A shining season. The 2004 season was truly a special one for the schools identified. It might 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 sense of pride and accomplishment to those involved, and that will likely have an impact on the program for years to come.
Indiana University – A national championship is certainly nothing new for the Hoosiers but the 2004 title was special because it was the first the Hoosiers earned under head coach Mike Freitag. After 31 years at the helm of the program Jerry Yeagley retired at the conclusion of the 2003 season after winning the national title for the sixth time in storybook fashion. Yeagely turned the reigns of the program over to long time assistant Freitag as the Yeagley era ended and the Freitag era began. The Hoosiers were ranked as the number one team going into the 2004 season and as usual they faced one of the most demanding schedules in the country. The Hoosiers looked vulnerable at times but as in the past when it came down to tourney time they played with a passion and precision that carried them to another national title. It was Indiana’s seventh national championship and the third time in school history that they had won back to back national titles. Freitag had won a national championship once as a graduate assistant under Yeagley and three times as an assistant coach but the 2004 title is one that he will likely always treasure. The Hoosiers completed the year with a 19-4-1 record. Midfielder Danny O’Rourke became the 6th Hoosier to win the MAC Hermann Trophy which is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in the collegiate ranks. Senior goalkeeper Jay Nolly and junior defender Drew Moor joined O’Rourke as All-America selections. At the beginning of the year when the Hoosiers were ranked as the number one team in the nation Freitag stated, “The target on our back gets bigger every day.” You can bet that Freitag and his Hoosiers wouldn’t want it any other way.
U.C. Santa Barbara – No team in the country generated more excitement in 2004 than Tim Vom Steeg’s Gauchos. UCSB finished the season with a 21-2-2 overall record advancing all the way to the national title match where they lost to Indiana in penalty kicks. The story of this team goes back to 2001 when current seniors Tony Lochhead, Drew McAthy, Neil Jones, Danny Kennedy, Jon Apilado, and Matt Bly arrived in Santa Barbara and ushered in what was to become a new era in soccer at UCSB. During their tenure the Gauchos were 66-15-14 overall. They earned three NCAA tourney berths including the schools first berth, six NCAA tourney wins including the programs first, a trip to the Sweet Sixteen and the programs first ever trip to the College Cup. The Gauchos earned a number one ranking during the 2004 season and kept it for a sizeable amount of time. Expectations were high at UCSB going into the 2004 season. Vom Steeg stated, “This is the most talented team that UCSB has ever seen.” Vom Steeg added, “Chemistry is so important to our program.” In that regard the new additions that included freshmen Tyler Rosenlund and Andy Iro and junior transfer Jonathan Davis were all perfect fits. The Gauchos made a great run to the national title match beginning with a second round win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They then captured a big road 1-0 win over UNC-Greensboro and then returned to the friendly confines of Harder Stadium where a crowd of over 11,000 saw the Gauchos defeat VCU 4-1 to advance to the College Cup. UCSB then thumped Duke 5-0 to advance to the title match against Indiana. The 2004 Gaucho squad had a shinning season and they forever raised the standard of excellence at UC Santa Barbara. McAthy, Kennedy, and Lochhead capped off their careers at UCSB as All-Americans. Vom Steeg was named the Coach of the Year by the NSCAA.
UNC Greensboro – Michael Parker’s Spartans were 19-3-1 in 2004. They made an impact on the national scene in 2004 holding the number one ranking in the nation for four weeks. Along the way they recorded wins over Clemson, UAB, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Coastal Carolina and Charleston. The Spartans claimed the regular season Southern Conference title with a 6-0-1 mark in league play. They earned an NCAA Tourney berth for the first time since 1998 and were awarded the eighth seed going into the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans defeated a good Charleston squad 2-1 in the second round of the tourney before losing 1-0 to UC Santa Barbara. At the conclusion of the season Parker stated, “I am very proud of our boys. This will certainly go down as one of the best seasons for UNCG soccer.” He added, “I don’t want to compare them but this will go down as one of the best.” For his efforts Parker was named the South Region Coach of the Year by the NSCAA. Forward Randi Patterson was named the 2004 Southern Conference Player of the Year and along with midfielder Scott Jones was named an All-American selection. In addition, Freshman Matt Smith was named to the College Soccer News First Team All-Freshman team. The Spartans were without a doubt among the best teams in the nation in 2004 and will be remembered for their many accomplishments.
Tulsa – Fueled by an NCAA Tourney run that carried the Golden Hurricane to the NCAA Tourney Quarterfinals, the 2004 season took the program at the University of Tulsa to a higher level than ever before. Coach Tom McIntosh’s squad earned a repeat ticket to the NCAA Tourney in 2004 and defeated Michigan State, Penn State, and SMU before losing to eventual national champion Indiana in the tourney quarterfinals. The Golden Hurricane were an exciting bunch to watch in 2004 with an offense that averaged 2.1 goals per game. Tulsa finished strong with a win or tie in eight of their last ten games and they were ranked as high as the number 8 team in the nation in the final NSCAA poll. Forward Ryan Pore was a consensus First Team All-American. Pore was named the MVC Player of the Year as well as the 2004 Soccer America Player of the Year and became the first Tulsa player drafted by an MLS Team.
Marist – The Red Foxes earned their first ever ticket to the big dance in 2004 when they captured their second MAAC Tourney title. Marist defeated St. Peter’s 2-1 and Rider 2-0 to capture the tourney title. Although the Red Foxes were defeated 2-1 by Connecticut in overtime in the first round of the NCAA Tourney you can list 2004 season as a season to remember at Marist. The Red Foxes ended the season with a 11-8-0 overall mark. Junior back Benjamin Castor was named the 2004 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year as Marist notched eight shutouts to establish a new school record. With an NCAA Tourney berth now under their belts you can credit coach Bobby Herodes’ 2004 squad with an accomplishment that has forever raised the standard of excellence and excitement at Marist.
Duke University – The Blue Devils entered the 2004 season off a disappointing 2003 season in which they had recorded a 8-10-1 overall record that included a seventh place finish in ACC regular season play. In 2003 the Blue Devils were the only team in the ACC not to earn an NCAA Tourney berth. Feeling the effects of several sub-par seasons by Duke standards veteran Blue Devil mentor John Rennie stated, “Duke soccer means a lot to an awful lot of people and you don’t want to let them down.” Rennie added, “When you lose, you question everything you do. You question yourself, you question your methods, you question your recruiting, you question everything. Nobody questions any more than the head coach of the team that is losing.” Rennie found the answers he was seeking via an outstanding 2004 recruiting class that contributed immediately and that merged in well with his returning players. A young Duke team hit the ground running in 2004 winning their first 11 matches during which time they notched 8 shutouts and allowed only 5 goals. Any doubt about whether or not Duke was back were erased when they secured a big 2-1 on the road win over highly regarded Maryland followed by a 3-2 come from behind win at home over rival North Carolina before the largest crowd ever to see a regular season game at Koskinen Stadium. Duke capped off the year with a great run in the NCAA Tourney that carried them all the way to the College Cup. The Blue Devils notched NCAA Tourney wins over Coastal Carolina, Old Dominion, Ohio State, and Virginia before losing to UC Santa Barbara in a semifinal match in the College Cup. The NCAA Tourney win over Virginia in Charlottesville was particularly impressive since the Cavaliers had defeated Duke the two prior times the teams had faced each other in 2004. A very balanced Duke team ended the 2004 season with 13 shutouts. Rennie stated, “It is certainly a great feeling when you turn it around and get the results that you think you should get.” Blue Devil freshmen Michael Videira and Spencer Wadsworth were named to the College Soccer News 2004 All-Freshmen Team. Midfielder Blake Camp was an NSCAA Third Team All-America selection and Assistant Coach Mike Jacobs was named the NSCAA Assistant Coach of the Year and was also recognized by College Soccer News as one of the top assistant coaches in the nation. The 2004 season erased the questions and established that Duke is back.
Memphis – The Tigers had a banner season in 2004 recording a 16-4-1 overall record to establish a new school record for wins in a single season. The Tigers won the regular season Conference USA title and tournament championship. The tourney championship was the Tigers first in the 10 year history of the conference and gave them their first ticket to the NCAA Tourney since the 1993 season. The Tigers climbed as high as the number 10 spot in the College Soccer News National Poll and finished the season ranked as the number 19 team in the nation in the season ending College Soccer News National Poll. The Tigers had an outstanding season particularly for a team that was picked to finish ninth, second to last, in the Conference USA preseason poll. Junior forward Dayton O’Brien was an All-American selection and was named the CUSA Offensive Player of the Year. Senior goalkeeper Sebastian Vecchio was honored as the CUSA Defensive Player of the Year. At the conclusion of the year head coach Richie Grant stated, “We had a good season, and it’s sad that it has to end. Hopefully, it built in the team the desire to play at this stage again next year.”
New Mexico – After concluding the 2003 season with an 8-9-3 overall mark the Lobos under the direction of Jeremy Fishbein stormed back in 2004 to record a 17-1-2 overall mark. The Lobos established on the field of play that they were one of the top teams in the nation in 2004 with wins over the likes of Indiana, VCU, LMU, C.S. Northridge, and Portland. The Lobos advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tourney before they were eliminated by Virginia in a match that was ultimately determined by penalty kicks. In that contest New Mexico and Virginia were tied 1-1 after regulation and two overtime periods. Junior forward Jeff Rowland (19g, 7a) had a brilliant offensive season for the Lobos setting a new school record with 45 points. Roland was named an NSCAA and College Soccer News All-American. Regarding his All-American selection Rowland stated, “This shows the progress of our program and is a reward for the entire team.” Fishbein, who has only been at the helm of the New Mexico program for three years, was named the 2004 National Coach of the Year by Soccer America. Lance Watson, Rowland, Andrew Weber, Andrew Boyens, and Brandon Moss were All-Far West Team selections. The crowd support, excitement, and atmosphere surrounding the New Mexico program was truly electric in 2004 and is one of the reasons why New Mexico is a very difficult team to beat at home. The 2004 season was a success by all measures at New Mexico as the program took another big step forward.
Northwestern – Tim Lenahan came to Northwestern in 2001 with a plan to revitalize the program. Mission accomplished. With a 15-6-2 program best record in 2004 that included the school’s first NCAA tourney berth, first NCAA tourney win, and a solid showing in Big Ten regular season and tourney play the Wildcats are without a doubt a different team than they were when Lenahan first arrived on the scene. The Wildcats concluded regular season Big Ten play with a 3-2-1 record. The three conference victories in 2004 matched Northwestern’s total from the previous 13 years combined. Northwestern’s Big Ten regular season wins included a big 1-0 win over Indiana in Bloomington. That game was a statement in itself since no Big Ten team had defeated Indiana during regular season play in nine years. In Big Ten tourney play the Cats defeated Penn State and Michigan to advance to the championship match where they lost a closely contested match to Michigan State. Northwestern subsequently defeated Western Illinois in an NCAA tourney first round match before losing to Creighton 3-2 in the second round. At the conclusion of the Creighton match Lenahan clarified why the 2004 season will be a season to remember at Northwestern when he stated, “I told our guys this is the first great team in Northwestern history. There will never be another first great team again. I’m proud of what we accomplished this season.” Northwestern was ranked as the number 20 team in the nation in the College Soccer News season ending poll.
Hofstra – No team in the nation had a more remarkable season ending run than Hofstra. The Pride’s chances of getting into the Colonial Athletic Association tourney seemed out the window when they allowed a couple of goals on October 29 in the closing minutes of play to sustain a loss to George Mason. However Richard Nuttall’s squad was far from finished. They bounced back to conclude regular season play with an upset win over James Madison followed by a 2-0 win on the road over Drexel to clinch their first berth in the CAA tourney in three years. Hofstra then defeated UNC-Wilmington, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion to win the CAA tourney championship to earn their first ever ticket to the NCAA Division I Tournament. Hofstra then upset Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA Tourney to win their first ever NCAA Tourney match. The Pride’s magical ride finally came to an end when they lost to Maryland in a second round match. Hofstra concluded the season with an overall record of 12-9-1 and a late season run that will long be remembered.
Ohio State – In 2004 the Buckeyes reached several milestones. They won the program’s first Big Ten regular season co-championship when they tied Indiana with identical 5-1-0 league records. After earning an at-large berth into the NCAA Tourney based on their performance during regular season play the Buckeyes defeated highly regarded Memphis in a first round match to secure their first ever NCAA Tourney win. Ohio State then upset Notre Dame in the second round to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in the history of the program. At the conclusion of the season head coach John Bluem stated, “We congratulated the team on achieving something no other Ohio State team has done.” In 2004 the Buckeyes took the program to a higher level and established that they can more than hold their own with anyone.
College of Charleston – The Cougars had an impressive season recording a 17-6-1 overall record that included regular season wins over St. John’s and South Carolina. Their 17 wins was the most by a Charleston team since the 1994 season when they were 19-7-1. Their 5-1-1 mark in regular season play was their best since joining the Southern Conference. Ralph Lundy’s team also won the Southern Conference Tournament in 2004 defeating Davidson 1-0 in the tourney final to earn a ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996. Charleston subsequently defeated South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tourney before losing to UNC-Greensboro in the second round. At the conclusion of the 2004 season Lundy paid tribute to the seniors on the 2004 team stating, “All of our 12 seniors have contributed to help put the soccer program on a solid foundation to continue to be a successful team for years to come.”
San Francisco – The Dons captured the West Coast Conference title in 2004 with a 9-3-0 mark in league play after being predicted to finish in the fifth spot in the conference’s preseason poll. The league title was San Francisco’s first since the 1994 season and the 2004 campaign was arguably their best season since 1991. It established that under the direction of head coach Erik Visser the Dons are again a team to be taken very seriously in the league and on the national scene. The relatively young Dons finished the 2004 regular season play by winning 10 out of their last 11 contests to earn a ticket to the NCAA Tourney for the first time since the 1994 season. Visser stated, “This young team worked hard as a team and that is why we had success.” For his efforts Visser was named both Far West and West Coast Conference Coach of the Year. Sophomore forward Aaron Chandler was named the WCC Player of the Year and was a College Soccer News All-America selection.
George Washington – The Colonials had a remarkable season proving that it is not over till it is over. George Washington ended the 2004 season with a 10-9-4 overall record. The Colonials had a run of ten straight games without a loss before losing to VCU in the second round of the NCAA Tourney. Prior to that the Colonials captured the Atlantic 10 Championship by defeating Rhode Island, Duquesne, and Temple. They then defeated North Carolina in a first round match in the NCAA Tourney. Coach George Lidster stated, “It’s been an amazing run. At one stage we were 1-8-3 and we had injuries and were struggling to find our rhythm, but one thing about this group, they never gave up.”