DURHAM, N.C.—Duke freshman midfielder Issa Rayyan joined elite company Wednesday as he was named the 2018 ACC Rookie of the Year in a vote of the league’s coaches. He headlined the five All-ACC selections by the Blue Devils and is the fourth Duke player to garner the accolade.
Rayyan also was named to the All-ACC second and All-Freshman teams after his breakout rookie campaign. Junior Daniele Proch garnered first-team recognition, while goalkeeper Will Pulisic and Brandon Williamson joined Rayyan on the second team. Ciaran McKenna was voted to the third team. Rookie defender Aedan Stanley and Rayyan both were All-Freshman team picks. Duke’s five All-ACC choices are the most since having five in 2000. The three-team system started in 2013.
Rayyan, second on the team in points with 11, is the first Duke player to earn the honor since Andrew Wenger in 2009 and just the fourth overall in program history. A starter in all 17 games this season, Rayyan owns four goals and three assists. In addition, the speedy winger has been a nightmare for opposing defenders in the box as he has drawn countless penalties both inside the 18-yard box and just outside. He most recently led the Blue Devils to victory at No. 18 Virginia Tech, scoring a career-high two goals. He also registered an ACC goal against Pittsburgh and provided two assists in the win over Boston College. Rayyan’s 11 points tie Suniel Veerakone for the most by a freshman since Brody Huitema had 16 in 2013.
In his second year as a Blue Devil, Proch made a splash in 2018, leading the charge on offense with 11 goals and 26 points overall to earn first-team recognition. He is the first Blue Devil to land on the top squad since Zach Mathers in 2015. Proch, a native of Italy, got off to a hot start with five goals in his first three games, matching his total from 20 games in 2017. He continued to score for the Blue Devils, tallying a goal in six of seven games in the middle of the season. Possessing great instincts on the field overall, he also dished out both assists in the win over the Hokies. He currently ranks second in the ACC in goals and points.
Pulisic garners his second consecutive All-ACC award – he was third team in 2017 – after anchoring Duke’s backline all season. He registered two shutouts in ACC play and five for the season, while organizing a defense that allows just 10 shots per game and less than four on frame. Pulisic most recently was the hero of the ACC quarterfinal when he stopped Pitt’s final two penalty kicks and converted his own shot from the spot to lead Duke to the 4-3 victory in the shootout to remain alive in the ACC Tournament. He currently sports a 1.15 goals against average and a .688 save percentage.
Duke engine in the midfield, Williamson makes Duke go. Intelligent on the ball and possessing a tireless work ethic, he allows the Blue Devils to maintain possession in the middle of the field. His creative spark and ability to beat defenders gives opponents fits in all thirds. Williamson, additionally, has a great strike when given space and owns a goal and an assist this season. He has gone the distance in 12 of the 15 games he has played this season.
The undisputed leader of the team, McKenna has been incredibly solid for the Blue Devils at outside back. He has started every game and ranks third amongst field players in minutes played at 1472. McKenna is excellent in the air as well as being a strong one-on-one defender. He has been a threat on set pieces as well this season, tallying two goals. Defensively, he is an instrumental piece of helping hold teams to fewer than four shots on goal per game.
Stanley, the rookie center back, plays like a veteran for the Blue Devils. An outstanding tackler of the ball and calm and steady force in the middle of the field, the Columbia, Ill., native leads the team in minutes played at 1561. He is also a dangerous option on set pieces, but has yet to connect for his first career point. He most recently made a couple game-saving tackles as Duke outlasted Pitt in a shootout in the ACC Quarterfinal.
The eighth-ranked Blue Devils hit the field Wednesday evening against No. 4 North Carolina at WakeMed Soccer Park. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to the ACC title game Sunday, Nov. 11 at noon on ESPNU.