Alves is MASL Defender-of-Year; Vandegriffe also honored as league 'Elite Six' pick

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Florida -- The Florida Tropics had two players as part of the Major Arena Soccer League's post-season awards announced Monday, including Rafa Alves who was named Defender-of-the-Year.

Alves, also a member of the MASL 'Elite Six", joined defender Chad Vandegriffe on the first-team of all-stars. Vandegriffe won Defender-of-the-Year honors last year, and Drew Ruggles won the award in 2019-20 giving a Florida player that honor in three of the last four seasons.

Alves led the MASL with 59 blocked shots in just 18 games played, missing a quarter of the season because of injury. He also chipped in with four goals. For his career, which began in the Tropics first ever season in 2016-17, he has 111 blocks and 23 total points. 

He had three or more blocks in a game 11 times this year, including 10 blocks in a 6-5 win in Kansas City. That, and his 59 total blocks, are single season records for Forida.

Vandegriffe, who won the award last year with 54 blocks, followed that up with another 54-block season in 2022-23, good for second most blocks in the MASL. In his nine-year pro indoor career, which started with his hometown St. Louis Ambush, Vandegriffe has 240 career blocks. 

"Rafa wand Chad were both fantastic this year. Rafa took his game to a new level altogether, and game in and game out, year in and year out, there's no better defender in our game than Chad," Head Coach Clay Roberts said. "They are both deserving honorees who could be depended on every night to keep opposing forwards in check and anchor our defensive efforts."

Honors were decided in a vote of front office representatives and league broadcasters.

The Tropics were in the post-season for the fourth consecutive season this year, but were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semi-finals by the Baltimore Blast. The t wo teams split the first two games of the series, with Baltimore winning the 15-minute knockout game 3-2 to advance.