The 2003 College Soccer Season, kike the seasons of the year, flew right by ending it seemed just a very short time after it started. It was a particularly shining season for the schools identified. It may be that they greatly exceeded expectations, won more games than ever before, or took the program to a higher level. Regardless of the reason, it was a season that will long be remembered, that will always bring a sense of accomplishment to those involved and that will have an impact on the program for years to come.
Indiana University – Indiana is no stranger to National Championships but their run to the 2003 National Title was a storybook finish for the Hoosiers and their head coach Jerry Yeagley who had previously announced that he would retire at the conclusion of the 2003 season after thirty-one years as the Indiana mentor. A less experienced tan usual Hoosier squad struggled early own completing the month of September with a 2-3-3 record that included losses to Connecticut, Akron, and Notre Dame. After the loss to Notre Dame the Hoosiers concluded the month of September with a 1-1 tie with Big Ten foe Michigan State. Indiana then tied Butler in their first match in October and headed to Ann Arbor to face a talented University of Michigan squad that seemed poised to deliver the knockout punch that would put the Hoosiers in a big hole in terms of their ability to win the Big Ten regular season title. Indiana came up big winning that match 2-1 in overtime and never looked back as they came out on top of their next sixteen games in a row in route to a 17-3-5 final overall record and the 2003 National Championship. Indiana tied Penn State 1-1 in the Big Ten Conference Tournament Final but won the title in penalty kicks to claim the Big Ten’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers then defeated Kentucky and VCU to set up a match with number one ranked UCLA for the right to advance to the College Cup. Indiana upset the Bruins 2-1 on the road to advance to the College Cup where they defeated Santa Clara 1-0 and then St. John’s 2-1 to capture their sixth NCAA Tourney title. It was a feel good ending for Yeagley and the Indiana faithful as the legendary Hoosier coach definitely went out in style with a national championship and a career record of 544-101-45 which made him Division I’s all-time winningest coach. It was a fitting end for a man who has truly been an ambassador for college soccer.
Michigan – The 2003 season was a banner year for the Maize and Blue. In just their fourth year of varsity competition the Wolverines earned their first ever berth into the NCAA Tournament. They received a number twelve seed based on a 13-6-0 overall record during regular season play and a 5-1-0 mark in Big Ten action. Michigan defeated Saint Peter’s College and Notre Dame to advance to the Elite Eight before losing to Santa Clara 3-1. Junior Knox Cameron was named the Ten Athlete of the Year and was jointed on the All-Big Ten First team by seniors Kevin Taylor and Mike White and sophomore netminder Peter Dzubay. Junior forward Mychael Turpin, who had an outstanding season, was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. Many Michigan teams are likely to make the NCAA Tourney in the future but the 2003 squad was the first ever to do so and they have forever raised the standard of excellence for the men’s soccer program at Michigan.
Binghamton – Head coach Paul Marco entered his second season at the helm of Binghamton in 2003 with a squad that the America East Pre-Season poll predicted would finish eighth in the ten team America East Conference race. The Bearcats were 2-17-0 in 2001 prior to Marco’s arrival and 6-11-1 in his first season at the helm of the program in 2002. The 2003 season was without a doubt one of the most successful in the history of the program and one that clearly established that the Bearcats are once again a team to be taken seriously. The Bearcats greatly exceeded expectations. As Marco stated, “Out backline went out every game and overachieved.” Binghamton completd the 2003 seqason with a 12-3-7 overall record. They won the America East Tournament to earn the league’s automatic berth in to the NCAA Tourney and then upset highly ranked Fairleigh Dickinson on the road to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tourney to face Saint Louis. The Bearcats gave the Billikens all they could handle before losing in overtime 1-0 to end one of the most successful seasons in the history of the Binghamton program. The Bearcats broke five school records in 2003 in a season during which they allowed only nine goals and recorded sixteen shutouts.
VCU – The Rams finished the 2003 season with an outstanding 17-5-0 overall record setting a school record for victories. They had an 8-1-0 mark in Colonial Athletic Conference play and won the CAA regular season and tournament titles. VCU was awarded a number nine seed in the NCAA Tourney and earned their first ever NCAA Tourney win when they topped Virginia Tech 5-2 in a second round match before losing to Indiana in the third round. Senior forwards Matthew Delicate and McClom Cephas had outstanding seasons to lead a very potent VCU attack. Delicate was named the CAA Player of the Year and was named a Second Team All-America selection by College Soccer News and the NSCAA. Coach Tim O’Sullivan’s 2003 VCU squad was among the top teams in the country finishing the year as the number nine team in the College Soccer News Top 30 National Poll and as the number eleven team in the nation in the NSCAA National Poll. The Rams tallied a total of fifty goals in the 2003 season with a multi-dimensional attack that was truly among the most productive in the nation.
Notre Dame – Their motto for the 2003 season was “making history” and indeed they did just that. Notre Dame earned their third straight NCAA Tourney berth in 2003 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of NCAA Tourney play for the first time in the history of the program. The Irish finished the season with a 16-3-4 mark and a number seven ranking in the College Soccer News Final Top 30 National Poll and a number eight ranking in the NSCAA National Rankings. In addition they claimed their first Big East Championship since 1996 defeating Saint John’s in the conference title match. Coach Bobby Clark’s squad won eight consecutive matches before their season came to an end against Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen in a match that required penalty kicks to determine who advanced. The Irish played solid team defense recording thirteen shutouts during the season. Junior goalkeeper Chris Sawyer was named a First Team All-American selection by College Soccer News and senior forward Justin Deeter was named a Third Team All-America selection by the NSCAA. The 2003 built on the success of the 2002 squad raising the bar another notch higher by clearly establishing the program as a consistent competitive force on the national scene.
St. Peter’s College – The Peacocks established a new school record for wins in 2003 completing the season with a 18-5-2 overall record. They won their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship to earn their first ever berth into the NCAA Tournament. ST. Peter’s then reinforced that they belonged in the tourney when they upset a solid Brown team 2-0 in the first round of play before losing on the road to Michigan in the second round. Head coach Cesar Markovic was named the 2003 MAAC Coach of the Year and Rinaldo Chambers, Pablo Orantes, Douglas Narvaez, and Chris Megaloudis were named to the All-MAAC First Team. Senior Rinaldo Chambers had an outstanding year scoring fifteen goals and adding sixteen assists for a total of forty-six points. Markovic’s presence at the helm of the program is reflected in the program’s win-loss record since he took over the reigns of the program in 2000. The Peacocks were 2-16-0 in 2000, 5-13-1 in 2001, 10-6-3 in 2002, and 18-5-2 in 2003. The 2003 record setting season clearly took the program to a higher level than ever before achieved.
Maryland – The Terps had their sights set on a return to the College Cup and a National Championship in 2003. They played brilliantly all year earning a repeat trip to the College Cup but their dreams of a national championship ended with a 1-0 loss to St. John’s. Regardless, this was an outstanding Maryland team that will long be remembered for their accomplishments and the excitement they generated in College Park in 2003. When UCLA came to College Park at the beginning of the season a record crowd of 6,143 came out to Ludwig Field to support the Terps. The atmosphere was electric that evening as the Terps topped the Bruins 1-0. It was a great night for Maryland soccer and college soccer in general. After the match Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski, a veteran of many great college soccer matches, stated, “The event was phenomenal. This was a vision I’ve had for this program and it probably even exceeded that. The inkd of support from the students and the soccer community was even beyond my expectations. It was the most wonderful night since I’ve been a coach here as far as atmosphere.” Maryland entered NCAA Tourney play with a 17-2-1 overall record and a number two seed. They defeated Old Dominion and Akron to advance to a quarterfinal match against a very competitive Saint Louis squad. Maryland fell behind the Billikens 2-0 before scoring four goals in eleven minutes to capture a 4-2 win and their third trip to the College Cup in the past five years. Maryland’s season came to an end when they lost to St. John’s 1-0 in the national semi-finals. Speaking after the match Cirovski stated, “I just told my team that I’ve had two of the best years of my coaching life. They are an incredible group of people that are champions in every aspect of life.” Maryland ended the season with a 20-3-1 record. It truly was a season that Cirovski, his staff, and players will long remember and cherish.
Coastal Carolina – The 2003 Chanticleers were 20-3-0 becoming the first team in the history of the program to earn twenty wins in a single season. They made their third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tourney defeating Davidson and highly ranked North Carolina before falling to Santa Clara 3-2 in overtime. The Chanticleers wee an explosive team offensively averaging over three goals per game and they played very solid team defense. For the season they put seventy-two into the back of the net while holding opponents to a total of only sixteen goals in route to recording a program best fourteen shutouts. The high powered and balanced Coastal Carolina attack was led by Joseph Ngwenya, Jordie Hughes, Mubarike Chisoni, and Boyzz Khumalo. The Chanticleers woon the Big South Conference regular season and tournament titles and finished the season ranked as the number eight team in the nation by College Soccer News and were the number ten team in the country in the final NSCAA National poll. Senior Joseph Ngwenya (19g, 14a) had a tremendous season and was a consensus All-America selection. For the second consecutive season Ngwenya was named the Big South Player of the Year. Chanticleer head coach Shaun Docking was also named the Big South Coach of the Year. Coastal Carolina had wins over Bradley, Furman, Clemson, Davidson, and North Carolina among others clearly establishing that they could more than hold their own with anyone. In the process of capturing twenty wins the 2003 Chanticleers took the program to a higher level than ever before thus setting a new standard of excellence for future teams.
Central Connecticut State – The Blue Devils didn’t get a berth into the NCAA Tourney but they had an outstanding season in 2003 during which they were unbeaten in the Northeast Conference during regular season play. Central Connecticut state had a 6-0-3 mark in league play that qualified them for the number two seed in the league tourney. They defeated Long Island in penalty kicks to advance t the conference tourney title before losing to Fairleigh Dickinson in the championship game. The Blue Devils finished the year with an 11-3-4 overall mark that included wins over Yale and FDU. Freshman Alex Harrison led the NEC in game-winning goals with six and was honored as the conference’s Rookie of the Year. Harrison was also named to the College Soccer News All-Freshman Third Team. Senior defender Garreth Wilkinson was also named an NEC First Team selection and Blue Devil head coach Shaun Green was named the NEC Coach of the Year. The 2003 season was the type of year that will yield dividends in the future for Central Connecticut State as it provides the type of momentum that can be built upon and positions the Blue Devils for even greater achievements in the future.
Saint Louis – The 2003 Billikens were a young team anchored by a veteran defensive corp. Their twenty-seven man roster included twenty-three underclassmen. Saint Louis head coach Dan Donigan and assistant coach Mike Sorber had one of the top recruiting classes in the country but they were faced with the daunting challenge of merging together new and young faces into a cohesive team. IN his first two years at the helm of the program Donigan had veteran players but in 2003 young players were in key starting positions. The 2003 season was Donigan’s best coaching job to date. Saint Louis has a storied soccer tradition but the 2003 season during which the Billikens were 15-4-3 will be remembered as a year that was a springboard for a young Saint Louis team that more than held its own on eht national scene setting the stage for even better things to come. Saint Louis won their fourth straight Conference USA Tournament earning an NCAA Tourney berth for the 42nd time. The Billikens defeated Binghamton and Washington in the NCAA Tournament before losing to Maryland in a quarterfinal match. After the Maryland loss Donigan stated, “We’re disappointed with the way the season ended but know that this young group accomplished an awful lot this season. Our future is extremely bright. With some good fortune and good health, we have the ability to get back to this point again next year and see if we can go a step further to the College Cup. Saint Louis again attracted record crowds in 2003 at Robert R. Hermann Stadium creating a great atmosphere for the Billikens and college soccer.
Virginia Tech – The Hokies were 14-5-3 in 2003 in a season that they clearly established that they could compete with anyone anywhere. Virginia Tech was 7-3-0 in Big East play finishing in second place during a regular season play. Quite an accomplishment for a team that was picked to finish ninth in the league’s preseason poll. The Hokies earned their first ever NCAA Tourney berth and advanced to the second round after advancing past Clemson in a penalty kick shootout. The Hokies were ranked as high as the number fifteen team in the country by Soccer America in their final season ending poll. College Soccer News ranked the Hokies as the number twenty-four team in the country and the NSCAA Poll had them as the number twenty team in the nation. Virginia head coach Oliver Weiss was named the Big East Coach of the Year. The 2003 Virginia Tech team took the program to a higher level and set a new standard of excellence for teams to follow. In the future the 2003 season will likely be looked back upon as the year in which Virginia Tech became a consistent national contender.
Western Michigan – The Broncos had a record setting season in 2003. They won their first ever Mid-American Conference Tournament defeating Bowling Green 5-0 in the tourney final and earned their first ever ticket to the NCAA Tourney. Senior forward Scott Duhl became the first Western Michigan player ever to become an All-MAC selection each of his four seasons. Forward Jeff Hughes scored sixteen goals during the season to tie the Western Michigan single season record. Both Duhl and Hughes were All-MAC First team selections in 2003 and Bronco head coach Chris Karwoski was named the Mid-American Coach of the Year. Western Michigan completed the year with a 12-7-2 record and a season of accomplishments that the Broncos will build upon in the future.
Akron – The Zips were 15-5-2 in 2003 playing a schedule that included nine teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament. They earned a number fifteen seed in the NCAA Tourney earning their third straight tourney berth and subsequently defeated Rutgers to advance past the second round of the big dance for the first time in seventeen years. Akron played Maryland about as close as you can before losing 1-0 in the third round. The Zips played very solid team defense all year allowing a total of only thirteen goals in route to recording a team record thirteen shutouts. After the loss to Maryland to conclude the season, Akron head coach Ken Lolla stated, “We have had a very good season, bordering on great. Our senior put together four very good years. I thought that we really pushed along, did quite well, and really deserved to be at this point.” The final College Soccer News Top 30 Poll ranked Akron as the number fifteen team in the country while the final NSCAA Poll had Akron as the number sixteen team. By many measures the 2003 season was truly a year to remember at Akron.
Bucknell – The Bison were predicted to finish fourth in the 2003 Patriot League preseason poll. In 2002 Bucknell had finished the year with a 13-5-1 overall record but failed to earn a spot in the conference tournament with a 3-4-0 mark in league play. In 2003 the Bison didn’t make it into the NCAA Tourney but they were 5-0-2 in Patriot League play going undefeated in conference play for the first time in the history of the program. They also pulled off the biggest upset in school history when they traveled to College Park and upset second ranked Maryland 1-0 on November 4. The Bison finished on top of the Patriot League in regular season play for the third time in the history of the program and hosted the league tourney for just the second time in thirteen years. Despite the fact that they were upset in the league tourney by Leigh 2-0 the 2003 season was a special one for Bucknell and head coach Brendan Nash who was named the NSCAA Coach of the Year in the mid-Atlantic region as well as the Patriot League Coach of the Year. Bucknell ended the season with a 11-7-2 overall record. Junior Michael Lookingland and sophomores Scott Visnic and Adam Edwards all earned a spot on the 2003 Mid-Atlantic Men’s Soccer All-Region Team.
Santa Clara – In 2002 Santa Clara finished with an overall record of 10-6-1 and fell short of earning a berth into the NCAA Tourney. As a result the 2003 squad was a motivated, determined, and focused bunch that was “in it to win it” from the get-go. The Broncos used solid team defense and a balanced attack to propel themselves back into national prominence in 2003. The Broncos won the West Coast Conference title with a 5-1-0 record and secured the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tourney. They then topped SMU, LMU, Coastal Carolina, and Michigan to advance to the College Cup where they lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Indiana in double overtime. The Broncos went into overtime in four of their five NCAA Tournament matches. Cameron Rast, who is a former Bronco All-American and assistant coach, took the Broncos to a 16-4-4 overall record. As a player and an assistant coach Rast has been a part of many successful Santa Clara teams. However, the 2003 season is special for Rast and Santa Clara because it was proof positive that under Rast the Broncos are back to where they belong and will be a consistent contender on the national scene.
Tulsa – The Golden Hurricanes were consistently competitive during 2003 gaining a lot of national respect. For the majority of the season they were a nationally ranked team. They finished the year with a 13-6-2 overall record and a number twenty-three ranking in the College Soccer News Poll. The final Soccer Times Poll ranked Tulsa the number twenty-four team in the nation. The Golden Hurricane earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tourney in 2003 for the second time in the history of the program. Their prior appearance had been in the 1991 season. They recorded their first ever NCAA Tourney win in 2003 defeating a good Oakland team 3-2 in double overtime to advance to face the number on seeded UCLA Bruins. Although they lost to the Bruins 3-2, their performance substantiated that they definitely deserved to be a nationally ranked squad. Tulsa also recorded their best Missouri Valley Conference record in ten years with a 6-1-2 mark in league play that was good for a second place finish in a very competitive conference. Sophomore Ryan Pore (20g, 9a) was named the MVC Most Valuable Player of the Year and was an All-America selection. Teammates Kyle Brown (12g, 11a) and Scott Kincaid joined Pore as All-MVC First Team selections. Brown became the first player in Tulsa history to receive All-MVC First Team honors for three straight seasons. Under the direction of Golden Hurricane head coach Tom McIntosh, Tulsa has a very productive season in 2003 that will serve as a solid foundation for even greater accomplishments in the future.
Washington – The Huskies advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tourney for the first time in the history of the program breaking through a barrier to accomplish something that has eluded them in the past. Washington finished the 2003 season with a 12-4-2 overall season record and a 5-4-1 mark in Pac-10 play. The Huskies bounced back in 2003 after a 6-10-3 mark in 2002. In 2003 the Huskies defeated Portland 1-0 in NCAA play to advance to the Sweet Sixteen where they gave Saint Louis all they could handle before losing 3-2 in overtime. After the match Washington head coach Dean Wurzberger pretty much summed up the significance of the 2003 season when he stated, “We’ve obviously disappointed to have lost the game, but we’re a young team. Our seniors took this program from its worst year ever in 2002, to the third round of the NCAA Tournament this year, and I have no doubt that Husky soccer will be roaring back again next year.” Midfielder C.J. Klaas was named an All-America selection.
St. John’s – The 2003 season was without a doubt a special season for the Red Storm. St. John’s always plays a very competitive schedule which helps them develop as a team as the season progresses. Early season games, particularly tough games on the road, are not always a good indicator of how well a team will fare throughout the season. However, after starting the season with losses to a very young North Carolina team and a veteran Wake Forest squad it appeared that St. John’s might have some weaknesses that would be exploited by top level competition. At that point a sub-par season by Red Storm standards appeared to be a distinct possibility as St. John’s next had to travel to South Bend, Indiana to face a very talented Notre Dame team to open Big East Conference play. St. John’s thumped the Irish 3-0 behind goals from Matt Groenwald, Angel Rodriguez, and Simone Salinno displaying the unique resilience and determination that became a trademark for the Red Storm in 2003. St. John’s went on to post an 8-2-0 mark in Big East regular season play to capture the league’s regular season title for the first time since 1997. They advanced to the championship match of the Big East Tourney where they were defeated 2-0 by Notre Dame. With a 14-5-2 overall record St. John’s was awarded an at-large berth into the NCAA Tourney and a number six seed. The Red Storm then advanced in NCAA Tourney play topping rival Connecticut in penalty kicks and captured a hard fought 3-2 overtime win against a very talented U.C. Santa Barbara squad to advance to face Creighton in the Elite Eight with a ticket to the College Cup on the line. The Red Storm’s 3-2 win over Creighton reflected the essence of the resilience, drive, determination and desire that made the 2003 team and season a very special one for St. John’s. Down 2-0 with twenty-five minutes remaining to play and with the further handicap of having to play with only ten men due to a red card, the Red Storm came back to win the match 3-2 behind goals from Ryan Kelly, Chris Wingert and Simone Salinno. St. John’s then topped Maryland 1-0 in a semifinal match in the College Cup before falling in the national championship contest 2-1 to Indiana to conclude a season that has to be considered among the best in the history of a program that has a storied tradition of success.