Soccer star Sinclair named top female college athlete

Updated: June 26, 2006, 5:02 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Christine Sinclair thought she had misunderstood the voice mail.

Christine Sinclair
Andy Mead/Icon SMISinclair set a NCAA single-season record with 39 goals.

How was it possible that the soccer standout from tiny University of Portland beat out mighty hoopster Seimone Augustus and superstar pitcher Cat Osterman for the Honda-Broderick Cup as the top collegiate female athlete of the year?

Even Sinclair found it hard to believe. So she played the message back, and heard the same thing: "Congratulations. You have won the Honda-Broderick Cup."

"I think I'm still in shock," Sinclair said Monday, when she was presented the trophy by Olympic great Jackie Joyner-Kersee at a ceremony at Columbia University.

Sinclair set an NCAA season record with 39 goals, surpassing the mark of 37 set by Lisa Cole of SMU in 1987, and led the Pilots to the national championship. She is one of six players in NCAA history with more than 100 goals and 30 assists.

Still, the forward went to a smaller school (enrollment 2,768) and has a much lower profile than Augustus and Osterman. Augustus led the nation in scoring and took LSU to the women's Final Four, winning the AP Player of the Year award for the second straight season.

Osterman, who won gold as a pitcher on the U.S. softball team at the 2004 Olympics, holds virtually every school record at Texas. She also set the NCAA record for strikeouts with 2,225, becoming the first player in collegiate history to surpass the 2,000 mark.

The other finalists were Georgia swimmer Mary DeScenza and Alabama gymnast Ashley Miles.

"I'm never surprised," said Judith Holland, a consultant to the executive board that votes on the winner. "It speaks to the fact that it's a fair process. Really, anyone can win. You don't have to come from a big-name school. You don't have to be in basketball. It's what you do on the field, in the pool or whatever that makes the difference."

Picking winners from smaller sports seems to be a trend. Last year, Stanford volleyball player Ogonna Nnamani won. In 2004, Stanford swimmer Tara Kirk won after Connecticut hoops player Diana Taurasi was declared ineligible because she couldn't attend the ceremony.

Sinclair certainly is deserving. A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, Sinclair chose Portland because of then-coach Clive Charles. During her freshman year in 2002, Sinclair helped Portland win the national championship. But it was a bittersweet moment. Charles had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and didn't have long to live.

"After all the years he coached and winning his first national championship, it just meant so much to him," Sinclair said. "To see his face when he was hugging that trophy, that was perfect. I don't cry too much, but after that game, I balled."

Charles died the following August. But Sinclair never forgot him. This year, Sinclair and the three other seniors on the team wanted to win another championship for Charles, as the last group of players he recruited.

Never did Sinclair think she would set the NCAA single-season goal-scoring record. But coach Garrett Smith had other ideas. Before Sinclair's junior year, he said to her, "I think you can score 50 goals." Sinclair scoffed.

But Smith always thought it was possible.

"Christine's that good," Smith said. "Fifty goals is something that might be unattainable, but at the same time, it was realistic because she's the type of player you can raise the bar for."

Sinclair now has her sights set on playing for Canada as it tries to qualify for next year's Women's World Cup and the 2008 Olympics. She flew to New York early Monday morning after an exhibition against Italy in Toronto. Canada won. No, Sinclair didn't score.

Softball pitcher Kristin Erb of Lock Haven University won the Division II award and basketball player Megan Silva of Randolph-Macon College won the Division III award. Swimmer Lindsay Payne of Williams College won the Inspiration Award after overcoming leukemia to star on her team.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press