CSN annually closes out the year with a tribute to those programs that had special seasons. The 2010 season was a shining season for the sixteen 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 have a positive impact on the program for years to come.
Akron – Many teams talk about winning a national championship but only a select few actually do what it takes mentally and physically to secure a national championship. Count Akron in that small group. The Zips left nothing on the table in 2010 finishing with a 22-1-2 record. Akron could easily have lost their focus or put individual goals ahead of team goals but they never did. This is a team that kept their composure and confidence and never flinched. They kept their collective eyes on the prize becoming the first team at Akron to secure a national championship in any sport.
The 2010 team forever redefined the standard of excellence for the program and clearly demonstrated that a school from a mid-major conference can win it all. By winning a national championship the 2010 Akron squad made history and completed what they intended to accomplish when they first made the decision to come to Akron.
Louisville – The Cardinals gave one hundred percent in 2010 and it showed in what they accomplished on the pitch. Louisville finished regular season play with a 16-0-3 record that included a 9-0-0 mark in Big East play. They won the Big East regular season and tournament titles and were awarded the number one seed in the NCAA Tourney. Louisville then topped the College of Charleston, Ohio State, and UCLA to advance to the College Cup where they defeated North Carolina 2-1 before losing to Akron in the national championship match 1-0 to end a brilliant 2010 campaign with a 20-1-3 overall record.
Don’t forget, just a few years ago a winning season was something to get excited about at Louisville. The expectations are much higher than that now. Ken Lolla took Louisville to their first NCAA Tourney in 2007 and followed that up with invites in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Lolla pretty much summed up the significance of the 2010 season when he stated, “Our guys have been resilient all season and set a new standard for our program not just from the standpoint of wins and the achievements on the field, but by who we are and how we do things.”
Michigan – Every team experiences adversity. The key is how they respond to it. The Wolverines were thumped 7-1 by Akron on October 19 in a regular season contest. That could have been the beginning of the end of their season but instead Michigan showed a ton of determination by responding with nine straight wins.
The Wolverines secured the program’s first ever Big Ten Tournament title and advanced to the Final Four in NCAA Tourney play for the first time in the history of the program. Michigan topped Central Florida at home then South Carolina and Maryland on the road in the NCAA Tournament play before losing to Akron 2-1 in a closely contested match in the semifinals of the College Cup. Michigan had an outstanding season led on the offensive side of the ball by senior Justin Meram (17g, 8a) and freshman Soony Saad (19g, 5a). Steve Burns pretty much summed it all up when he stated at the conclusion of the season, “The future looks bright for Michigan soccer.” He then added, “We set the tone this year.”
SMU – SMU bounced back in 2010 after failing to earn an NCAA Tourney berth in 2008 and 2009. Prior to that the Mustangs had made fourteen consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tourney. The Ponies completed regular season play in 2010 with an impressive 15-2-0 mark and were awarded the number five seed in the NCAA Tourney. They then advanced past Creighton and William and Mary in the NCAA Tourney before losing to North Carolina in a quarterfinals match that had to be determined by penalty kicks.
The Mustangs finished the 2010 season with a 16-2-2 overall record and were ranked as the number eight team in the nation by College Soccer News. The Ponies were led on the offensive side of the ball by junior Arthur Ivo (10g, 5a) and freshman Juan Castillo (10g, 4a). Tim McClements, who was in his third season as the head coach at SMU, was named the CUSA and NSCAA Midwest Regional Coach of the Year. SMU will remember the 2010 season as the one that reestablished the program as a force on the national scene and set the pace for a future that looks very bright.
California – The Golden Bears came back strong in 2010 rebounding in a big way from a disappointing injury filled 2009 season in which they failed to earn an invite to the NCAA Tourney and finished in last place in Pac-10 play.
California finished the 2010 season with a 14-2-4 overall record, won the Pac-10 Title, earned the number six seed in the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tourney for only the second time in the history of the program. This veteran Golden Bear squad led by senior defender A.J. Soares, who was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year, senior forward Davis Paul, and senior midfielder Hector Jimenez showed a lot of mettle and will be remembered as one of the best teams the Golden Bears have put on the pitch. Kevin Grimes was named the Pac-10 and NSCAA Far West Coach of the Year.
Florida Gulf Coast University – The Eagles were not eligible to participate in their conference tourney nor the NCAA tourney in 2010 due to the fact that they were in the fourth year of the NCAA’s required four year reclassification period. However, that takes nothing away from the fact that the 2010 season was a special one for a program that just began playing at the Division I level in 2007.
The Blue and Green were a perfect 9-0-0 in Atlantic Sun Conference play and made their presence known on the national scene with a 13-3-2 overall record that included non-conference wins over South Florida, VCU, and Ohio State. Coach Bob Butehorn’s team returns ten starters in 2011 and is well positioned to build on the success that the team enjoyed in 2010. Keep an eye on the lads from Florida Gulf Coast University which is located in Fort Myers, Florida. They are for real.
Xavier – When Andy Fleming was hired as the head coach at Xavier prior to the 2010 season, he acknowledged there were challenges ahead but he also enthusiastically indicated he had a plan in mind for building a winning tradition at Xavier. The Musketeers grew stronger as the season progressed and it soon became apparent that Xavier was beginning to find ways to win. The 2010 squad at Xavier will long be remembered for their part in taking the program to a higher level and for putting in place a very tangible foundation that they can build on.
The Musketeers had a magical season becoming the first team in the history of the men’s soccer program to win the A-10 Tournament and the first team to ever receive an invite to the NCAA Tourney. The Musketeers shocked the A-10 Conference becoming only the sixth school in the last thirteen years to capture the A-10 Title by defeating number three seed Temple, number one seed Charlotte, and number two seed LaSalle in route to winning the A-10 Tourney title. They were subsequently topped by West Virginia 4-2 in the first round of the NCAA Tourney to finish the 2010 campaign with a very productive 10-7-4 overall record. After the loss to West Virginia, Fleming stated, “I commend our seniors for leaving a legacy that we will begin to build on. The future is bright and we will be back.”
South Carolina – The Gamecocks’ thirteen wins was their most in a single season since the 1998 campaign. South Carolina defeated UAB, SMU, and Tulsa to win the Conference USA Tournament Title. They topped Duke in the NCAA Tourney before losing to Michigan 3-1 to end the 2010 season.
The 2010 version of the Gamecocks, led by senior forward Blake Brettschneider , senior defender Will Traynor, and senior goalkeeper Jimmy Mauer will be remembered as one of the strongest teams to take the pitch for head coach Mark Berson who has 441 overall career wins which is more than any other active NCAA Division I coach.
Creighton – The Bluejays entered the 2010 season in unfamiliar territory. For starters they were coming off a subpar 7-4-5 2009 season in which their string of seventeen consecutive NCAA Tourney appearances had come to an unexpected end. In addition they were facing the transition to new head coach Jamie Clark. Creighton was conspicuously absent from the 2010 preseason rankings – a rarity for this tradition rich program.
A relatively young Creighton team quickly erased any doubts about the status of the program. The Bluejays hit the ground running upsetting highly regarded UC Santa Barbara on the road 1-0 in their third game of the season and quickly returned to the national rankings. Creighton secured the MVC regular season title with a 5-1-1 mark in league play and subsequently earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tourney where they topped New Mexico 4-1 in first round play before losing to SMU in penalty kicks in the second round. Junior forward Ethan Finlay was named the MVC Player of the Year, defender Tyler Polak was named the MVC Freshman of the Year, and the Creighton coaching staff was named the MVC Coaching Staff of the Year. The Bluejays ended the 2010 campaign with a 13-5-2 record that will be remembered as a solid building block for a new era of success at Creighton.
East Tennessee State University – In just their third year of existence the Buccaneers won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament defeating Stetson in the championship match to earn their first ever invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Under the direction of Scott Calabrese, who was named the NSCAA South Region Coach of the Year, the Buccaneers made their presence known in 2010 with a 15-6-0 overall record and a 7-2-0 mark in conference play.
Senior defender Guilherme Reis and junior forward Aaron Schoenfeld were named to the NSCAA All-South Region Second Team becoming the first players from ETSU to receive this honor. The 2010 campaign was a year of firsts for East Tennessee State University and it will be remembered as a season that raised the bar and set the pace for the program for years to come.
LaSalle – It is not how you start but how you finish. The preseason Atlantic 10 poll predicted that the Explorers would finish in the number twelve spot in the conference. LaSalle appeared to be on target with preseason expectations when they began the season with only one win in the month of September. However, they caught fire and went on an 8-2-1 run in their last eleven matches to finish the 2010 season with a 9-7-2 overall record that included a 6-2-1 mark in conference play that was good for the second seed in the league tourney. LaSalle advanced to the championship match of the conference tourney defeating Saint Louis before being upset by Xavier falling one game short of an invite to the NCAA Tourney.
Senior midfielder Ryan Richter was named the Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year and earned a spot on the Mid-Atlantic All-Region First Team. Richter finished the season with fourteen goals including seven game-winners. Veteran LaSalle mentor Pat Farrell was named the Atlantic 10 Conference and Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year.
Farrell stated, “We did some special things this year. It’s something to be proud of as we move forward and as time goes on, we’ll realize what we achieved.”
UMBC – It was a great and exciting season for UMBC. The Retrievers experienced the thrill of victory when they won their first America East Tournament Title in 2010 since joining the conference eight years ago. They earned the right for just the second time in the history of the program (the first time was the 1999 team that was 19-1-1) to play in the NCAA Tourney. The lads from Baltimore were just getting started as they then came from behind to upset the Princeton Tigers 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tourney and advanced to the second round of play. UMBC’s 2010 season then came to a heartbreaking but nonetheless history making end when they played William and Mary to a scoreless draw at the conclusion of 110 minutes of play before coming out on the short end of a penalty kick shootout.
The Retrievers, under the direction of head coach Pete Caringi , had a high octane attack in 2010 that was difficult to contain and a defense anchored by junior goalkeeper Dan Louisignau that grew stronger as the season progressed. UMBC’s offense featured senior forward Levi Houapeu (15g, 4a) and junior midfielder Andrew Bulls (5g, 15a). Houapeu was named the America East Striker of the Year and an All-American by the NSCAA and College Soccer News. The 1999 and 2010 teams clearly hold a special place in UMBC soccer history.
William and Mary – The Tribe was a force in 2010 winning both the CAA regular season and tournament titles in route to a fifteen win season. The fifteen wins was the most the College had secured since the 2002 season. The College earned a seed in the NCAA Tourney for the first time since the 1983 season. William and Mary advanced past UMBC in the second round of the NCAA Tourney before losing a close contest on the road to SMU 1-0 in the Sweet Sixteen. The Tribe was ranked as the number nine team in the College Soccer News season ending national poll.
Senior midfielder Nathaniel Bakko completed an outstanding career for the Green and Gold by being named the NSCAA Senior Men’s Scholar All-American Player of the Year. Coach Chris Norris was named the CAA Coach of the Year for the first time in his career and was also named the South Atlantic Region Coach of the Year. The 2010 season will long be remembered as a special season for the Tribe.
Georgetown – The Hoyas deserve to be on any list that recognizes programs that had a special season in 2010. For starters they were 7-2-0 in Big East play winning the Blue Division for the first time since the 1994 season. Georgetown was awarded an at-large berth in the NCAA Tourney making their first appearance in the big dance since the 1997 season. The Hoyas then topped a solid UNC Greensboro side 3-0 in first round action before playing the North Carolina Tar Heels to a scoreless tie before being eliminated via a penalty kick shootout.
Sophomore Ian Christianson was named the Big East Midfielder of the Year and earned a spot on the College Soccer News All-America Team. Midfielder Steve Neumann earned a spot on both the College Soccer News and Soccer America 2010 All-Freshman Teams. Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese and his staff were honored as the Big East Coaching Staff of the Year.
Central Florida – Historic is the word that best describes the 2010 season at Central Florida. It is likely that UCF head coach Bryan Cunningham would agree with that assessment. Few teams in the country improved more than Central Florida did in 2010. The Knights jumped from a total of six wins in 2009 to a total of twelve wins in 2010. What is even more noteworthy is the fact that Central Florida’s RPI improved from 195 in 2009 to 33 in 2010.
UCF began to attract attention when they topped then number five ranked SMU 2-1 in early October. The win was the Knights’ first over a top ten ranked team. USA subsequently finished regular season CUSA play with a 4-1-3 mark that gave them the number two seed in the conference tourney. The number two seed was the highest seed that the Knights have secured since moving from the A-Sun Conference to Conference USA in 2005. Their twelve win season was also the first double-digit win total for UCF since the 2004 season when they were 11-7-2 in their last season as a member of the A-Sun.
UCF received an at-large berth to the NCAA Tourney in 2010 making their first appearance in the big dance since the 2004 season. The Knights then defeated in-state rival South Florida from the Big East Conference 3-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tourney before their season came to an end when they lost to Michigan 2-1 in overtime on the road.
Junior midfielder Warren Creavalle was named an NSCAA Third Team All-American becoming only the second player from UCF to be named an All-American at the Division I level.
North Carolina – The Tar Heels (16-4-4) continued to have success on the pitch in 2010. They played their way into the Final Four for the third consecutive season becoming only the 12th team in NCAA history to advance to three consecutive College Cups. North Carolina’s hopes for a national championship in 2010 came to an end in the semifinals of the College Cup when Louisville scored with less than a minute remaining in regulation to claim a 2-1 win but that did not take away from the fact that the 2010 season was a special one for the Tar Heels.
This team will be remembered for their resilience and tenacity and for the manner in which they responded to all of the challenges they faced. The Tar Heels were also were a testament to the value of solid play on the defensive side of the ball in 2010 recording eleven shutouts and a goals against average of 0.63.
North Carolina won the regular season ACC title with a 7-0-1 mark in league play and were awarded a number four seed in the NCAA Tourney. They survived and advanced past Georgetown, Michigan State, and SMU in penalty kick shootouts in NCAA Tourney action to punch their ticket to the Final Four.
Seniors Michael Farfan and Jalil Anibaba were named All-Americans by College Soccer News and the NSCAA. Sophomore Enzo Martinez was also named an All-American by the NSCAA.
Five UNC seniors, Eddie Ababio, Anibaba, Farfan, Stephen McCarty, and Dustin McCarty were invited to attend the MLS Player Combine.