CHICAGO — U.S. Under-20 women’s national team captain Naomi Girma, who attended her first full USWNT camp this year, has been voted the 2020 U.S. Soccer young female player of the year, it was announced Monday.

Girma, who played a major part in helping Stanford University win the NCAA Division I Championship in 2019 as the Pac-12 defensive ylayer of the year, was the leader of the U.S. defense during the 2020 Concacaf U-20 Women’s Championship. As a team captain, Girma started six games during the World Cup qualifying tournament to help the USA earn a berth to the since-cancelled 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and win the regional title, defeating Mexico, 4-1 in the championship game.

She finished third on the team in minutes played while marshalling a back line that played an instrumental part in allowing just one goal. The USA went 545 shutout minutes in the tournament before allowing that score.

“It’s been such a crazy year, but it’s always an honor to represent the USA and I’m proud of what our team was able to accomplish at the beginning of the year in Concacaf qualifying even though the World Cup got cancelled,” Girma said in a statement. “While the year didn’t go as planned, I’m especially thankful for the coaches and the medical staff who helped keep us playing some soccer and to be mentioned along with the past winners is very cool and humbling. Of course, my family – my parents and brother – have been so supportive, along with my Stanford family and the U-20 WNT family, so I’ll always appreciate everything they’ve contributed to me as a person and a player.”

In her second and final U-20 cycle, Girma was the third most experienced player on the team with 31 U-20 international caps. Girma is only the second pure defender to win the award in its 23-year existence.

Her college season for Stanford – in what would have been her junior year – was postponed to the Spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic so she did not play in a college match this Fall, but in October, Girma attended her first full U.S. Women’s National Team training camp, which took place in Colorado.

Fifteen U.S. Soccer Young Female Players of the Year have gone on to play in a senior level Women’s World Cup for the USA. The first winner, back in 1998, was current U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone.

“First and foremost, Naomi Girma is a great person and a fantastic leader,” U.S. U-20 national head coach Laura Harvey said in a statement. “She is highly respected by her teammates and the kind of player who always puts the team first. On the field, she is smart, brave and always pushing to improve. I know it’s rare for a defender to win this award, but it’s a credit to the impact she has on the field and on the people around her.”

Votes for U.S. Soccer player of the year awards are collected from respective national team coaches, national team players who have earned a cap in 2020, members of the U.S. Soccer board of directors, U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council, National Women’s Soccer League head coaches (for the USWNT awards) and American soccer league (MLS and USL) head coaches (for the USMNT awards), select media members and former players and administrators.