College Soccer News annually closes out the year with a tribute to those programs that had special seasons. The 2013 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. Each of the schools identified had 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.
Notre Dame – The 2013 season at Notre Dame was described as one with new challenges and obstacles on multiple fronts as the Irish faced the task of replacing two All-Americans as well as the challenge of making the adjustment that accompanied moving from the Big East Conference to the unchartered waters of the Atlantic Coast Conference. This was a team that many felt would be good but not National Championship good. In fact, the Irish were picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason poll and were ranked as the number eleven team in the country in College Soccer News' Preseason Poll but by the end of September they were ranked as the number one team in the country. Regarding the number one ranking Bobby Clark stated, "It puts a big target on your back because everybody is always excited to play the number one team." He added, "If we're going to be good, which I think we can be, we have to handle that. That's part of growing as a team."
The Irish did continue to grow led on the offensive side of the ball by senior forward Harrison Shipp (12g, 10a) and sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan (11g, 5a) and on the defensive side of the ball by senior midfielder Nick Besler who missed eight matches due to injury and senior backs Grant Van De Casteele, Andrew O'Malley and Luke Mishu. The Irish finished regular season play with a 7-1-3 mark in conference play and shared the regular season crown with Maryland. They fell to Virginia in the ACC Tournament in a match that was decided by penalty kicks but based on the body of their work were awarded the number three seed in the NCAA Tourney. The rest is history. The Irish advanced to their first ever College Cup (Final Four) by topping Wisconsin, Wake Forest, and Michigan State. They then defeated New Mexico and Maryland to claim the program's first National Championship to finish with a 17-1-3 overall record. Shipp summed it up when he stated, "We had a great regular season (last year) and we realized it was time for the program to take that next step, and we thought the only logical place to do that was to reach the final four and win a national championship."
Without a doubt the 2013 campaign will always hold a special place in the history of the men's soccer program at Notre Dame.
Maryland – Under Sasho Cirovski Maryland is always a legitimate contender for the National Championship. The Terps advanced to the College Cup in 2012 but their dreams of a National Championship ended when they were upset by Georgetown in the semifinals. There was no doubt that Maryland led by their All-American senior forward Patrick Mullins had their sights set firmly on winning the National Championship in 2013. They fell one game short of that goal but that does not dimenish the fact that this was an outstanding Maryland team that won a share of the ACC regular season title, won the ACC Tournament, and played their way into the College Cup (Final Four) with wins over Providence, UC Irvine, and California. They then topped ACC rival Virgina in the semifinals of the College Cup before losing to Notre Dame 2-1 in the National Championship match to finish with a 17-4-5 overall record. Mullins (19g, 8a) powered the Terp attack while freshman Suli Dainkeh and sophomore backs Mikey Ambrose and freshman goalkeeper Zack Steffen anchored the backline and established that this is a team that is going to once again be very good next year.
After the National Championship match Cirovski stated, "At Maryland we shoot for the stars every year. We aim high. When you aim high and you don't reach, you still end up at the moon – which is higher than most people." He added, To lose today to a great Notre Dame team is no disgrace and no shame. There's heartache and disappointment in the locker room right now but that will pass and in true Maryland fashion, we'll be back."
You can count on that.
New Mexico – The 2013 New Mexico squad that was 14-6-2 made their mark in history when they joined the 2005 team that was 18-2-3 as the only New Mexico teams that have advanced to the College Cup. The Lobos are among only a handful of programs that have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the past three seasons. Both the 2011 team which recorded eighteen wins and the 2012 team that had seventeen wins were strong contenders for a berth in the Final Four but they fell short. The 2013 team did not.
The road to the Final Four was both a rewarding and productive one for the 2013 team but it was not without its ups and downs. The Lobos served notice early in the season that they were a force to contend with when they secured 1-0 wins on the road over Georgetown and UC Santa Barbara but consecutive losses at home to Cal State Northridge, Drake, and UC Davis were unexpected and disappointing. The Lobos rebounded to win the regular season CUSA title in their first season as a member of the conference but were upset by Tulsa 3-0 in the semifinals of CUSA Tourney. The loss to Tulsa may have served as a gut check of sorts for the Lobos who then topped George Mason and Penn State at home and Washington on the road to advance to the College Cup where their season came to an end with a 2-0 loss to Notre Dame. New Mexico was an attack oriented team but their "defend first" mindset paid dividends in their run to the Final Four. Senior midfielders Michael Calderon and Michael Kafari, center back Kyle Venter, and goalkeeper Michael Lisch were all difference makers who led the way.
It was truly a memorable season for a team that showed a lot of mettle along the way.
Virginia – This is a program with a storied history but anytime a team advances to the College Cup as Virginia did in 2013 it is special. This group wanted to make their mark in Virginia soccer history and they did. The Cavaliers steadily improved and grew together as a team as the season progressed. Virginia entered the season as a very young but experienced team with high expectations. However, this was a team that most felt was a year away from having all the ingredients needed to advance to the College Cup. The first tipping point came early in the season when Virginia bounced back from a 1-3-1 mark start. The second tipping point came in the ACC Tournament when Virginia advanced past Wake Forest in overtime and Notre Dame in penalty kicks after coming from two goals down to force overtime. They fell to Maryland 1-0 in a heartbreaker in the championship match when the Terps scored on an on-goal in the 88th minute of play but it was clear that this was a determined team with momentum and a ton of confidence. A talented and battle tested Virginia team then topped St. John's, Marquette, and Connecticut to advance to the College Cup where their season came to an end with a 2-1 loss to Maryland.
George Gelnovatch summed up why this was a special team that he will always remember when he stated, "With this team, I would have loved for the season to keep going, because we kept getting better." He added, It was just a good group of guys, talented guys, with a winning mentality. I'm already looking forward to the spring."
Seattle University – The Redhawks won both the Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles in their first season as a member of the conference and just their second season playing at the Division I level. Seattle was led by senior forward Miguel Gonzalez (15g, 5a) who was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year and senior goalkeeper Jake Feener who was an All-WAC First Team selection. The men's soccer team distinguished themselves by becoming the first Seattle University team to qualify for the Division I NCAA Tournament since 1969. Seattle then established that they belonged in the NCAA tourney when they upset Creighton 2-1 in Omaha in the first round of play. Their season came to an exciting end when they were topped 4-2 by cross-town Washington before a crowd of more over 3,100 fans in the second round of the NCAA Tourney. Seattle ended the season with a 11-9-4 record.
The 2013 campaign turned out to be a very special and inspirational season for a team that began the 2013 season with a 0-6-1 record.
Quinnipiac University – The Bobcats took a major step forward in 2013 when they won the MAAC Championship in their first year of membership in the conference and earned their first ever berth into the NCAA Tournament. Quinnipiac shared the regular season MAAC Championship with fellow newcomer Monmouth and won the conference tournament by topping Iona and Monmouth in penalty kicks after both matches were scoreless at the conclusion of regulation and extra time. The Bobcats represented themselves and the MAAC well when they played Connecticut close in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before coming out on the short end of a 2-1 match. Senior midfielder Simon Hinde was a force on the offensive side of the ball for Quinnipiac with ten goals including five game-winners. Junior Borja Angoitia, the MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year, and sophomore back Tobias Esche anchored a solid Bobcat defense that held opponents to a total of sixteen goals.
The 2013 team under the direction of head coach Eric Da Costa had a banner season that forever raised the standard of excellence at Quinnipiac.
Washington – By all measures the 2013 season was one to celebrate at Washington. This was a team that made good things happen all year. The Huskies won the Pac-12 Conference title for the first time since the 2000 season. They were awarded the number two seed in the NCAA Tournament and topped Seattle and Stanford to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in the fifty year history of the program.
Jamie Clark stated, "The seniors – Michael (Harris), Taylor (Peay) …they always say leave your jersey in a better place than you found it when you graduate. And those seniors (Peay, Harris, Richey, Jacobson) did that." Clark added, "The Washington jersey is back, and among the best in the nation."
Clark's statement speaks volumes regarding the significance of the 2013 season at Washington.
Navy – What a season. Navy was the feel good team of the 2013 season and defininely belongs on any short list of men's soccer teams that had a banner 2013 season. The Mids concluded regular season play in the Patriot League with a 1-0 victory over Army before a crowd on 7,416 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa to complete league play with a perfect 9-0-0 mark. They then topped Bucknell 1-0 and Holy Cross 2-0 to win their first Patriot League title since joining the league in 1991 to earn the right to return to the NCAA Tourney field for the first time in twenty-five years. Navy then blanked VCU 3-0 scoring three goals in an eight-minute span in the first round of the NCAA Tourney to win their fifteenth consecutive contest and to establish a program record for the most wins in a single season with sixteen victories. The Mids magical ride came to an end when they lost to Wake Forest 2-1 in the second round of the NCAA Tourney to conclude a very mememorable sesaon with a 16-4-2 record. Sophomore forward Jamie Dubyoski was named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year and junior back Joseph Greenspan was honored as the Patriot League Devensive Player of the Year.
Navy head coach Dave Brandt was spot on when he stated, "It was a big season for Navy men's soccer."
Michigan State – The Spartans advanced to the Elite Eight in 2013 for the first time since the 1968 season. They recorded a program best fourteen wins and were awarded the number eleven seed in the NCAA Tourney. The Spartans began NCAA Tourney play with a 1-0 victory over Louisville in overtime in a very physical game and then upset number six seeded Georgetown 1-0 on the road in what has to be among the best wins in program history. Their season came to an end when they were topped 2-1 by Notre Dame on a snowy day in South Bend. Regardless, it was a banner season that clearly took the program to a higher level and paved the way for continued sucess in the future.
Damon Rensing pointed out why it will always be a special season for him when he stated, "As far as our guys I've never been so proud of a team. They put everything on the line and played great. The senior class is special (Kevin Cope, Wesley Curtis, Bryce Dobbins, Cody Henderson, Brent McIntosh, and Ryan Thelan) and I'm proud of all of them. They've been huge in continuing to move this program forward." Rensing concluded, "We took a big step this season with that and they deserve to be recognized for that."
UMBC – Let's begin by clarifying that this is a program with a winning tradition. UMBC has posted a winning record in eighteen of the twenty-three seasons that Pete Caringi, Jr. has been at the helm of the program and the Retrievers have won the America East Tourney and a berth in the NCAA Tourney three out of the past four seasons. In 2012 UMBC set the stage for the 2013 season when they advanced past Old Dominion on the road in the NCAA Tourney and gave North Carolina all they could handle before falling in penalty kicks in the second round. This was a talented and experienced bunch that entered the 2013 season with high expectations and they delivered.
When you are a member of a mid-major conference, it is tough to garner attention and respect on the national scene but this team clearly did that plus more earning a top ten ranking for most of the season. The Retrievers were awarded the number sixteen seed in the NCAA Tournment and earned the right to host an NCAA Tourney match for the first time in school history. UMBC's season came to an end in the NCAA Tourney when they came out on the short end of a penalty kick shootout with Connecticut after the contest was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation and overtime.
The Retrievers concluded the season with a 16-1-3 overall record which is the second most wins in school history behind the 1999 team that won a school record nineteen matches and earned the program's first invite to the Division I NCAA Tourney. Senior forward Pete Caringi III, junior back Oumar Ballo, and senior midfieder Kadeem Dacres were NSCAA All-America team selections. Regarding their selection Caringi, Jr. stated, "It is certainly a reflection of how well the team performed this season and a huge credit to our soccer program."
Count the 2013 team right up there with the 1999 team in terms of having a very special place in the history of the UMBC program.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin is a program that has had promising seasons of late but never really seemed to be able to turn the corner. They turned the corner in 2013. The Badgers returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1995 season and then got the best of in-state rival Milwaukee 1-0 in a take no prisioners type contest before falling to eventual national champion Notre Dame in South Bend in the second round of the NCAA Tourney. Wisconsin began the season with a 5-1-0 mark but hit a potential snag when they were defeated by Gonzaga and Penn State at the end of September. In retrospect the Badger's response to the back-to-back losses was a tipping point for the 2013 season that set the pace for the remainder of the campaign and perhaps even for seasons to come.
Wisconsin responded to the two game skid with four consecutive wins at home beginning with a 1-0 win over a very good Marquette team in a game in which senior Nick Janus netted the game-winning goal. However the highlight of the four game run was a gutsy 4-3 come from behind win over Indiana in which Wisconsin dug deep to score three goals in the final twenty-five minutes of the contest to come away with a victory that clearly paved the way for making 2013 a special season. Wisconsin ended a breakthrough season with a 14-5-2 overall record and a 4-2-0 mark that was good for a second place finish in regular season Big Ten play. Senior Tomislav Zadro (4g, 8a) was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and junior A J Cochran was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Senior Nick Janus (9g, 3a), who led the Badgers in scoring, was also an All-Big Ten First Team selection.
John Trask stated, "It was great to see a group of guys realize their dreasms as student-athletes here at Wisconsin. To see these guys not only come in second place (in the Big Ten) but get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which is what it's all about, it was really exciting for my staff and the players involved in this program."
Denver University – The Pioneers plowed new ground in 2013 beginning their first season in the Summit League. They had a school best thirteen win 2013 season eclipsing the previous high of twelve wins recorded by the 2004 team. Denver won both the Summit League regular season and tournament titles to earn the program's fourth overall berth in the NCAA Tournament and first since the 2010 campaign. The Pioneers notched a school record eleven shutouts and established a school record fifteen match unbeaten streak. Denver's season came to an end in the first round of the NCAA Tourney when they fell to Louisville in a match that required penalty kicks to determine who advanced after the teams played to a scoreless tie at the end of regulation and extra time.
Denver head coach Bobby Muuss stated, "This entire group of guys has helped take this program to the next level. I couldn't be more proud of this group of seniors (Zach Bolden, Cole Chapleski, Theodor Remman, Blair Jeralds, Anees Abdulgasem, Jack Henderson) who have led this team all year and have prepared this program for great things in the future." He added, "I'm proud to be a Pioneer."
The 2013 season was a season of firsts at Denver that established the legacy of the 2013 team and set a higher standard for future teams.
Marquette – The Golden Eagles earned a share of the Big East regular season title and won their first ever conference tourament title to secure the program's second consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament. They were awarded the number nine seed in the NCAA Tourney and made program history when they defeated Akron 1-0 in overtime to secure their first-ever NCAA tournament win. Marquette's season then came to an end when they were defeated by Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
After the loss to Virginia, Golden Eagle head coach Louis Bennett accurately stated, "Once the bitter disappointment of this result filters out, I think we will look back at this year and talk about what a fantastic year it was."
Milwaukee – Things started looking up at UWM in 2012 when Kris Kelderman took over the reigns of the program and directed the Panthers to an 8-8-2 overall record which was the programs first winning season in seven years. In 2013 things got even better when the the Panthers recorded fifteen wins which was the most victories in a single season since UWM recorded sixteen wins back in 2003. UWM beat Oakland and UIC to win the Horizon League Tournament and to return to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since the 2005 season which was Louis Bennett's last year at the helm of the program before taking over the reigns of the program at Marquette. UWM was defeated by Wisconsin 1-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tourney but that takes nothing away from the fact that the Panthers had a breakthrough season in 2013 that was a real difference maker as well as another huge tangible step forward upon which to continue to build the program.
Kelderman stated, "I love my team. I don't know how else to put it."
Elon – Don't overlook what the Phoenix accomplished in 2013. For startrers, they tied the program's single season Division I record for wins with a 15-5-3 overall record that included signature wins over highly regarded Wake Forest and Coastal Carolina. They also won the Southern Conference Tournament for the third consecutive season and earned their third consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Phoenix hosted their first ever NCAA Division I Tourney match in 2013 and advanced to the second round of play for the first time in the history of the program when they came out on top of Clemson in penalty kicks before a crowd of 3,348 fans. Their season subsequently came to an end in the second round of the NCAA Tourney when they traveled to the west coast and were defeated by number one seeded UCLA.
Nonetheless the five-person senior class consisting of Mark Berlin, Nick Butterly, Charles Howard, Daniel Lovitz, and Matt Wescoe left behind the very positive legacy of completing their tenure at Elon as the winningest class in school history with forty-seven wins.