CSN annually closes out the year with a tribute to those programs that had special seasons. The 2007 season was a shining season for the schools identified. It may be that they greatly exceeded expectations, or won more games than ever before, or accomplished something that will be a springboard for future seasons, or put together an improbable run. Regardless of the reason, it was a season that will be remembered, that will always bring a sense of pride and accomplishment to those involved, and that will likely have a positive impact on the program for years to come.
Wake Forest – It was good to be a Demon Deacon in 2007. The Deacons were a talented, hungry, and experienced team. In addition they played with a lot of heart. After reaching the Final Four for the first time in the history of the program in 2006, the Demon Deacons entered the 2007 season with their sights firmly set on securing a National Championship. Their loss to UCSB in the Final Four in 2006 was in many ways the start of their 2007 season. Any outcome less than a national championship in 2007 would have been a disappointment for this team. However, they did not disappoint recording a 22-2-2 overall record that included NCAA Tourney wins over Furman, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Ohio State. The 2006 Deacon team and their run to the Final Four signaled that something special was in the works at Wake Forest. The 2007 team not only built on the success of the 2006 squad but they took the program to an even higher level silencing forever any doubts about whether Wake Forest can win the big games in post season play. Jay Vidovich’s team was clearly the best men’s college soccer team in the country in 2007 and for their many accomplishments will always hold a unique spot in the history of the Wake Forest soccer program.
Ohio State – The Buckeyes have had good teams in the past but none that have come close to making the impact that the 2007 squad did. Ohio State looked to be a team on a mission in 2007 perhaps in part due to the fact that they felt snubbed in 2006 when they did not receive an at-large invite to the NCAA Tourney. Maybe the determination and grit that this team displayed was fueled by senior co-captains Xavier Balc, Eric Brunner, and Casey Latchem. More than likely a lot of factors combined like a perfect storm to make the 2007 version of the Buckeyes a truly special side that forever raised the bar of excellence in Columbus. At the beginning of the year John Bluem indicated he had high expectations for his team. The Buckeyes did not disappoint their coach. They served notice early that they were a team to be taken seriously when they opened up with a win over a very good West Virginia team. They stumbled slightly at the end of September and looked for an while like a team that might be on a downward spiral but that was not to be the case as they subsequently reeled off a fifteen match unbeaten streak that included a penalty kick win over Indiana to claim the Big Ten Tourney title and NCAA Tourney wins over Louisville, UC Santa Barbara, Bradley and Massachusetts before falling to Wake Forest in the National Championship match.
Virginia Tech – The Hokies opened the 2007 campaign with a 4-0 loss to non-conference foe VCU and it at first blush it looked like they might be in for a long and rough season. However, they did not sustain another loss until the last day of regular season play when they fell to Boston College 3-1 in Chestnut Hill. They then defeated a very good Maryland team 3-0 to claim their first ever win in ACC Tournament play before losing once again to Boston College 3-1. The Hokies began NCAA Tourney play with wins over California and ODU at home before traveling to Storrs and upsetting highly regarded Connecticut to advance to the Final Four. Their season then came to an end when they were defeated 2-0 by a Wake Forest team that they had tied 3-3 during regular season play. As expected Oliver Weiss’ 2007 team featured a high octane attack led by Patrick Nyarko (7g, 10a), Robert Edmands (7g, 5a), Ben Nason (7g, 2a) and George Zehender (4g, 9a). Virginia Tech concluded the 2007 season with an impressive 14-4-5 overall record that tied the 1997 team for most wins in a single season but their legacy will be the fact that they were the first team in the history of the program to advance to the College Cup.
Massachusetts – It is not how you start but how you finish. On November 11, 2007 the Minutemen closed out regular season play with a 1-0 loss to Temple in overtime and subsequently began play in the Atlantic 10 Tourney with a 11-7-0 overall record and a third place finish in league play behind Saint Louis and Rhode Island. Sam Koch’s team clearly needed to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament to earn a ticket to the NCAA Tourney. The Minutemen’s magic ride began in A-10 Tourney action where they advanced past Dayton in penalty kicks, upset Rhode Island, then beat Charlotte to claim the A-10 Title and earn the program’s second ever invite to the NCAA Tourney. Massachusetts then defeated Boston University, number one seeded Boston College, Central Connecticut State, and Illinois-Chicago to earn the program’s first ever trip to the Final Four. The Minutemen closed out what was indeed a magical run when they were defeated 1-0 by Ohio State in a semi-final match in the College Cup to end the season with a 17-8-1 record. Massachusetts mentor Sam Koch pretty much summed it up when he stated, “In all my years of coaching this has definitely been a special time for me and I will never forget it.”
Connecticut – True, the Huskies ended the season on a disappointing note when they were upset at home 1-0 by Virginia Tech in the Elite Eight of NCAA Tourney play. Nonetheless they had an outstanding season in 2007 earning the number three seed in NCAA Tourney play and finishing with a 20-3-1 overall record. Ray Reid’s squad also captured the Big East regular season and tournament titles. This team was solid on both sides of the ball tallying a total of 53 goals while holding opponents to a total of 13 goals in route to recording 14 shutouts. Senior defender Julius James and junior forward O’Brian White were consensus All-Americans. The Huskies were clearly one of the top teams in the country in 2007 and Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Connecticut was once again one of the most exciting college soccer venues in the country.
Bradley – The Braves won the MVC Tournament for the first time in the history of the program in 2007 defeating perennial power Creighton in the Championship match to earn the league’s automatic berth. Jim DeRose’s team then won their first ever NCAA Tourney match when they defeated DePaul from the Big East Conference 2-0 in first round action. They then advanced past Indiana in penalty kicks and upended Maryland 3-2 from the Atlantic Coast Conference in overtime after trailing 2-0 with three minutes remaining in regulation. Bradley’s season then came to an end when they were defeated by Ohio State in Columbus in the Round of Eight. It was an emotional season for a Bradley side that played with determination and a sense of purpose while securing a school record 16 wins.
Boston College – The 2007 season was a year of notable firsts for Boston College. They captured their first ACC regular season title with a 7-1-0 mark in regular season play and also won their first ACC Tournament Championship via impressive wins over Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. Ed Kelly’s team also claimed the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Although the Eagles made an unexpected early exit from the NCAA Tourney, they made plenty of noise on the national scene in 2007. Boston College had an outstanding season going 9-1-0 against ranked opponents in route to a 15-5-1 overall record. We will never know for sure but a case could be made that BC would have faired much better in NCAA Tourney play had midfielder Reuben Ayarna not received an injury that kept him out of the big dance. What we do know for sure is that Boston College was among the best teams in the country in 2007 with midfielders Alejandro Bedoya and Ayarna, forward Sherron Manswell, and goalkeeper Chris Brown among the many Eagles who had an excellent season of play.
Louisville – What’s not to like about what happened at Louisville in 2007. In Ken Lolla’s second year at the helm of the program the Cardinals earned their first ever invitation to the NCAA Tourney finishing regular season play in second place in the Big East Red Division. They subsequently defeated the Duke Blue Devils 1-0 in the first round of NCAA Tourney action to earn the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win. Regarding the invite to the big dance Lolla stated, “It’s a great moment for our team. We worked very hard to get this all year.” Louisville finished the year with a 11-7-4 overall record securing their first winning season since the 2003 campaign. It was a breakthrough season for the Cardinals and one that clearly signals that even better days are ahead for the program. The Cardinals had impressive regular season wins over the likes of South Florida and Indiana and ties with St. John’s, Ohio State, and West Virginia.
UIC – The Flames put together their best soccer of the year when it counted the most making their fans as well as the Horizon League proud. Things began to heat up for the Flames when they closed out regular season play with back-to-back overtime wins over league foes Valparaiso and Loyola. John Trask’s team entered the Horizon League Tourney with an 8-5-5 overall record and a 4-1-3 mark in league play that was good for a number three seed. It was soon clear that they were peaking at the right time and that the footsteps that others heard coming from behind them were the Flames. UIC stormed past Wright State 4-0, slipped past Milwaukee in overtime and then dropped Green Bay 3-1 to capture their first Horizon League Tourney title since 2000. The Flames then took to the road in NCAA Tourney play advancing past a solid Saint Louis side in penalty kicks, then defeated Northwestern 2-0, and upset Creighton 1-0 in Omaha to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in the history of the program. UIC’s hopes of a trip to the Final Four then came to a halt when they were defeated 2-1 by Massachusetts. At the conclusion of the season Trask praised the efforts of his team and in particular their five seniors. Trask stated, “The hard work and leadership of Pavie Dundjer, Cesar Zambrano, Brandon Bilbrey, Pawel Ligas and Jeff Engelbrecht will never be forgotten.”
Central Connecticut State University – Veteran Blue Devil mentor Shaun Green led CCSU to an improbable but highly memorable turnaround in 2007. The 2007 campaign must have been a surreal ride for the Blue Devils who began the season with a 2-8-2 mark before turning things around in what was to become a dream season. CCSU tied St. Francis (NY) on November 4, 2007 to end regular season play with a 6-8-2 overall record and a 4-3-2 mark in Northeast Conference play which was good enough to secure the fourth and final slot in the NEC tourney. Green’s squad then upset #1 seed Monmouth 1-0 and #2 seed St. Francis (PA) 1-0 to win their first ever NEC Tournament title and the program’s first ever berth into the NCAA Tourney. But there was still more to come. The Blue Devils then took to the road in NCAA Tourney play and upset Harvard 3-2 and Tulsa 3-2 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen where their magical ride finally came to an end with a loss to Massachusetts. Reflecting on his team’s run, Green stated, “You won’t find a prouder coach in America.” CCSU ended the 2007 season with a 10-9-3 overall record that included an 8-1-1 mark in their last ten matches.
DePaul – The Blue Demons got a taste of how the other half lives in 2007 with a breakthrough season during which they were 7-4-0 in regular season conference play which placed them at the top of the Big East’s Red Division. DePaul finished the season with a 12-8-0 overall record which tied the program win record of 12 wins set in the 1994 season and earned the program’s first ever invitation to the NCAA Tourney. Blue Demon senior netminder Brian Visser was named the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year when he recorded a program record ten shutouts. In addition the Blue Demon coaching staff headed by Craig Blazer was named the Big East Coaching Staff of the Year. By all measures it was a special season for DePaul.
UC Davis – The official D-I era of men’s soccer got underway at UC Davis in 2007 with a bang. The Aggies had an impressive 12-4-3 overall record that included a 7-3-2 mark in Big West Conference play that was good for a second place finish behind perennial power UC Santa Barbara. The Aggies became the first program at UC Davis to earn a berth into a Division I team tournament. Dwayne Shaffer’s squad pretty much gave Pac-10 champion California all they could handle before falling to them 2-1 in overtime in an NCAA Tourney first round match played in Berkeley. UC Davis established in 2007 that they are for real and served notice that there is more than one sheriff in town in the Big West Conference.
Brown – The Bears had an impressive 15-2-1 overall record that included a perfect 7-0-0 mark in Ivy League play. Their record included noteworthy wins over Santa Clara, Boston College, Harvard, and Dartmouth among others. Despite an unexpected and disappointing early exist from NCAA play via a 2-1 double overtime loss to Old Dominion, Brown had an outstanding year and is without a doubt among the teams that had special seasons in 2007. The Bears were a force on the national scene throughout regular season play as reflected in their number six seed in the NCAA Tourney. Brown head coach Mike Noonan stated, “This team has probably got more character and trust than any I’ve coached.”
Loyola (MD) – A relatively young Greyhound team did well for themselves in 2007 setting the stage for even greater things in the future. A defense led by sophomore back Tennant McVea and sophomore goalkeeper Milos Kocic and an attack led by freshmen Phil Bannister (13g, 7a) and Eddie Dines (9g, 3a) powered Loyola to a 19-3-1 overall record. The Greyhounds showed plenty of grit on the defensive side of the ball recording a total of seventeen shutouts in 2007. Mark Mettrick’s team also won both the regular season and MAAC Tourney titles in route to earning the league’s automatic invite into the NCAA Tourney where they defeated Liberty 2-0 in first round action before losing a heartbreaker to in state foe Maryland in penalty kicks.
Campbell – Everything seemed to come together at the right time for Campbell in 2007. Campbell, which is located in Buies Creek, North Carolina, captured their first ever Atlantic Sun Conference title and received the program’s first ever invitation to the NCAA Division I Tournament. It is also noteworthy that the Fighting Camels defeated the University of North Carolina from the highly touted Atlantic Coast Conference for the second consecutive season. Not a bad accomplishment for a program that is just beginning to make itself known on the national scene. Campbell coach Doug Hess stated, “It was an amazing year for our guys and I am so proud of how well they performed down the stretch. It was a year of milestones for our program and many that we have been building towards for the last several years.”
Liberty – Folks throughout the country may not be familiar with the Flames but they certainly are among the collegiate teams that achieved extraordinary results in 2007. After five previous unsuccessful appearances in the Big South men's soccer tournament final, Liberty broke through in 2007 with a 2-1 win over the Radford Highlanders to capture the program’s first ever Big South Championship and thus earn the right to make their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Liberty, which is located in Lynchburg, Virginia, fell to Loyola (MD) in first round play but that takes nothing away from the fact that the 2007 season will always have a special place in the heart of Liberty coach Jeff Alder and will serve as a source of motivation for teams from Liberty in the future.
Santa Clara – Success is often a relative measure. The Broncos have a tradition of success and were thought to be a solid contender for a spot in the Final Four in 2007. Santa Clara earned their fifth consecutive berth into the NCAA Tourney in 2007 and advanced to the Round of 16 with a 1-0 win over UCLA but their dreams of a spot in the Final Four were prematurely halted when they were upset at home 2-0 by Notre Dame. Accordingly, some might question whether the 2007 season was a special one for the Broncos. The answer to that question is pretty clear when you consider that before the unexpected early exit from the big dance the Broncos reeled off an eighteen match unbeaten streak that included a 10-0-2 mark in West Coast Conference play. No matter how you spin it that is an exceptional feat that created a legacy for the 2007 squad.