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Tuesday December 20, 2011 Former UF star Abby Wambach first soccer player to earn AP Female Athlete of the Year honors

Updated: 3:34pm, December 20

One of the loudest ovations all season at The Swamp was in September when 2011 Women’s World Cup star Abby Wambach returned to UF.

Former Gators soccer star Abby Wambach (right) and Heather Mitts

Wambach and former Florida teammate Heather Mitts – also a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team – were honored for helping the U.S. make a memorable run all the way to the title match against Japan.

Wambach was the star of the entire tournament, scoring four goals and generating an excitement about women’s soccer with a pair of last-minute goals along the way to help the Americans advance.

As a reward for her memorable summer, Wambach learned Tuesday that she has been named the Associated Press' 2011 Female Athlete of the Year. Wambach is the first individual soccer player – man or woman – to win the award, which began in 1931.

"We, as a team, did something that no team since Mia Hamm was able to do," Wambach told the AP. "Even the team that won the [Olympic] gold medal in 2008 wasn't able to inspire and get people excited about women's soccer. It goes to show you the impact drama can bring.’’

Wambach is set to enter the UF Sports Hall of Fame early next year as part of the Class of 2012.

"I'm not a person who cares much about [individual] awards, but I really appreciate you guys recognizing this team," Wambach told the AP. "It helps keep this sport alive, and it's really important."

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