The 2021 College Soccer Season Was A Season To Remember For These Teams.
Clemson – National Champions. The Tigers won it all in 2021 but it wasn’t easy. At times during the year they looked to be a team on the ropes due to injuries that required them to make adjustments and for several players to move into different roles in order to fill the gaps that existed. They did that and they did it well.
This was a talented and unified team with a ton of grit that never let the adversity they faced derail them. Clemson played well under pressure and displayed the often difficult to come by ability to come up with the big play they needed in the clutch to prevail in close contests.
The Tigers were awarded the number eight seed in the NCAA Tournament and edged Denver and Kentucky in close contests at home. They then defied the odds and advanced past number one seed Oregon State on the road in a match that was determined by a penalty kick shootout to secure a spot in the College Cup where Clemson faced a Notre Dame team that had topped them 2-0 during regular season play. The Tigers advanced past number four seed Notre Dame in a semifinal match that was decided by penalty kicks and defeated number two seed Washington in the national final 2-0 to secure the program’s third National Championship and first since the 1987 season.
Washington – Washington had very productive seasons come to an end in the Elite Eight in 2019 and 2020 but they broke through that barrier in 2021 with the best season to date in the history of the program when they advanced to the College Cup for the first time ever.
The number two seeded Huskies advanced past number three seeded Georgetown 2-1 in the semifinals of the College Cup and earned the right to face Clemson in the National Championship game. The Huskies were topped 2-0 by Clemson but that takes nothing away from the fact that the 2021 team created a new standard of excellence for a program that under Jamie Clark has become a consistent force in the Pac-12 and on the national scene.
Washington concluded an outstanding 2021 season with an 18-2-2 record which tied the program record for the most wins in a season and made a national championship the next barrier to break.
Notre Dame – The Irish started slowly and looked to be a team that at best was going to have an average season when they were defeated at home 4-3 by Michigan State and dropped to 1-3-1 on the season. However the Irish had a different season in mind and they regrouped and jelled as a team to lose only twice in their next 17 contests.
Notre Dame combined a rock solid defense anchored in goal by Bryan Dowd that recorded a total of 13 shutouts with a very productive and multi-dimensional attack powered by forward Jack Lynn, midfielder Dawson McCartney and forward Matthew Roou that found the back of the net a total of 51 times.
The Irish defeated NC State, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Duke to win the ACC Tournament and Championship for the first time. They were subsequently awarded the number four seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the College Cup for the second time in program history and the first time since 2013.
Notre Dame could have folded but they didn’t instead they dug deep and had one of the best season in the history of the program finishing with a 14-5-5 overall record.
Tulsa – The Golden Hurricane won the American Athletic Conference regular season title for the first time in program history and the AAC tournament title for the first time since 2016. Tulsa was ranked as high as the number two team in the country by the United Soccer Coaches and were awarded the number six seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest seed in program history. They defeated Creighton 1-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to West Virginia 1-0 in double overtime in the third round.
Tulsa completed the season with a 16-2-1 overall record which equaled the 2008 team’s best single season win total.
Tulsa head coach Tom McIntosh summed up the season well when he stated, “This group set a new standard in terms of their performance, concentration and training and as a result, they tied the most wins in program history, they took home two trophies and did everything we could have asked.”
Hofstra – The Pride won a school record 18 games in 2021 finishing the season with an impressive 18-2-2 overall record. Hofstra won the CAA regular season and tournament titles.
They defeated Lipscomb and Penn State to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the history of the program. A truly special season ended when the Pride’s 17 game unbeaten streak was halted in the Sweet Sixteen when they lost to number five seed Pittsburgh.
A potent Hofstra attack powered by forwards Ryan Carmichael (15g, 9a) and Matthew Vowinkel (13g, 9a) and midfielder Hendrik Hebbeker (9g, 11a) produced a team record 56 goals during the 2021 season. Hofstra was ranked by the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News as the number 13 team in the country in both their regular season and season ending polls.
Oregon State – Few teams, if any, did more in 2021 to enhance their standing or generate excitement in their program than Oregon State. The Beavers drew record crowds to Lorenz Field.
Oregon State had a year of firsts that included their first ever outright Pac-12 title, their first ever number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, and their first ever appearance in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. The Beavers defeated St. John’s 2-0 and New Hampshire 1-0 to advance to the Elite Eight where they came out on the short end of a penalty kick shootout with eventual national champion Clemson after the contest was tied 1-1 at the conclusion of 110 minutes of play.
Oregon State concluded regular season play ranked as the number one team in the country by the United Soccer Coaches and as the number three team by College Soccer News. They subsequently concluded a truly historical season ranked as the number 5 team in the country in the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News season ending 2021 polls.
Saint Louis – What a season! For starters, the Billikens won the Atlantic 10 regular season title with a perfect 8-0-0 mark in conference play. It was the first season since 1971 in which Saint Louis did not have a loss during regular season conference play. They followed that up by winning the A-10 Tournament title for the first time since 2012.
The Billikens were awarded the number 10 seed and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. Saint Louis then defeated LIU 5-1 and number seven seed Duke 4-3 in Durham to return to the Elite Eight for the first time since the 2003 season. An extremely successful season, which Saint Louis is well positioned to build on, came to an end with a 16-1-4 overall record when the Billikens lost to Washington 2-0 on the road in the Elite Eight.
A very productive Saint Louis attack led by juniors forward Simon Becher (14g, 10a) and midfielder John Klein (7g, 15a) and freshman forward Isaiah Parker (3g, 7a) found the back of the net a total of 51 times while a stout Billiken defense anchored by sophomore defender Kipp Keller and sophomore netminder Patrick Schulte among others held opponents to a total of 18 goals while posting 9 shutouts. The College Soccer News 2021 Season Ending Poll ranked Saint Louis as the number 6 team in the country.
Marist – The Red Foxes secured the MAAC Regular Season title for the first time in program history and won the MAAC Conference Tournament for the first time since they did so in 2005. Their 12-7-3 overall record tied the program record of the 1999 team for the most wins in a single season.
Marist earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2005 season. Their nine game unbeaten streak came to an end in the NCAA Tourney when they lost to Providence 2-0. Back Huib Achterkamp was named the 2021 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year and Samuel Ilin was named the MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year.
New Hampshire – The upward trend at New Hampshire under head coach Marc Hubbard continued in 2021 with a 17-2-2 overall record that established a program record for wins in a single season. The Wildcats won the America East Regular Season title for the third year in a row with a 7-0-1 mark in conference play.
New Hampshire did not sustain a loss until they were upset by Vermont 1-0 in the America East Tournament final. That loss likely hampered their seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Nonetheless they earned the programs fifth straight invite to the NCAA Tournament and were awarded the number 16 seed. New Hampshire then topped a very competitive North Carolina team 4-1 to earn a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in program history. The Wildcats hoped to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament and were a team that was capable of doing so but their season came to an end in the Sweet Sixteen when they were edged 1-0 by number one seed Oregon State in Corvallis.
Nonetheless this was without a doubt the most successful season to date in the history of a program that has a very bright future. A very balanced New Hampshire team produced a total of 47 goals while a rock solid Wildcat defense held opponents to a total of only ten goals. New Hampshire was ranked as the number nine team in the country in both the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News 2021 season ending polls.
West Virginia – Year two of the Dan Stratford era at West Virginia was a statement season. The Mountaineers rocketed upward in the national polls after early season wins over Pittsburgh 2-1 and Penn State 3-1 and a 2-2 tie with defending national champion Marshall in a match that captured the attention of the entire State of West Virginia.
The Mountaineers were awarded the number 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament earning their first seed since the 2007 season. They then advanced past Virginia Tech in a match that was determined by a penalty kick shootout after it was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and extra time and upset number 6 seed Tulsa on the road 1-0 to earn a spot in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1981. West Virginia then held their own against number 3 seed Georgetown in the Elite Eight before falling in a contest that required penalty kicks to determine who advanced after in was tied 1-1 after 110 minutes of play.
The Mountaineers earned their highest finish to date when they were ranked by the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News as the number 8 team in the nation in their season ending polls. The 2021 season raised the standard of excellence for what can be accomplished at West Virginia.
Santa Clara – The Broncos finished the 2021 season with a 12-2-4 overall record and 5-0-2 mark in West Coast Conference play. It was the first season since 2007 that Santa Clara was undefeated in conference play. The Broncos won the WCC title for the 13th time and the first time since the 2015 season. They concluded regular season play with the program’s highest winning percentage since 2007 and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Santa Clara’s only loss during regular season play was a 1-0 setback to Georgetown back on September 6.
They defeated Akron 1-0 in overtime on the road in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before their season came to an end in the second round when they were topped by Kentucky 2-0 in Lexington. It was an impressive season for a senior led Santa Clara team that had a small margin for error but did a great job of coming up with the big play they needed in clutch situations throughout the 2021 campaign.
Duke – What a difference a year can make. Duke had a banner 2021 season during which everything came together for a young and very motivated Blue Devil squad. Duke went from a 4 win season in 2020 during which they scored a total of 19 goals while allowing 26 to a 14 win season in 2021 during which they scored a total of 42 goals and allowed 23.
A determined Duke team that was picked to finish in the number five spot in the 2021 ACC preseason poll finished regular season conference play with a 5-2-1 record to become the ACC Coastal Division Co-Champions along with Pittsburgh. A Blue Devil team that was unranked in preseason national polls completed the 2021 season ranked as the number 12 team in the country in both the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News season ending polls.
Duke’s 14 wins were the most victories in a single season since 2009. Duke also advanced to the ACC Tournament final for the first time since 2006.
The Blue Devils were awarded the number seven seed in the NCAA Tournament and returned to the tournament field after being absent in 2019 and 2020. They defeated UCLA, a team that also returned to the tournament field for the first time since 2018, 2-1 before their season came to an end in the Sweet Sixteen where they were defeated 4-3 by Saint Louis.
Sophomore Thor Ulfarsson (15g, 1a) was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, sophomore Peter Stroud was named the ACC Midfielder of the Year, and freshman midfielder Shakur Mohammed was honored as the ACC Freshman of the Year.
Villanova – This Villanova team greatly exceeded expectations. The Wildcats finished in the number five spot in the Big East after being picked to finish 11th in the Coaches Preseason Big East Poll. They became one of five Big East teams to earn a berth in the 2021 NCAA Tournament field securing the programs second invite to the NCAA Tournament with the first coming back in 2016. They then defeated Vermont to earn the program’s first ever win in the NCAA Tournament.
Villanova finished the 2021 season with a 12-8-1 overall record which tied the programs single season record for wins set by the 2012 and 1980 teams. The resilience and determination of the 2021 team created a culture that gave this team the edge they need to secure a program record seven wins on the road including their NCAA Tournament victory over Vermont.
Northern Illinois – The Huskies improved from a 5-8-1 season in 2020 to a 15-3-2 season in 2021 during which they won both the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament titles. The 15 wins equaled the school record for victories in a single season set by the 2006 and 2011 teams.
NIU punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time and first time since the 2011 season. They then topped a game Oakland University team 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before a truly outstanding season came to a close when they were defeated by number five seeded Pittsburgh in the second round.
A multi-dimensional Huskey attack that produced a total of 49 goal was led by College Soccer News Third Team All-American and MAC Player of the Year Nick Markanich (16g, 5a), Pepe Martinez (8g, 3a) and Anthony Markanich (5g, 9a) while a very solid NIU defense held opponents to a total of 20 goals. NIU head coach Ryan Swan stated, “It has been a fantastic season. I’m proud of our guys and everything they have accomplished.”
The Huskies completed a season in which they were ranked as the number 20 team in the country in the College Soccer News season ending poll and the number 21 team in the nation in the season ending poll issued by the United Soccer Coaches.