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Wednesday, August 17, 2011
South Bay duo capture WPS awards

By Scott French

Two Palos Verdes Peninsula players were winners when Women's Professional Soccer announced its season awards Wednesday.

Whitney Engen (Rolling Hills Estates/Peninsula HS) was voted Defender of the Year after her Western New York Flash won the WPS regular-season title, and Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School) was chosen Rookie of the Year after a solid first year with Boca Raton, Fla.-based magicJack.

Philadelphia forward Veronica Boquete was the surprise winner as Player of the Year, and her boss, Paul Riley, was awarded Coach of the Year. Western New York's Ashlyn Harris (Goalkeeper of the Year) and Marta (Golden Boot) and Philly's Nikki Krzsik (Sportswoman of the Year) also were honored.

Engen, a second-year pro out of the University of North Carolina, was the key to a Flash defense that conceded just 18 goals, tied for the league's lowest total, as the club overcame the Philadelphia Independence in the season's final weeks to finish first at 13-2-3.

Press, a former Stanford star who won the Hermann Trophy last December as college soccer's top player, scored eight goals -- just two off the league leaders -- as magicJack stormed into the playoffs behind star forward/head coach Abby Wambach. Press scored WPS's first rookie hat trick on July 30.

BRANAM RETIRES: Jenni Branam, among the more spectacular female goalkeepers the U.S. has produced, retired following New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC's final game.

Branam (Placentia/El Dorado HS), 30, won two NCAA championships at North Carolina, played in the Women's United Soccer Association, in Sweden and for three seasons with Sky Blue, and made six appearances for the U.S. national team.

PLAYOFFS: MagicJack won the playoff opener Wednesday, beating the Boston Breakers, 4-1, and will meet Philadelphia in Saturday's semifinal. The winner will play Western New York in the Aug. 27 title game in Rochester, N.Y.

The Flash won the USL W-League championship last year, then made the jump to WPS.

MagicJack is a most controversial team, owing entirely to owner Dan Borislow, who bought the Washington Freedom -- one of the more venerated names in American women's soccer history -- moved them to Florida and renamed after the internet phone device he designed and sells.

WPS deducted a point from magicJack earlier this season after Borislow repeatedly violated league rules on advertising, online presentation and media relations, and the players' union has filed a grievance accusing the owner of bullying players and fostering “an oppressive and intimidating work environment.”

The league is looking to disband the franchise for breach of contractual obligations, and Borislow has filed for an injunction to prevent WPS from doing so.

MagicJack has an impressive roster, including U.S. national-teamers Wambach (Hermosa Beach), Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS), Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Christie Rampone.