AP names Wambach Athlete of the Year

The Associated Press has named former Florida Gators soccer player Abby Wambach its Female Athlete of the Year, the organization announced Tuesday. Wambach headed the U.S. Women’s National Team’s charge to the finals of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She bested teammate Hope Solo in the AP voting, taking 65 of 214 votes while Solo grabbed 38. Former Connecticut basketball player Maya Moore, now with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, received 35 votes to finish third.

Wambach, whose 13 World Cup goals are the most ever by a U.S. player, is the first soccer player — men’s or women’s — to win AP Athlete of the Year honors. In the World Cup final against Japan, her header in the 104th minute broke a 1-all tie in overtime. The U.S. eventually lost 3-1 on penalty kicks, with Wambach scoring the lone U.S. goal.

In the semifinals, Wambach headed in a goal in the 79th minute to snap a 1-all tie en route to a 3-1 win against France. She scored the latest goal in Women’s World Cup history with a header that tied Brazil at 2-all deep into stoppage time in the second and final overtime period during the quarterfinals. The U.S. sealed the win by nailing all five penalty kicks.

The 31-year-old Wambach, a native of Rochester N.Y., will be inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in April. The two-time, first-team NCSAA All-American at Florida is the Gators’ all-time career leader in goals (96), assists (50), points (242), game-winning goals (24) and hat tricks (10).