Only a few events in the world of sports generate as much excitement and interest as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament which is aptly known as March Madness.
Those who follow March Madness know that the outcome of a game often comes down to one play or decision at a crucial point within a contest that tips the momentum in favor of one team. It may be a turnover, a missed shot, a lapse on defense, or a controversial call by the referee. Whatever the case, it’s usually pretty easy to look back on every close contest and identify a particular tangible event in the game that resulted in a momentum shift that influenced the end result.
The 2012 college soccer season will not get underway until late in August and it will be November before the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament begins. So what does March Madness have in common with college soccer? Well, just like March Madness, specific tangible events can often be identified that are likely to have a significant impact on the outcome of games that will be played in the 2012 college soccer season.
Twelve of them are listed below.
● The return of senior forward Will Bates to the Virginia lineup. Bates has netted thirty-four goals including eleven game-winners in three seasons with the Cavaliers. He was injured last year with three games remaining in the regular season.
● The decision of senior forward Dion Acoff to transfer from Creighton to U.C. Santa Barbara. Acoff should help plug the gap that exists at UCSB due to the decision of forward Sam Garza to leave early to take his game to the professional ranks.
● The decision of 2011 NSCAA National Coach of the Year Jeremy Gunn to leave Charlotte to take the head coaching job at Stanford. That decision could have a significant impact on both programs.
● The decision of forward Ben Speas and midfielder Enzo Martinez to forgo their senior seasons at North Carolina to enter the professional ranks. Speas signed a homegrown contract with the Columbus Crew and Martinez signed a Generation adidas contract and was drafted by Real Salt Lake.
● West Virginia leaves the Big East Conference in men’s soccer to become an affiliate member of the Mid-American Conference in men’s soccer in 2012. This may impact the RPI of MAC teams. It may also impact recruiting at West Virginia. Marlon LeBlanc stated, “We’ve very, very positive about it and we think that the league is going to get stronger and we know we’ve helped make the league a stronger one today as well.”
● Central Florida signs junior transfer Deshorn Brown who was a two-time NAIA All-America Team selection as a forward at the University of Mobile. Brown scored 53 goals in two seasons in Mobile. Brown should add another goal scorer to a UCF team that also includes junior McKauly Tulloch (15g, 4a) and senior Nik Robson (9g, 6a). UCF will move to the Big East Conference in 2013.
● Kenny Arena is named the new head coach at Florida International University in Miami. Arena was an assistant coach at UCLA for four seasons and also served as an assistant coach at George Mason and as a volunteer coach at the University of Virginia for a single season. Arena may be able to return FIU to the place of prominence it once enjoyed in college soccer.
● Midfielder Collin Martin graduates from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland a year ahead of schedule and commits to Wake Forest for the 2012 season. Martin is ranked by College Soccer News as the third best player in the class of 2013. He will join an already highly regarded Demon Deacon recruiting class that includes midfielder Michael Gamble and defender Jalen Robinson who are ranked as the number one and three players respectively by College Soccer News in the class of 2012.
● Akron sophomore forward Darren Mattocks decides to take his game to the professional ranks at the conclusion at the 2011 season leaving the Zips without a returning big time goal scorer for the first time in a long time. Mattocks was the nation’s second leading goal scorer last year.
● Forward T.J. Popolizio enrolls in graduate school at Indiana with one season of eligibility remaining. Popolizio played at Brown for three seasons and led the Bears in scoring in 2011 with eight goals including four game winning strikes. Todd Yeagley stated, “T.J.’s ability to score goals, along with his attacking tenacity and work rate, will strengthen our effectiveness in the final third.”
● All-American Andrew Wenger (17g, 8a) elected to forgo his senior season at Duke to play professionally. Wenger was the 2012 Hermann Trophy winner and was the number one player selected in the MLS SuperDraft. After doing just about everything except run the concession stands at Koskinen Stadium, Wenger’s departure leaves a huge gap to fill.
● Cal Poly has signed four players that are ranked by College Soccer News as among the top 150 players in the class of 2012. The Mustangs were 6-9-3 overall last year. Paul Holocher stated, “We need to develop and improve our attacking play and also solidify our backline.”