Roadrunners rack up conference soccer awards; Franca is Co-Player of the Year, Alsafeer top coach

Nov. 9—After finishing the regular season undefeated and No. 1 in the NAIA, the Dalton State College men's soccer team has plenty of representation on the Southern States Athletic Conference soccer award winners list.

The team boasted six individual awards, including SSAC Co-Player of the Year Guilherme Franca and Coach of the Year Saif Alsafeer, placed five members on the all-conference first team and put three more on the second team.

The SSAC released the award winners Tuesday evening for both men's and women's soccer. The Dalton State women had honorees too, led by Brooke Alvarez, a Northwest Whitfield High School graduate who earned the conference's Golden Gloves award as the top goalkeeper and was DSC's lone representative on the all-conference first team.

Franca, a senior defenseman, was named the conference's Co-Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. He shared the honor with William Carey's Brandon Bermingham, who was also named the league's Offensive Player of the Year. Dalton State also has the conference's top male keeper, as Michael Barrueta earned the Golden Gloves Award on the men's side. Josh Ramos was named the conference's Freshman of the Year, while Leonardo Seixas is the SSAC Newcomer of the Year.

Barrueta, Franca and Ramos were joined on the conference's first team by Jaime Mendiola —a freshman and Coahulla Creek High School graduate — and the team's top scorer, Justin Riescher.

Seixas was named to the second team, where he was joined by Noah Cicoria and Gavin Taylor. Mendiola, Ramos and Northwest grad Eliseo Padilla were named to the all-freshman team.



Franca is the anchor of the Dalton State defense that has allowed just seven total goals in 16 games played this season. Barrueta got some credit for that staunch defense — which ranks fifth in the country in goals allowed — earning the Golden Gloves nod with his seven shutouts in his 15 starts.

Alsafeer was tabbed as the SSAC's top coach for guiding Dalton State to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in program history. It's the third time in five years that Alsafeer has earned the award. He was named coach of the year two seasons ago after leading DSC to an undefeated regular season, and he earned the nod in 2018 when he coached Florida College, which was then part of the SSAC.



Ramos, a freshman from Sebring, Florida, scored six goals and had four assists in the regular season and Seixas, who spent last season at Iowa Lakes Community College, matched Ramos with six goals and four assists.

Riescher, who was named player of the year in the SSAC after 2020-2021, was beat out on the offensive side this season by Bermingham, who led the SSAC in goals like Riescher did two years ago. Riescher earned a first team nod for the third straight year. Mendiola is a first-teamer in his first year with his hometown school. The one-time signee at North Carolina State was a starter in the midfield all year for the Roadrunners.

The women's soccer team also put Fernanda Sierra, a sophomore from Dalton High School, on the all-conference second team. Lauren Wright and Southeast Whitfield grad Brianna Hurtado made the all-freshman team.