The programs at the following schools had special seasons in 2002. IN some cases they accomplished something that the program had never before achieved. In other cases the quality of their performance took the program to a higher level than in the past and set a new standard of excellence that future teams will seek to attain. In some cases they significantly exceeded preseason expectations and in other they put together a streak of wins never before accomplished. However, in all cases the schools listed combined their individual talents into a unified team and together they had a season to remember.
UCLA – Any celebration of success relative to the 2002 season would be incomplete without including the national championship team. UCLA has a storied tradition in men’s soccer so the program in certainly not a stranger to success. The Bruins have received an NCAA Tournament berth of twenty consecutive years and have played their way into the final four eleven times in the history of the program. They have been to the College Cup four times in the last nine years. Prior to this year their last trip to the College Cup was in 1999. However, by their own standards the Bruins did not fare well in 2000 going 12-7-0 overall and again in 2001 when they were 12-7-4 overall. In both of those years they played brilliantly at times but wee unable to sustain a high level of consistency throughout either season. In January of 2001 Todd Saldana resigned as the head coach at UCLA and Tom Fitzgerald who had previously served as the head coach for the MLS Columbus Crew from 1996 through six games into the 2001 season was selected as his replacement. Fitzgerald inherited a team that returned eight starters from the prior year as well as a talented group of recruits. However, the unanswered question was whether he would be able to mold their individual talent into a team that would avoid the lapses in play that had hurt the Bruins in the recent past. UCLA began the 2002 season with four wins then were defeated 2-0 by a very good Loyola Marymount team. The Bruins topped San Diego State 7-0 and then traveled to the east coast where they tied Rutgers 1-1 and St. John’s 0-0. The Bruins then returned to Los Angeles to begin Pac-10 play with their ability to sustain a high level of play still unresolved. They hosted Fresno State to begin Pac-10 play and fell behind 1-0 at halftime before coming back to score two second half goals to get the win. The Bruins had established a balanced and potent attack but more importantly they demonstrated as a team that they were capable of winning the close games. The rest is history as UCLA went on the win the Pac-10 title with an 8-2-0 record in conference play and a national championship that featured wins over Loyola Marymount, California, Penn State, Maryland, and Stanford. After winning the championship game, Fitzgerald stated, “It’s kind of surreal. You never think it can happen, but there’s the trophy sitting there, so I guess it did. It’s an incredible experience to win a championship. You never know what’s going to happen in life. I got fired (from Columbus) and didn’t know if I was going to coach again. But Betsy (Stephenson – UCLA Associate Athletic Director) called and changed my life. I’m happy to be here and plan on being around a long time” Fitzgerald became the first NCAA Division I coach to win a national championship in his first year with a program. The 2002 season was a great start for the Fitzgerald era at UCLA and is a season that he and his players will always treasure as something very special.
University of Pennsylvania – The Red and Blue had an outstanding season in 2002 winning the Ivy League title for the first time in twenty-two years. They also earned an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time in twenty-five years. The Quakers faced Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Penn had opened the season with a 1-0 loss to Seton Hall. That was not to be the case though in the NCAA Tourney as the Red and Blue captured a 1-0 win over Seton Hall to avenge the earlier loss and advance to the second round of the tournament. It had been twenty-nine years since Penn had won a NCAA Tournament game. The Quakers were eliminated from the tournament by Connecticut to conclude the 2002 season with an overall record of 10-3-1 and a 5-1-1 mark in Ivy League play. It was truly a remarkable year for coach Rudy Fuller’s squad as they climbed from the bottom of the Ivy League in 2001 to Ivy League Champions in 2002. Fuller was named the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year and junior goalkeeper Matthew Haefner who had a goals against average of 0.49 was recognized as a Third Team All-America selection by NSCAA and wan an honorable mention All-America selection by College Soccer News. It was a very special year for the University of Pennsylvania as the program, players, and their coaching staff received some well deserved recognition. It was the type of season that the Red and Blue will use as a building block for the future.
Stanford University – The Cardinal advanced to the College Cup for the second year in a row. Stanford played through a mid year slump during which they had trouble finishing but rebounded to make a great run in the NCAA Tournament that carried them all the way to the championship match. Stanford defeated Portland, Furman, Clemson and Creighton before losing to UCLA 1-0 in the national championship match. The Cardinal ended the season with a an overall record of 15-5-2. Three of Stanford’s losses came at the hands of UCLA. After the loss in the national championship match, Stanford coach Bret Simon stated, “I’m really proud of the team. This year we had a great group of seniors. I’m proud of their hard work and leadership. I told the team to hold their heads up. We had a great season.”
University of Maryland – The Terrapins finished the 2002 season with an overall record of 20-5-0. The twenty wins was a school record for victories in a single season topping the previous mark of sixteen wins in the 1996 season. The Terps also won the 2002 ACC Tournament defeating Virginia in the championship match 3-0 to take the ACC title for the first time since the 1996 campaign. Maryland earned a trip to the College Cup in 2002 by defeating American, Saint Louis, and Connecticut before losing to eventual national champion UCLA 2-1 in the national semi-final match. Maryland’s success in 2002 is a reflection of the program’s ability to respond to and learn from adversity. There were no seniors on the 2002 squad but eight of the individuals on the Maryland roster in 2002 had been with the Terps for at least three years, six of those eight have had a medical redshirt for a year. The success that Maryland achieved in 2002 is particularly significant due to the fact that it is likely linked to the adversity the program faced in 2000. That year a highly touted Terrapin team was riddled with injury and finished the season with a 10-9-0 record and a sixth place finish in the ACC. The Terps lost a heartbreaker to Duke in overtime in the first round of the ACC Tournament in 2000. At the conclusion of that game head coach Sasho Cirovski stated, “This game typified our season of heartbtreak. We had a lot of setbacks, but I have never been more proud of any individuals I have coached. I’m so proud of these guys. They have made me a better coach.” The Terps struggled in ACC play again in 2001 but improved enough to earn an NCAA Tournament berth finishing the season with a 11-9-1 overall record. Everything fell into place for Maryland in 2002. Credit the 2002 Maryland players and coach Cirovski as well as those that gave it their all during the setbacks with a shining season in 2002 that will long be remembered.
Holy Cross – The Crusaders won their first ever Patriot League Championship in 2002 defeating Lehigh in the championship game. They won the league’s automatic berth to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the thirty-seven year history of the program. Holy Cross had won the regular season Patriot League Championship three out of the past four seasons, but they had never before won the Patriot League’s post-season tournament. The Crusaders were topped by Fairleigh Dickinson in penalty kicks during the first round of the NCCA Tournament to end the 2002 season with an overall record of 13-5-1. Holy Cross was led by senior forward Matt Ney and senior defender Rusty Giudici who were named to the 2002 NSCAA All-New England First Team. Ney was named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season and Giudici was honored as the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Elvis Comrie’s 2002 Holy Cross team had been predicted to finish third in the league’s pre-season poll.
Northeastern University – The 2002 soccer season will be remembered as a year of firsts for the Huskies. Northeastern won it first ever America East Championship to earn their first ever NCAA Tournament berth. They then won their first ever NCAA Tournament match defeating Lehigh in penalty kicks after the game ended in a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation and two overtime periods. The Huskies then gave Boston College about all they could handle before losing to the Eagles 2-1 in the second round of the NCAA Tourney. The season was also noteworthy in that the Huskies began the year with a 3-6-2 record and appeared to be headed toward a disappointing season. That was not to be the case though as coach Ed Matz’s Northeastern squad rebounded to win nine of on its last ten matches to claim the America East regular season title. The Huskies then defeated New Hampshire 3-1 and Vermont 2-1 to win the America East Conference Tournament. Junior Atha Kirkopoulos was honored as the America East Offensive Player of the Year and was a College Soccer News All-America Honorable Mention selection, freshman keeper Sergion Saccoccio was named the conference's Rookie of the Year, and Ed Matz was selected as the America East Coach of the Year. The 2002 season clearly took the Northeastern program to a higher level than ever before.
Creighton University – The Bluejays were an exciting college soccer team to watch in 2002. Bob Warming who had been the head coach at Creighton from 1990 to 1994 returned to accept the head coaching position at Creighton in 2001 after coaching at Saint Louis University for four seasons. Creighton had advanced to the College Cup in 2000 but in 2001 they had struggled somewhat by their own standards and might not have made it into the NCAA Tournament had they not finished the season strong. Warming and his staff entered the 2002 season with a year of transition behind them. The Bluejays won their eighth Missouri Valley Conference Championship defeating Bradley 1-0 in the championship match to secure the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tourney. They then made an outstanding run that carried them all the way to the College Cup capturing wins over a very tough University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee team 3-2 before traveling east to defeat St. John’s 1-0 and Boston College 6-2. The Bluejays were subsequently eliminated in the semifinals of the College Cup 2-1 by Stanford in a match that required two overtimes to determine a winner. Creighton had a season to remember in 2002 as they established that they were among the best teams in the nation and Warming along with assistants Kevin Doyle and Jason Mims clearly signaled that the program wsa definitely in good hands. Warming who notched his 101st win at Creighton in 2002 is living proof that you can return home and that the second time around can be better than the first. Creighton forward Mike Tranchilla was a concensus First Team All-America selection. Midfielder David Wagenfuhr was name by College Soccer News as a Third Team All-America selection and freshman Mehdi Ballouchy was tabbed by College Soccer News as an All-Freshman First Team selection.
UC Santa Barbara – In 2001 the Gauchos had an overall record of 11-5-3 that included a 7-2-1 record in Big West Conference play. They hoped for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth but none was forthcoming. In 2002 UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg indicated his squad began the season with the goal of repeating as champions of the Big West Conference and receiving a berth in the NCAA Tournament. They accomplished that plus some. The Gauchos won the conference title for the second year in a row going 9-0-1 in conference play. UC Santa Barbara finished the year with an overall record of 18-3-1, a national ranking, and a win over San Diego in the first NCAA Tournament appearance in the program’s history. UCSB’s highly successful season came to an end when the Gauchos were defeated by California 2-1 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a match that easily could have gone either way. The 18-3-1 overall record was the best ever in school history and their highly effective attack produced a school record sixty-five goals. The Gauchos also played solid team defense ranking among the top twenty in the nation in shutout percentage. Senior forward Rob Friend was an NSCAA and College Soccer News Third Team All-America selection. The program at UC Santa Barbara also had great fan support in 2002 with large crowds on hand to support the Gauchos. Without a doubt, the 2002 season was magical for UCSB and was the type of season that will likely pay dividends well into the future as the bar of success has now been raised to a higher level.
Boston College – The Big East preseason poll picked the Eagles to finish fifth in the league in 2002. The Eagles far exceeded those expectations in a season that has to be considered the best ever in the history of the program. For starters they won the 2002 Big East regular season and tournament titles. Boston College earned the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament and a number five seed in the tourney. The Eagles subsequently defeated Northeastern and SMU to reach the Elite Eight of the tourney before they were defeated by Creighton just one win short of the College Cup. The NCAA tourney wins were the first in the history of the program. Boston College began the season with a big win over a very talented St. John’s side and finished the year as one of the hottest teams in the nation winning nine straight before losing to an equally hot Creighton University team. Boston College sophomore back Guy Melamed was named a Second Team All-American by College Soccer News and was honored by the NSCAA as a Third Team All-America selection. Forward Casey Schmidt who is Boston College’s all-time leading scorer with thrity-five career goals, midfielder Bobby Thompson, and goalkeeper Kyle Singer who was named the Big East Goalkeeper of the Yearwere College Soccer News Honorable Mention All-America selections. Soccer America named Eagle head coach Ed Kelly as their Coach of the Year. The Big East also honored Kelly as the conference’s Coach of the Year. College Soccer News ranked the Eagles as the number five team in the nation while the NSCAA had Boston College in the number six spot in their 2002 final national rankings. The eighteen wins were the most victories ever for Boston College in a single season and reflect a level of success that will long be remembered by Coach Kelly and the members of the 2002 team and will serve as a standard of excellence that future teams will try to emulate.
Oakland University – The Golden Grizzlies finished the season with a 10-7-3 overall record that included a 3-1-1 record in Mid-Continent Conference play. They captured their first ever outright regular season conference title and defeated Western Illinois in the Mid-Continent Tournament championship game to win the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Tournament berth was Oakland’s first ever NCAA Division I Tournament appearance in any men’s team sport. Although Oakland was subsequently defeated by UWM 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the 2002 season was still a year of firsts for the Golden Grizzles. Forward Phillip Braathen was honored as the Mid-Continent Player of the Year. Head coach Gary Parsons stated that team goals at the beginning of the season included winning the regular season and conference tournament titles and going undefeated in the State of Michigan. They meet the first two but missed the third goal. The Grizzlies defeated Detroit, Michigan State, and Western Michigan but lost to the University of Michigan 2-1. Regardless it was a year to remember and to build on for Parsons and his young Oakland team.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – UWM under the direction of head coach Louis Bennett and assistant coaches Stan Anderson and Jon Coleman were a team to contend with in 2002. The 2002 squad finished the season with a program best 19-2-1 overall record. The Panther attack which produced a total of seventy goals was balanced and explosive. Defensively they were solid allowing opponents to score a total of only twelve goals all season. UWM won the regular season Horizon League Title as well as the league tournament to capture an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers then defeated Oakland 2-1 to claim their first ever NCAA Tournament win before their season was halted by a 3-2 loss to Creighton in the second round of the NCAA Tourney in what was without a doubt one of the very best contests in the entire NCAA Tourney in 2002. UWM began the 2002 season with an unexpected 2-1 loss sto Tulsa in overtime and then tied a very tough SMU team on the road 1-1. From that point forward the Panthers won nineteen straight games before their win streak was halted by Creighton. The nineteen consecutive wins was the longest winning streak in school history and the longest winning streak in Division I soccer in 2002. senior defender Chad Dombrowski, who was named by College Soccer News and the NSCAA as a Second-Team All-America selection, summed it up after the Panthers loss to Creighton when he stated, “Right now its tough to think about but this will be a season to remember. The last two years have been great for the program. Obviously we felt we could have continued further but it was a great game tonight. Winning one NCAA Tournament game was a great feeling and hopefully the program can build on it.” Whether Bennett and his staff can continue at the pace they set in 2002 remains to be seen but it is clear that the 2002 season was a shining one for UWM and that it does provide a solid foundation for continued success. The Panthers return a solid core of talented players in 2003 including forward Antou Jallow who was the nations leading goal scorer in 2002 and a roster that will still include two Dombrowskis.
Oregon State – The impact of Oregon State’s success in 2002 is evident when you compare their record in 2001 with their record in 2002. In 2001 the Beavers were 5-12-0 overall including a 1-7-0 record in Pac-10 play. In 2002 the Beavers recorded conference wins over Washington twice while defeating both Fresno State and California once. In addition they had non-conference wins during the regular season over teams like Portland, Tulsa, and Gonzaga. The thirteen total wins in 2002 was a school record as well as was the seven game winning streak Oregon State put together near the beginning of the season. The Beavers began the season with a 9-1-0 start which was the best ever start in the fifteen year history of the Oregon State program. In addition, Oregon State received their first ever NCAA Tournament berth in 2002. Oregon State is faced with a battle to make themselves a legitimate contender in the tough Pac-10 Conference race. However, the 2002 season was a big step forward for head coach Dana Taylor and the Oregon State program. It established that the Beavers are not a team to be taken lightly and that the talent gap between Oregon State and other members of the Pac-10 Conference is much less than it has been in the past. The 2002 season is one that Taylor and his players will build upon in the future. Oregon State’s season long success was tempered by the loss of two teammates. Stephen Hensor passed away after a year long battle with cancer on the day the Beavers opened their season, and freshman Joe Zaher sustained fatal injuries in a car accident on December 1.
Furman University – The Paladins finished the season with a 19-3-1 overall record, the second best record in school history. The Paladins set two different NCAA Division I records during the season as they extended their Southern Conference unbeaten streak to forty-three matches and had eleven consecutive matches during the season without allowing a goal. Furman made its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002 defeating Loyola (Md) and Virginia Commonwealth before losing to Stanford on the road 2-1 in double overtime. At the conclusion of the Stanford match Furman head coach Doug Allison stated, “It is tough to play three NCAA Tournament games in eight days. But I am proud of our kids and especially the senior. They have been through a lot this season, but have persevered through everything that has been dealt to them. We played this season for Gray Griffin and this team came together for that cause. These guys learned some great lessons. These kids became men this season.” Furman senior Anthony Esquivel stated, “It has been a long journey this season. When I look back on this season though, I will remember a lot more than this match.”
University of New Mexico – In 2001 the Lobos struggled throughout the regular season and entered the MPSF Conference Tournament as the number eight seed. The Lobos came from out of nowhere in the conference tournament to win it and capture the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. They then won one match in the 2001 NCAA Tournament before their improbable season ending dream run ended. New Mexico entered the 2002 campaign under the direction of new head coach Jeremy Fishbein and a very talented group of freshmen recruits. In 2002 the Lobos played outstanding soccer from the get go through the end of the season. They finished the year with a 18-4-0 record to end the season with the most wins in school history. The Lobos had a record setting eight wins to start the season, a perfect 10-0-0 record at home, and they won both the MPSF regular season and tournament titles. New Mexico again earned the MPSF’s berth into the NCAA Tournament and defeated Bradley in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to play Saint Louis. The Lobos gave the Billikens all they could handle before losing 1-0. The loss to Saint Louis was only the third time during the 2002 season that anyone was able to shutout the balanced and talented New Mexico attack. The Lobos were ranked as the number twenty-seven team in the nation in the final College Soccer News national poll. Coach Fishbein did an excellent job of blending his talented freshmen with his veteran players to form a team that by seasons end could pretty much hold their own with anyone. The 2002 season was without a doubt the most successful season in the history of the program at New Mexico. The Lobos established that they are a team that deserves to be recognized for their accomplishments on the field of play.
Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons were picked to finish fourth in the 2002 pre-season ACC coaches poll. They were ranked as the number eighteen team in the College Soccer News 2002 preseason national poll and number twenty-four in the NSCAA pre-season national poll. Wake Forest entered the 2002 season with eight starters back from the 2001 squad that finished fourth in the ACC. Under the direction of head coach Jay Vidovich the Demon Deacons more that exceeded expectations in 2002 as they finished the season with a 15-2-4 record which established a new school record for wins in a single season. Along the way they advanced to a number one national ranking becoming the first Wake Forest team to accomplish that feat. In addition, they were the first Demon Deacon team to win the ACC regular season title going 4-0-2 in ACC play. Wake Forest did not live up to their high national ranking in the NCAA tournament defeating Old Dominion in a second round match before losing to Clemson 2-1 in overtime in the Round of Sixteen. Regardless it was definitely an exceptional season for Wake Forest and one that without a doubt took the program to a higher level than ever before achieved.