The programs at the following schools had a special year. It may be that they accomplished something that the program had never before achieved or that their performance took the program to a higher level. It might be that they significantly exceeded preseason expectations. It might be that they put together a great run at the end of the season to claim a conference tournament title. As you will see, there is a great deal of variation in terms of what the teams listed below accomplished. However, they all had one thing in common. Each had a season in 2001 to proudly remember and that will likely serve as a source of inspiration for their programs in the years to come.
University of North Carolina – The Tar Heels won the national championship for the first time in the history of the men’s soccer program finishing the year with an overall record of 21-4-0. Along the way North Carolina made it to the College Cup for the second time in the history of the program with their last trip to the coveted Final Four taking place in 1987. Tar Heel head coach Elmar Bolowich began his thirteenth season at the helm of the North Carolina program facing the challenge of replacing five starters from the prior season. Those five starters had accounted for seventy-eight percent of the Tar Heel’s goals and fifty-six percent of their assists in 2000. The Tar Heels served notice in their season opener that their attack was back when they recorded an 8 to 1 win over visiting East Carolina. After losing to Clemson 2-1 in a semifinal match in the ACC Tournament the Tar Heels never looked back as they received an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament and went on a run that consisted of five straight wins and ended with the National Championship. Along the way North Carolina defeated Townson, American, Fairleigh Dickinson, Stanford, and Indiana 2-0 to claim the nationa title and establish themselves as the number on team in the country in 2001. Tar Heel senior defender Danny Jackson was a consensus First-Team All-America selection.
Fairleigh Dickinson University – The Knights had a truly outstanding season. After losing their first two conference matches it looked like they might be in jeopardy of not making it into the Northeast Conference Tournament. That was not to be the case as Coach Seth Roland’s team came on strong and finished the year with an overall record of 17-7-0 including an 8-2-0 record in regular season NEC action. The Knights and Robert Morris shared the NEC regular season title. FDU won the NEC Tournament for the second year in a row defeating Long Island 2-1 in four overtimes to take the tourney title. Fairleigh Dickinson earned their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1989 and subsequently defeated Boston College, Princeton, and Seton Hall before losing 3-2 in three overtime periods on the road to North Carolina the eventual national championship team. The Knights were ranked the number eleven team in the country in the final poll issued by the NSCAA and they were ranked as the number twelve team in the country in the final poll issued by College Soccer News. Coach Roland pretty much summed it all up when he stated, “We had a fun ride this year and I’m proud of how our team completed with strength and character throughout the season.”
Gonzaga University – The Zags had never before received an NCAA Tournament berth. The Bulldogs had come close but never had received an invite. With an overall record of 9-4-2 and a 4-1-1 record in the West Coast Conference, Gonzaga broke that barrier in 2001 when they received a well deserved at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga was defeated by the University of Portland 1-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tourney. Regardless they accomplished something no other Gonzaga team had been able to do thus taking the program to a higher level. In addition, senior defenders Danny Huet and Zach Scott plus freshman midfielder Arni Ingi Pjetursson were named to the All-West Coast Conference Firt-Team. It was a barrier breaking season for Gonzaga and their head coach Einar Thorarinsson who was in his seventh season at the helm of the Bulldog program in 2001.
Stanford University – The 2001 season could have been a year of transition at Stanford but instead it was a banner season. New head coach Bret Simon and his staff took over the leadership role when former Stanford mentor Bobby Clark, who had been the Cardinal head coach for five years, resigned his position on January 19, 2001 to become the head coach at Notre Dame. Stanford returned a lot of talent but six starters were gone from the Cardinal team that finished the 2000 season with an 18-3-1 record. The Pac-10 preseason coaches’ poll picked Stanford to finish in the number three spot in the conference in 2001 behind Washington and UCLA. The Cardinal had an outstanding year in 2001 under Coach Simon finishing with an overall record of 19-2-1. Stanford had a 6-1-1 record in Pac-10 action and won the conference title. The Cardinal made its second appearance in the College Cup falling to eventual national North Carolina 3-2 in four overtime periods in the semifinals. Stanford defeated Santa Clara, Portland, and Saint Louis to reach the national semifinal match. The 19-2-1 record was the best in the history of the program. Stanford ended the year with a number three ranking in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll and a number two ranking in the final College Soccer News Poll.
UMKC – The Kangaroos defeated IUPUI 2-1 in the championship match of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament to win their first ever conference tournament title. Prior to 2001 UMKC was 1-7 in seven league tournaments. As a result of winning the conference tournament, the Kangaroos also earned their first ever berth into the NCAA Tournament as a Division I team in 2001. UMKC then defeated UW-Milwaukee in the first round of the NCAA Tourney 2-1 in overtime to secure their first even NCAA Division I tournament win. UMKC Coach Rick Benben was named the Mid-Continent Conference Coach of the Year for the second time in the last three seasons. Senior forward Larry Scheller was named the 2001 Mid-Continent Player of the Year. UMKC ended they 2001 campaign with an overall record of 12-7-1.
Saint Louis University – The Billikens began the Dan Donigan era by recording ten straight wins which was the best start by a first-year coach in the history of the storied Saint Louis program. Donigan took over the head coaching duties in 2001 when Bob Warming departed to accept the head coaching job at Creighton University. Donigan had served as an assistant under Warming since 1997 so a smooth transition was anticipated. It was smooth indeed as Saint Louis had an outstanding season ending the year with an 18-2-0 overall record and a 9-1-0 mark in Conference USA play. The Billikens advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tourney before losing to Stanford 1-0 on the road. Donigan was selected as the Conference USA Coach of the Year. Senior forward Dipsy Selolwane was a consensus First-Team All-America selection and sophomore midfielder Brad Davis was a Second-Team All-America Team selection by the NSCAA and College Soccer News. Senior sweeper Marty Tappel was named the 2001 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. It was an outstanding season for Saint Louis as their 18-2-0 record was their best overall record since the 1971 team that posted a 17-1-0 mark. Donigan summed it up well when he stated, “We had a sensationial year, and I’m extremely proud of the accomplishments of this team. We were disappointed that our seniors weren’t able to reach their ultimate goal of going to the College Cup and having a chance to compete for the national championship. Ultimately when they look back on this season, they’ll always remember what a great year it was.”
Loyola College (Md.) -The Greyhounds began the 2001 season with a 4-0 thumping at the hands of California but after that game the Greyhounds were the ones doing the thumping . Under second year head coach Mark Mettrick, Loyola ran off a nineteen game unbeaten streak that carried them all the way to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. The Greyhounds season came to an end when they were defeated by a solid Saint Louis team 3-0 but along the way they had a great year with an overall record of 17-2-2 that established Loyola as a top ten team. The nineteen game unbeaten streak was the program’s longest winning streak since the 1985 season. Loyola defeated Fairfield 1-0 in double overtime to claim their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship since 1996 and their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1993. Loyola was ranked as the number ten team in the country in the final poll issued by the NSCAA and they were ranked as the number eleven team in the country in the final poll issued by College Soccer News. Coach Mettrick was named the MAAC Coach of the Year for the second year in a row in 2001. Junior defender Niall Lepper was named the MAAC Player of the Year and a third team All-America team selection by College Soccer News.
American University – The Eagles struggled somewhat early in the year but their losses were to very strong opponents. By mid-October Coach Todd West’s American University squad had gelled as a team. They finished the year strong winning the Patriot League Tournament in their inaugural year in the conference. The Eagles took the title by defeating a very good Lehigh team 1-0 and then number one seeded Holy Cross 5-3 in penalty kicks after playing through four overtime periods with the score tied 1-1. As a result American earned the Patriot League’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tourney. The Eagles had a great run in the tourney defeating Ohio State from the Big Ten 2-1 and Wake Forest from the ACC 3-0 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen where they lost 1-0 in overtime to North Carolina, the eventual National Championship team. North Carolina coach Elmar Bolowich commented after the game, “They (American University) came out strong in both their earlier wins in the tournament and they did it again today. It was a close game that could have gone either way in overtime.” American finished the season with a 13-8-2 record and were ranked as the number fourteen team in the country in the final poll issued by the NSCAA. It was a great year for American and one that they will likely build upon. As Coach Todd West commented at the end of the season, “We’re thrilled to be ranked with some of the elite programs in Division I and to be ranked ahead of some of the strongest teams this year.”
Holy Cross – The Crusaders were picked to finish sixth in the Patriot League Coaches Preseason Poll. The greatly exceeded that expectation when they went undefeated in regular season league action with a 6-0-1 record. Holy Cross defeated Navy 1-0 in the Patriot League Tournament semifinal game to advance to the championship match where they were defeated in penalty kicks by American University. The Crusaders finished the year with an overall record of 10-5-2. Junior forward Matt Ney was named the 2001 Patriot League Men’s Soccer Offensive Player of the Year and head coach Elvis Comrie was honored as the Patriot League Men’s Soccer Coach of the Year. While they did not advance to NCAA tournament play or attain a national ranking, Holy Cross had a season that will be remembered for the things that this relatively young team did accomplish.
Clemson University – Coach Trevor Adair’s Clemson Tigers lost two of their first three matches including an uncharacteristic 2-1 home loss to Georgia State. The Tigers quickly regrouped winning eighteen of their next twenty-one matches to finish the year with an overall record of 19-5-0. Clemson won the ACC tournament defeating North Carolina 2-1 and Virginia 1-0. No stranger to the NCAA Tournament, Clemson made their twenty-second appearance in the tourney in 2001. They defeated Kentucky 1-0 and UAB 3-2 in double overtime to advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. IN the win over UAB, Clemson demonstrated a great deal of poise and determination when they scored two goals in the last ten minutes of regulation to take the contest into overtime to claim the win. The Tigers then faced Indiana University on the road in the round of eight. That match was tied 0-0 at halftime but Indiana came on strong in the second stanza to top Clemson 2-0. The Tigers were hampered at the end of the season with injuries to several key players but they continued to give it their all resulting in what will be remembered as a very successful 2001 season. Clemson sophomore defender Oguchi Onyewu was outstanding throughout the year and was a consensus All-America Team selection.
University of New Mexico – The Lobos ended the season with an amazing run that earned New Mexico their first ever NCAA Tournament berth. The Lobos proved that hope springs eternal winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament as the number eight seed in the tournament. Although the Lobos had played many opponents close matches, they won only three games during regular season play and entered the tournament with a 3-11-2 record. New Mexico began MPSF Tournament play by upsetting Sacramento State, the number one seed, 3-2 in overtime. Down 2-0 after the first four minutes of play, the Lobos hung tough coming from behind to get the upset win. New Mexico then upset UNLV 3-0 to advance to the championship game against Fresno State. The Lobos defeated Fresno State on their home turf in overtime to claim the MPSF Tournament Title and the Conference’s berth in the NCAA Tournament. New Mexico continued their winning ways in the first round of the NCAA Tournament defeating Florida International University 1-0 to get their first ever win in NCAA Tournament play. The Lobos dream run then came to an end as they were topped by SMU 2-0. New Mexico ended the 2001 season with a 7-12-2 overall record. It was an improbable but great run for New Mexico that resulted in a season that Coach Klaus Weber and his players will always remember.
Southern Methodist University – The Mustangs completed the regular season with a perfect 19-0-0 record. They were the only undefeated team in Division I play at the end of the regular season and were awarded the number one seed going into the NCAA Tourney. Although the Mustangs did not achieve their goal of making it back to the College Cup and winning the National Title, they were without a doubt one of the best teams in the country in 2001 and were ranked by most polls as the number one team in the nation throughout regular season play. SMU won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles and defeated New Mexico and UCLA in NCAA Tourney play before advancing to the Elite Eight. The Mustang’s season came to an unexpected end when they were defeated by an outstanding St. John’s University team 2-0 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas. SMU ended the 2001 season with an overall record of 21-1-0. SMU senior forward Luchi Gonzalez was named the NSCAA Player of the Year and was awarded the prestigious Hermann Trophy. SMU goalkeeper Byron Foss and midfielder Diego Walsh joined Gonzalez as All-America team selections. Schellas Hyndman completed his 18th year at the helm of the SMU program in 2001 leading the Mustangs to another outstanding year of play.
University of Massachusetts – The Minutemen had an outstanding season in 2001 and will be remembered as a team whose accomplishments elevated the program to a higher level than it has ever been before. Massachusetts under the leadership of head coach Sam Koch broke several barriers in 2001. They won their first ever Atlantic 10 Tournament Title and earned the school's first NCAA Tournament berth. The Minutemen defeated Creighton University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. After the first round win Coach Koch commented, “That was as important a game as we played since I’ve been here. We needed to show that we weren’t just happy to be here, we still had things to accomplish.” Although the Minutemen fell to St. John’s 1-0 in the second round, it clearly was a successful year and one that will likely continue to pay dividends in the years to come. At the conclusion of the season, three year captain J.R. Pouncey said it all when he stated, “We’ve gone through a lot this season. The guys on this team battled every day to get to this point. This team laid the groundwork , but it’s just that. The younger guys on this team know where we need to be to go further next year, and it’ll be up to them to work hard enough to get there.” Massachusetts ended the season with an overall record of 15-6-1. Junior forward Jeff Deren and senior sweeper Pouncey were both named to the NSCAA Division I All-New England Second Team. Deren was named by College Soccer News as an honorable mention All-America selection in 2001.
Towson University – Towson finished the year with an impressive 16-5-1 record. The Tigers won the America East Conference Tournament defeating New Hampshire 2-0, Hartford 2-1, and Northeastern 1-0. Towson earned its first ever NCAA Tournament berth in 2001 and subsequently got their first ever NCAA Tournament win when they defeated James Madison for the Colonial Athletic Association 4-1. Although the Tigers were topped by North Carolina 3-0 in the second round of NCAA Tournament play, it did not take away from the fact that the 2001 season was arguably the best ever in the history of the program. It will also be remembered as Towson’s last year as a member of the America East Conference since they will compete in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2002.
Butler University – First-year head coach Joe Sochacki took the Butler Bulldogs to their fourth conference championship and fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in his rookie season as the head coach at Butler. The Bulldogs won the Horizon League Tournament Championship defeating a good Illinois-Chicago team 3-0 in the semifinals and upsetting top seeded UW-Milwaukee 2-0 in the championship game. The Bulldogs were subsequently defeated by Michigan State 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Regardless, it was a very solid first year for Sochacki and a year that will be remembered for establishing a good foundation for the Butler program. Juniors Nick Pantazi and Michael Mariscalco had very productive seasons and will return for Butler in 2002. The Bulldogs ended the year with an overall record of 11-9-0.
University of California – The Golden Bears received an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years. After going 6-13-1 in 2000, they improved to 10-9-1 in 2001 and showed steady improvement under second year head coach Kevin Grimes. The Bears have a ways to go to compete on a consistent basis in the Pac-10 Conference but games like their 1-0 regular season win over a solid University of Washington team are confidence builders and establish that the Bears are definitely headed in the right direction. It was a young California team that had as many as six freshmen in the starting lineup. California was defeated by Santa Clara 1-0 in the first round of NCAA Tournament play but they played well during the 2001 season and served notice that they are a team that will have to be taken seriously in the future. Senior midfielder Chris Roner and junior goalkeeper Josh Saunders were First Team All-Pac 10 selections.
St. John’s University – The Red Storm finished the year with a very impressive 17-3-3 overall record. Coach Dave Massur’s St. John’s squad played solid team soccer all year making the individual adjustments that they needed to make in order to maximize team performance. The Red Storm won the Big East Tournament defeating Boston College, Notre Dame, and Connecticut. St. John’s was awarded the number eight seed in the NCAA Tournament. They defeated Massachusetts 1-0, Penn State 1-0, and traveled to Dallas, Texas where they beat previously undefeated SMU on their home turf 2-1 in a semifinal game in the College Cup that required two overtime periods to determine a winner. After the loss, Coach Masur talked about the dedication and great work ethic of his 2001 team. He stated, “I can’t be more proud of this team. Their character, focus on the field and attitude made them very special.” St John’s is a tough team to face at any time but their record in NCAA Tournament action is particularly impressive. The Red Storm has now advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for six straight years and to the Elite Eight for three times in the past six seasons. Seniors Shalrie Joseph and Jeff Matteo had outstanding seasons and were honored as All-America team selections. Coach Masur was honored by Soccer America as their National Coach of the Year in 2001.
Indiana University – The Hoosiers always seek the NCAA Title and they are always in the hunt for it. The 2001 season was no different than the past in that regard but this was a special Indiana team in that they truly did an excellent job of blending their individual talents together to form a strong unified team. Against one of the toughest schedules in the country, the Hoosiers allowed opponents to score a total of only six goals during regular season play. IU won the Big Ten regular season and conference tournament titles in 2001 and were awarded the number four seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers subsequently defeated Michigan State, Rutgers, and Clemson to advance to the College Cup. Indiana then defeated a strong St. John’s team in the College Cup semifinal to advance to face North Carolina for the National Title. The Tar Heels ended Indiana’s bid for a sixth national title defeating them 2-0 to their first ever national title. Indiana coach Jerry Yeagley earned his 500th career victory in 2001 ending the year with a total of 512 career wins. This was an outstanding Indiana team that again demonstrated the teamwork and discipline that have played such a large part in the success of the Indiana program under Yeagley’s direction. Junior forward Pat Noonan was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and freshman Mike Ambersley the Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Noonan was also a consensus All-America Team selection.
Mercer University – Mercer finished the season with a record of 13-8-0. The thirteen wins set school record for the Bears. They returned eleven starters in 2001 from the 2000 team that finished the season with a 9-8-2 overall record. However, they were upset in the 2000 conference tourney title match by Georgia State. That was not to be the case in 2001 as Mercer entered the 2001 Atlantic Sun Conference Tourney with the number one seed and subsequently defeated FAU 3-0 and then Jacksonville University 2-0 to win the conference title and secure their first invite to the NCAA Tourney. The Bears’ win over Jacksonville in the conference tournament was their first win over the Dolphins in five years. After the win, Mercer head coach Tom Melville stated, “This season was special because we had great leadership, last season the chemistry wasn’t there for us, but the seniors worked hard to get it back.” The Bears lost to Kentucky 1-0 in the first round of NCAA Tournament play but it was nonetheless a special season that took the Mercer program to the next level. Mercer senior Mas Rooke was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year. He joined teammate Neil Zarac as a First-Team All-Atlantic Sun selection and as an All-South Region team member.
University of Kentucky – Finishing with an overall record of 14-6-1 in 2001 the Wildcats had their best season since 1995 when they had an overall record of 16-5-1. In 2000 Kentucky shared the regular season title with Akron, Bowling Green, and Marshall. In 2001 Kentucky won their first outright Mid-American Conference regular season title with a perfect 6-0-0 mark in conference action. In doing so they became only the third team in MAC history to sweep regular-season play. The Wildcats won their third consecutive MAC Conference tournament title defeating Bowling Green 1-0 in a semifinal match and conference rival Akron 1-0 in the championship game. Kentucky earned the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament and subsequently defeated Mercer in a first round match. Playing on the road Kentucky then gave host Clemson University about all they could handle before losing in double overtime 1-0. The Wildcats were ranked as the number twenty-three team in the country by the NSCAA and as the number twenty-two team in the country in the College Soccer News final poll. Kentucky coach Ian Collins was honored as the MAC Coach of the Year and senior defender Ilkka Jantti was named the MAC Player of the Year. Jantti was named by College Soccer News as a First-Team All-America selection was honored by the NSCAA as a Second-Team All-American. At the end of the season Collins commented regarding his teams national ranking. He stated, “This is a great testament to how much work our players and coaches put into this season. The season didn’t really end the way we would have liked, but it is great to know that we are considered one of the top twenty-five teams in the country.” The 2001 campaign was an outstanding season for Kentcuky and one that they will likely remember as one more step forward for the program.