Top Soccer Goalie Nets Borleske Trophy

News Release Date:
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Brett Axelrod, the first Whitman College soccer player to earn a Northwest Conference Player-of-the-Year award, is the 2009 recipient of the R.V. Borleske Trophy, which is presented annually to the top male athlete at Whitman.

       Brett Axelrod

The trophy, awarded by a vote of the Whitman coaching staff, recognizes athletic ability and accomplishments, leadership and sportsmanship qualities, and contributions to the campus as a whole.

Axelrod, a goalkeeper from Union, N.J., led the NWC last fall in shutouts (10), goals against average (0.39), save percentage (.902), and minutes played (1855:57). He also ranked among the NCAA Div. III national leaders, finishing third in save percentage and fifth in goals against average.

A senior team captain, Axelrod posted seven of his 10 shutouts in 13 conference games. He allowed just five goals against NWC opponents.

"Picking Brett as Defensive Player of the Year was a no-brainer," Whitman coach Mike Washington said. "His physical and technical skills are excellent, and he's been a great leader on top of that. His expectations of himself and his team have always been very high."

The NWC began honoring Players of the Year for both offense and defense in 1994. Axelrod, a four-year starter for the Missionaries, is the first Whitman player to win the award in either category. A year ago as a junior, he was voted to the All-NWC Second Team.

Axelrod was named NWC Defensive Player of the Week three times during his senior season. He earned his first weekly award after posting back-to-back shutouts in two games that ended in scoreless, double-overtime ties. By season's end, Axelrod had four scoreless, 2OT shutouts to his credit. 

With Axelrod and defenders Kevin Sigley, Mike Mckenzie, Joe Johnson and Cooper Crosby surrendering far fewer goals than any other team in the conference, Whitman stayed in the race for the NWC title until the final week of the season. Despite losing just two games, the Missionaries lost the conference crown by two points.

                       Brett Axelrod

Whitworth, which also had two conference losses, escaped with the title by winning one more game than Whitman, which finished its season with one more tie.

Axelrod, who served on Whitman's Student Athlete Advisory Committee as a senior, is liked and respected by everyone in the athletic program, notes senior women's administrator and SAAC advisor Michelle Ferenz

"Brett is a tremendous leader and competitor," Ferenz says. "He is all about working hard and being successful. Brett has a great sense of humor, but he is very straight forward and honest, and he isn't afraid to tell it like it is. People like and respect him for all of those reasons.

"I've really enjoyed getting to know Brett the past four years. There are a lot of people who will Brett, both as a person and as a very talented soccer player."

A sociology major, Axelrod worked as a campus photographer throughout his four years at Whitman. He took photographs for both the Communications and Athletics departments, in addition to serving as a photographer and photo editor for the Pioneer, Whitman's student newspaper.

Axelrod's other Whitman activities ranged from work with the Admissions office to his role as a student staff manager at Baker Ferguson Fitness Center. He also found time to volunteer as a coach with teams at the local high school and youth soccer association.

After graduating later this week, Axelrod plans to return home to Virginia for training sessions and try-outs with two professional soccer clubs. At some point he plans to pursue a master of fine arts degree in photography.

Axelrod, a graduate of Union (N.J.) High School, is the son of Joe & Judy Axelrod of Keswick, Va.

The Borleske Trophy honors Raymond V. Borleske, who achieved legendary status as an athlete and later as a coach at Whitman during the first half of the 20th century. He starred on Whitman's football and baseball teams, and he was the first football player from the Northwest to be recognized by Walter Camp's Spaulding Football Guide.

After graduating from Whitman and earning a law degree, Borleske returned to campus in 1915 to begin a coaching career that continued until 1947.

For a complete listing of past Borleske Trophy winners, please click here.

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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.; (509) 527-5902