to save us. We are proud that everyone on the pitch plays defence, from Caroline at the top to Emily at the back.”
SLU was 20-2 with losses to Notre Dame early in the season and to Memphis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.