It was a shining season 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 special 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.
Maryland – Any mention of the 2005 season has to begin with the Maryland Terrapins – the team that won the National Championship. The Terps entered the 2005 season with a roster full of talented players but with several unanswered questions due to the loss of several key players due to graduation. The biggest gaps resulted from the graduation of forward Abe Thompson who was Maryland’s all-time leader in points with 43 goals and 26 assists and the graduation of Noah Palmer who had been a four year starter in goal for the Terps.
Although the Terps were ranked as the number three team in the nation in the College Soccer News Preseason National Poll, there were doubts as to whether this team could make it back to the Final Four as had the three previous Maryland teams. Maryland appeared vulnerable when they were thumped 4-0 by UCLA early in the year and when they finished the month of September with back-to-back 1-0 road losses to Penn State and NC State. Maryland then reeled off an eleven game unbeaten streak before being upset 4-2 by Duke in the semifinals of the ACC Tourney.
Maryland was a resilient team in 2005. The Terps seemed to learn something from each of their losses and in effect became a stronger team. The words of Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski after the early season loss to UCLA proved to be very true. Regarding the 4-0 thumping at the hands of the Bruins Cirovski stated, “At the end of the day, this game will serve a great purpose for us and will make us a better and stronger team.”
Based on their play during the regular season the Terps were awarded the number one seed in the NCAA Tourney. They defeated Brown, St. John’s and Akron to advance to the College Cup for the fourth consecutive year. The Terps entered the semi-final match of the College Cup knowing that their season had come to a halt in that match the three prior years. However, that was not to be the case in 2005. Maryland scored three goals in a two minute span in the second half to defeat a very good SMU team 4-1 to advance to face New Mexico for the national title. Marc Burch’s goal in the 31st minute of play proved to be the difference in the championship match giving the Terps a hard fought 1-0 win over the Lobos to win their first national title since the 1968 season and their first under head coach Sasho Cirovski. After the Terps claimed the national title Cirovski stated, “We have a saying in the locker room that says, ‘The greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time you fall.’ This program has shown that.” The 2005 college soccer season was a shining season for the Terps and one that Cirovski and his players will long remember.
New Mexico – The 2005 season was the most successful year to date in the history of the New Mexico program. The Lobos finished the year with an 18-2-3 overall record that included their first ever appearance in the Final Four. New Mexico’s magical season carried them all the way to the national championship match where they were edged 1-0 by Maryland. The Lobos finished the 2005 regular season with a 15-1-2 record and a number one ranking in the final College Soccer News, NSCAA and Soccer Times polls. The 2005 Lobo senior class graduated as the most successful class in school history. During their tenure in Albuquerque they were 60-15-8 overall, won two MPSP titles, and earned three NCAA Tourney berths.
New Mexico began the 2005 season with on the road wins over Penn State, Ohio State, South Florida, and West Virginia (teams that would all earn berths in the NCAA Tourney) reinforcing early on that they were indeed a serious contender for the national title.
The Lobos subsequently earned the second seed in the NCAA Tourney and advanced past UWM, Cal State Northridge, and California before a sell-out crowd of 5,600 fans to earn a berth in the Final Four. New Mexico then defeated Clemson 2-1 in a semifinal match at the College Cup to earn the right to face Maryland for the National Championship.
During just four years at the helm of the New Mexico program, head coach Jeremy Fishbein has done an outstanding job of making the Lobos a force to contend with on the national scene. The 2005 season was indeed a very magical ride for the University of New Mexico and one that will set the pace for the program in future years.
Akron – The Zips under head coach Ken Lolla finished a stellar 2005 season with an 18-1-4 overall record setting a new school record for wins. They were ranked as the number one team in the nation in the College Soccer News National Poll for four weeks during the regular season and finished as the number three team in the country in the CSN final season ending poll.
Akron claimed the regular season and MAC tourney titles in 2005. The Zips advanced to the NCAA Tourney quarterfinals before their season came to an end in a match against eventual national champion Maryland that required penalty kicks to determine who advanced to the College Cup. That contest was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and two overtime periods. Akron’s run to the Elite Eight was the first time the program had advanced that far since the 1986 season in which they played for the national title.
By all measures the 2005 season was a special one for Akron. They were solid on both sides of the ball leading the nation in goals scored and goals against average while recording a total of 15 shutouts during the season.
At the conclusion of the 2005 season, Akron head coach Ken Lolla left to become the head coach at the University of Louisville. During his 13 year tenure at Akron, the former Duke midfielder, directed the Zips to a 160-68-25 overall record, eight Mid-American Conference Championships, and a school record five straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Providence College – No team made more of a turnaround in 2005 than Friars. After going 0-16-0 in 2004, coach Chaka Daley’s squad improved to 7-4-9 overall in 2005. They were 5-3-7 overall in regular season play with a 3-3-4 mark in Big East Conference action. The Friars earned the program’s first NCAA Tourney berth since the 1983 season and then defeated Hofstra 1-0 in the NCAA Tourney to capture their first ever win in NCAA Tournament play. Regarding the 2005 season Daley stated, “It’s a fantastic step forward for our program. Our seniors can hold their heads up high as potentially the best team to play at Providence College.”
Stony Brook – It was a season of firsts for the Seawolves. Under the direction of Cesar Markovic Stony Brook finished the 2005 campaign with a 13-5-4 overall record. Stony Brook won both the America East regular season and tournament championships to earn the programs first ever berth into the NCAA Tournament. They then defeated Yale 2-1 to earn their first ever win in the NCAA Tourney. The Seawolves finished the 2005 season with an RPI ranking of 45 out of 199 Division I schools. That RPI ranking is the highest ever for the program and is an improvement of 147 slots since Cesar Markovic took over the reigns of the program two years ago.
California – The 2005 season looked to be a rebuilding year for the Golden Bears. Kevin Grimes entered the season with the challenge of replacing three four year starters in the back, two veteran midfielders and a starting forward. Nonetheless, prior to the start of the 2005 campaign Grimes was upbeat stating, “The returning players have an opportunity to make 2005 perhaps the best season we’ve ever had at Cal.”
The Golden Bears had an outstanding season finishing in second place in the Pac-10 Conference with a 6-3-1 overall mark. They earned the program’s fifth consecutive NCAA Tourney berth and were awarded the number seven seed in the NCAA Tourney. California then defeated Santa Clara and Wake Forest to earn the program’s first ever trip to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament where they gave New Mexico all they could handle before falling 1-0 in overtime. California ended the 2005 season with a 14-4-3 record while playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. Grimes stated, “It was a historic season for Cal. Tremendous year – the farthest advancement we have ever had as a program.” He added, “It wasn’t just about the results; it was about the way we played.”
South Florida – George Kiefer’s Bulls finished their inaugural year in the Big East Conference with a 9-2-0 mark in league play. The Bulls won the Big East Red Division title and advanced to the title match in the Big East Tourney where they were defeated 1-0 by Connecticut. The Bulls received an at-large berth to return to the NCAA Tourney for the first time since the 2001 season. They subsequently defeated Stetson 3-0 in a first round match before losing to Virginia in penalty kicks 7-6 after the contest was tied 4-4 at the end of regulation and two overtime periods. The offensive oriented 2005 South Florida squad finished the year with a 13-6-2 overall record and established that they could more than hold their own in the competitive Big East Conference.
Cal State Northridge – The Matadors were 15-4-3 overall in 2005 earning more victories than in any other season in the history of the program in Division I play. The Matadors captured their second Big West Conference title in the past three years with an 8-1-1 mark in league play. They earned the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tourney and were awarded the number 15 seed. They then defeated rival UC Santa Barbara 3-2 to advance to the round of 16 in NCAA Tourney play for the first time in the history of the program. The Matadors season came to an end when they lost to New Mexico 1-0 in overtime in a match in Albuquerque that easily could have gone either way. The 2005 Matadors under the direction of head coach Terry Davila took the program to a higher level than ever before.
Buffalo – The Bulls completed the year with a 14-3-2 overall record. The 14 wins was the most wins the program had achieved since the 1990 team went 14-3-1. Coach John Astudillo’s squad didn’t earn a berth into the NCAA Tourney but nonetheless they had a banner season in which they advanced to the Mid-American Conference Championship game for the first time in the history of the program. The Bulls defeated IPFW 4-0 in the quarterfinals of the league tourney and Northern Illinois 2-0 in the semifinals to advance to face Akron for the Mid-American Conference Championship. After losing to Akron 3-0 in regular season play, the Bulls held their own against the Zips in the championship game which was tied 0-0 after regulation and two overtime periods. Akron prevailed in penalty kicks but when it was all said and done that took nothing away from the fact that the 2005 season was a special one for Buffalo.
Clemson – The Tigers finished the 2005 season as one of the hottest teams in the country. Trevor Adair’s Tigers had a dream run to the Final Four that included wins over Coastal Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, and Creighton. Clemson finished the year with an overall record of 15-6-3 and a number three ranking in the NSCAA Final National Poll. Clemson’s trip to the Final Four in 2005 was their first since the 1987 season. It is without a doubt a season the Adair and his players will long remember and treasure.
SMU – The program has a tradition of success. SMU has advanced to the quarterfinal of the NCAA Tournament twelve times under the direction of coach Schellas Hyndman. However, the 2005 Mustangs were only the second team in the history of the program to advance to the Final Four. SMU also went to the Final Four in 2000. None of the teams that reached the coveted Final Four in 2005 had a tougher road to travel than SMU. The Mustangs began NCAA Tourney play with a win at home over San Francisco, from the West Coast Conference, and then claimed solid road wins over UCLA from the Pac-10, UNC-Greensboro from the Southern Conference, and North Carolina from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The 3-0 win over highly regarded UCLA was among the biggest upsets in the program’s history. After beginning season with a 3-4-2 start at the end of September, SMU gelled as a team and ended the season with a 14-6-3 overall record.
Hartwick College – Ian McIntyre led the Hawks to the regular-season Atlantic Soccer Conference title and the league’s inaugural tournament title. After being on the bubble for an NCAA Tourney berth in 2003 with 15 wins and 2004 with 13 wins, Hartwick left nothing to doubt in 2005 by winning the ASC’s automatic berth into the big dance. Regarding the invite to the NCAA Tourney, McIntyre stated, “It’s been a while. It’s something that’s very new for the players on our team – and it’s a great reward for a number of people who put in a lot of hard work both on and off the field for the program.” Hartwick concluded the season with a solid 13-6-1 overall record. Junior defender Tyler Hemming was named the ASC Player of the Year and forward John Paul Boyle was named the ASC Rookie of the Year.
San Diego State University – Perhaps no team in the country was a bigger surprise in 2005 than Lev Kirshner’s Aztecs who concluded the 2005 season with a 9-4-6 overall record that included the program’s first berth in the NCAA Tournament in 16 years. The 2005 campaign was the Aztec’s inaugural season in the very competitive six team member Pac-10 Conference. Predicted to finish last in the league’s pre-season poll, the Aztecs surprised many with a fourth place finish in Pac-10 play. The Aztecs notched league wins over California and Oregon State and recorded ties against Stanford, Washington, and UCLA. San Diego State held opponents to a total of only 11 goals all year. Aztec junior goalkeeper Tally Hall, who had a 0.41 goals against average, was a consensus All-American selection. The 2005 season was an important season for San Diego State since it likely set the tone for the program for years to come.
Monmouth – Few teams in the nation improved more in 2005 than Rob McCourt’s Monmouth squad. Although the Hawks hopes of an NCAA Tourney berth were unrealized when they lost to Robert Morris 3-2 in overtime in the Northeast Conference Tournament championship match, the 2005 season was a very productive year for Monmouth. The Hawks finished regular season NEC play unbeaten with a 6-0-3 mark for the first time in the history of the program. They earned the top seed in the NEC Tournament for the first time since the 1990 season and their 10-4-6 overall record was the highest wins the program had attained since the 1997 campaign. At the conclusion of the season McCourt stated, “I am extremely proud of this team who took us on an incredible journey this season. These guys deserve full credit for all of their success.” Junior center back Hugh MacDonald was named the NEC Defensive Player of the Year and McCourt was named the NEC Coach of the Year. The 2005 season will likely be remembered as a turning point in the program at Monmouth.”
Penn State – The 2005 season was as unique as it was memorable for the Nittany Lions. After a 0-4-1 start, coach Barry Gorman’s squad bounced back to finish the season with a 13-7-2 overall mark that included a perfect 6-0-0 record in Big Ten play that enabled Penn State to claim their first ever regular season Big Ten Title. The Nittany Lions also won the Big Ten Championship defeating Indiana in the championship title match. The 2005 season was the first time in Penn State’s 14 year membership in the Big Ten that they won both the league regular season and tournament titles. Gorman was unanimously selected as the Big Ten Coach of the Year, the first such honor of his career. He was also named the NSCAA Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year. Penn State advanced to the third round of NCAA Tourney play before their historic season came to a close when they were upset 3-1 by Creighton.
Connecticut – The Huskies won the Big East regular season title with a 7-3-1 mark as well as the league tournament title for just the second time in the history of the program. The 1999 season was the only other year in the history of the program that Connecticut has accomplished that feat. The year came to an end for the Huskies in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament when they tied Akron 3-3 at the end of regulation and overtime but were edged 4-3 in penalty kicks. Despite the earlier than desired exit from the NCAA Tourney, the 2005 season will be remembered as a very successful one for the Huskies. With an overall record of 16-3-2 against a very competitive slate of opponents, Connecticut clearly established that they were one of the top teams in the nation in 2005 and that they would again be a force to contend with in the future. Coach Ray Reid’s squad was ranked as the number nine team in the nation in the College Soccer News 2005 Season Ending poll.
Creighton – The Bluejays finished the year with a solid 15-5-3 overall record that included an exciting run in the NCAA Tourney that fell one game short of a spot in the 2005 Final Four. Bob Warming’s squad performed well in the NCAA Tourney recording wins over three other league champions before falling on the road 1-0 in the final seconds of regulation to Clemson. Creighton’s NCAA Tourney wins were over Patriot League champion Lafayette, ACC Champion Duke on the road, and Big Ten champion Penn State on the road. The Bluejays earned their berth into the NCAA Tourney when they won their ninth Missouri Valley Conference tourney title via shutout wins over Vanderbilt and Bradley. Senior defender Matt Wieland was a consensus All-American selection while forward Byron Dacy was named the MVC Freshman of the Year and Warming was named the NSCAA Midwest Region Coach of the Year.
Detroit – The Titans earned their first ever regular season Horizon League title in 2005. They advanced to the Horizon League Tournament championship match but fell 1-0 to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a team they had defeated 2-1 in regular season action. As a result the Titans fell one game short of their goal of earning an NCAA Tourney berth. Regardless, with a 12-6-2 overall record and a 7-1-0 mark in league play the 2005 season was a special one for coach Morris Lupenec, assistant coaches Nick Deren and Steve Corder, and the Titan players. Junior forward Andrew Ornoch was named the Horizon League Offensive Player of the Year. Junior defender Jason Massogila was named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. At the conclusion of the 2005 season Lupenec summed it up well when he stated the following regarding his team, “They worked hard and accomplished a lot this season.”
Fairfield University – For the first time in the history of the program, the Stags were undefeated in MAAC regular season play with an impressive 8-0-1 mark. The Stags’ season ended without an invite to the NCAA Tourney when they fell to Marist 2-1 in the championship game of the MAAC Tourney. Nonetheless the 2005 season was a notable one for coach Carl Rees and his players as they recorded a 13-4-3 overall record that included a 12 game unbeaten streak. The Stags also recorded a number 20 ranking at one time during the season in the NSCAA National poll.