An Early Look At The 2017 Front Runners

The 2017 season is months away but it is never too early to begin thinking about the teams that look to be top contenders. Recruiting classes are still taking shape across the country and its possible that transfers could occur that might change the landscape. But for now the ten teams listed below, which are for the most part the usual suspects, look to either be among the frontrunners or at the very least well positioned to build on the success they enjoyed in 2016.

Stanford - Climbing a hill presents one set of challenges.  Remaining on top of it presents a different set of challenges. A three-peat in 2017 is a tall task to accomplish but it is not out of the question. The Cardinal are slated to return a solid core of players including ten starters from the 2016 team that won the National Championship for the second consecutive season.

Foster Langsdorf (15g, 2a) and Corey Baird (4g, 6a) who are three year starters return to power the Stanford attack up-top. They work together as well as any forward combination in the country. Back Tomas Hillard-Arce (4g, 2a) and goalkeeper Andrew Epstein who also bring three years of starting experience to the table return to anchor what should be a very solid Cardinal defense. Drew Skundrich (4g, 3a) is among a solid group of very capable returning midfielders.

Last year the Cardinal played well in the early going but they lacked the edge and perhaps focus they needed to prevail against several top level opponents. The fact that they had key gaps to plug due to departures contributed to the fact that they didn't seem to fully gel as a team until a few weeks into the season. That should not be a problem in 2017.  However, the X-Factor in 2017 may be the degree to which Stanford remains hungry for continued success because that will have a big impact on whether or not they have the edge, focus and toughness needed to win another Pac-12 Title and contend for the national championship.  

It is an understatement to say that the Cardinal will have a huge target on their chests anytime they take the field in 2017. They will have to bring their A game or something close to it anytime they take the field.  Stanford seemed to learn that the hard way last year when they were upset by San Francisco.  The good thing though is that they did learn from it and that loss proved to be a turning point in their season.  While having a target on your back is a nice problem to have, it underscores the need for Stanford to have a mindset of continued improvement, focus, and big play ability on both sides of the ball in 2017. 

The bottom line is that Jeremy Gunn will enter his sixth season as the Stanford head coach with a team that looks to be as talented and experienced as any in the country. The Cardinal will remain the team to beat until someone else proves otherwise.

Maryland - The Terps will enter the 2017 season without one of the best 2016 senior classes in the country that included Cody Niedermeier, the Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, Alex Crongnale who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as well as backs Chris Odoi-Atsem and Suli Dainkeh.  Accordingly, Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski has some vacancies to fill on the defensive side of the ball.  However, that task is made last daunting since Maryland always has a talented pool of players on board that are eager and ready to assume a greater role. The Terps will therefore be reloading and not  rebuilding in 2017. 

The situation is very different on the offensive side of the ball where a solid contingent of proven goal scorers are slated to return including All-American forward Gordon Wild (17g, 5a), forwards Sebastian Elney (3g, 4a) and D.J. Reeves (3g, 6a) and midfielders Amar Sejdic (9g, 9a), Jake Rozhansky (3g, 8a), and Eryk Williamson (3g, 5a).

The Terps were head and shoulders above everyone else at the conclusion of regular season and conference tournament play in 2016. They were unbeaten for the first time since 1968 with a 18-0-2 season after winning the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. They were ranked the number one team in the country by everyone and were awarded the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

However, success breeds high expectations and success is something that Maryland has had plenty of under Cirovski. Ultimately seasons at Maryland are judged by how far the Terps advance in the NCAA Tournament. As a result when the Terps were upset by Providence 5-4 at Ludwig Field in the NCAA Tournament it took some of the glitter away from what was otherwise an outstanding season. The fact that Providence came from behind to win after Maryland was ahead 4 to 1 in the second half put the outcome of the contest in the surreal category. 

No matter how you spin it, the 2016 campaign was a "what it might have been" type season for Maryland. While Cirovski and the Terp players will likely be eager to put the way their season ended in the NCAA Tournament in the rear view mirror and move forward, it will no doubt sting for a while and leave a bitter taste in their mouths. That in turn will create focus and make Maryland a very motivated and determined team in 2017.  It may take a few contests for the Terps to gel as a team in 2017 but when they do they should be very good.

North Carolina - Seven starters are slated to return from the 2016 team that was 14-3-4 overall and advanced to the College Cup where the Tar Heels were edged 10-9 in penalty kicks by Stanford in a contest that easily could have gone the other way. In addition a very talented group of very capable players return who look to be ready as well as eager to earn a starting role.  This group includes members of the 2016 recruiting class that was ranked by College Soccer News as well as others as the best incoming class in the nation.

Veterans Zach Wright (5g, 7a) and Alan Winn (3g, 4a) along with Nils Bruening (8g, 1a) who was a starter last year return to give the Tar Heels another potent offense. A very talented group of midfielders will also be on hand including highly regarded sophomores Cam Lindley (0g, 7a) and Maurico Pineda (4g, 1a) who now have the added advantage of a year in Chapel Hill under their belts.

The defense which was among the best in the country last year, as reflected in the fact that they only allowed a total of ten goals, will have job openings that must be filled due to the graduation of backs Colton Storm and Tucker Hume. However Carlos Somoano has a solid foundation upon which to build on with back Alex Comsia and goalkeeper James Pyle among those slated to return.

Somoano, who is the active leader in winning percentage among Division Division I head coaches, will enter his seventh season at the helm of a program that has been a top ten ranked team eight of the last nine years.  The competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference will again be fierce but all signs point to another top ranking and a lot of wins once again in Chapel Hill in 2017.

Denver - Past success is no guarantee of future success.  However, it is a solid predictor particularly when it involves momentum which Denver certainly has plenty of after recording a total of thirty-nine wins over the past two seasons including an historic 2016 campaign in with the Pioneers were 20-1-3 overall and advanced to the College Cup for the first time in the history of the program.

Jamie Franks has some gaps to plug on the defensive side of the ball due to the graduation of All-American back Reagan Dunk (0g, 5a) and the decision of center back Kortne Ford (5gm 2a) to leave early and forgo his senior season to enter the professional ranks. The Pioneers also will be without midfielders Sam Hamilton (0g, 9a), Karsten Hanlin (5g, 8a) and Chandler Crosswait (1g, 5a) due to graduation.

On the plus side of the ledger Andre Shinyashiki (9g, 5a) and Blake Elder (7g, 2a) return up top to spearhead the attack along with midfielder Alex Underwood (3g, 5a).  Defensive midfielder Graham Smith (3g, 3a), back A.J. Fuller (1g, 0a) and netminder Nick Gardner, the 2016 Summit League Goalkeeper of the Year, are among those who will anchor the defense. 

Denver may not enter the 2017 campaign with as strong a team from top to bottom as they have had  the past two seasons. However this is a program with a winning culture and a mindset of individual and team accountability which are key intangibles.  Despite the gaps to be plugged, the Pioneers have sufficient talent, depth, and momentum to remain on the short list of top contenders in 2017. 

Virginia - A relatively young Virginia team had a successful but not vintage season last year during which they were 11-4-5 overall with a 3-2-3 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play.  The Cavaliers were awarded the number twelve seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced past Vermont before their season came to an end in the Sweet Sixteen when they lost 1-0 on the road to eventual national champion Stanford. 

George Gelnovatch will enter the 2017 season with almost everyone back from the 2016 team including nine players that were regularly in starting roles and others who had a lot of minutes. With the exception of an inexplicable and embarrassing 6-1 thumping from Louisville in late September, Virginia played everyone close. That contest actually proved to be a wakeup call and gut-check of sorts for the Cavaliers who then rolled out a ten game unbeaten streak that included wins over  North Carolina and Notre Dame before losing to Louisville again 1-0 in the ACC Tournament.

Midfielders Pablo Aquilar (7g, 2a) and Jean-Christophe Kofi (1g, 2a) and forward Edward Opoku (6g, 2a) are among returning players who should add to the Cavalier offense in 2017.  Goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell,  right back Bay Kurtz, left back Robin Afamefuna, and center back Sergi Nus are among a very solid core of returning defenders who should hit the ground running.

Last year Virginia tallied a total of twenty-nine goals to average 1.5 goals per game. Gelnovatch has indicated that adding additional pop on the offensive side of the ball is among his priorities heading into the 2017 season. It appears that he will be adding several new faces who should be able to contribute in that area. If Virginia can up their productivity on the offensive side of the ball and eliminate the lapses in play that hurt them at times on the defensive side of the ball last year they should be very competitive in 2017.  At Virginia there is never a question in regard to the level of soccer talent. The best Cavalier teams in the past have been the ones that have combined their talent with mental toughness.

A young Virginia team showed a lot of grit as the season progressed last year which is an indication that with a year of experience under their belts they could be very good in 2017.  If everything falls into place, look for the Cavaliers to win the close contests in 2017 that eluded them in 2016. 

Wake Forest - You don't win thirty-six contests and go 11-1-4 in the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference over a two year span as the Demon Deacons have without having a lot of things going for you.  

Wake Forest will enter the 2017 season with seven starters back in addition to sophomore goalkeeper Andreu Cases Mundet who played in eight contests last year including several crucial games down the home stretch when he was called upon by Bobby Muuss to replace veteran All-American netminder Alex Ferrell who had to sit out several contests due to a knee injury.

The Demon Deacons will discover what life is like in 2017 without All-American midfielders Ian Harkes (5g, 4a) and Jacori Hayes (8g, 3a).  Harkes and Hayes were impact players during their four year stay in Winston-Salem and will not be easily replaced.

Senior forward Jon Bakero (7g, 4a) and sophomore midfielder Ema Twumasi (6g, 4a) are very capable goal scores who will be among those counted upon to help fill the void their departure creates on the offensive side of the ball.  

The Deacons should once again be very strong on the defensive side of the ball with senior back Kevin Politz along with juniors Lou Gdula (0g, 2a) and Sam Raben who were starters last year slated to return. Cases Mundet gained valuable playing time last year that should enable him to hit the ground running in goal.

Wake Forest may need a few contests to fully gel as a team due to the departures but once that has occurred it is highly likely that Muuss will once again field another highly ranked and very competitive team.

Clemson - The Tigers will welcome back eight starters from the 2016 team that was 14-4-5 overall, earned the number three seed in the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the Elite Eight. 

Forward Diego Compos (6, 4a) returns to power the attack.  A balanced and experienced midfield that includes Oliver Shannon (1g, 6a), Michael Melvin (0g, 2a), Grayson Raynor (2g, 3a), Saul Chinchilla and Malick Mbaye (2g, 1a) who had a banner season last year as a freshman will be strong and quick.  

Ximo Miralles who had a 0.72 goals against average last year returns to anchor the defense along with very capable backs junior Patrick Bunk-Andersen and sophomore Tanner Dieterich who now has the benefit of a year of starting experience. In addition, Mike Noonan has also added another very good recruiting class.

You can count on Noonan once again fielding an extremely competitive team in 2017 for which the sky in the limit.

FGCU - Bob Butehorn, who served as the head coach at FGCU for ten seasons, has departed to take the head coaching job at former in-state rival South Florida. However, Butehorn left new Eagle head coach Jesse Cormier, who previously served as the head coach at Vermont for thirteen seasons, with a cupboard that is fully stocked with talented and experienced players. 

Last year FGCU won a school record fourteen contests, won their fourth ASUN Championship title in the past six years, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles had a prolific and explosive attack in 2016 that produced a total of sixty-two goals. With almost everyone back, FGCU appears well positioned to build on the success they enjoyed in 2016.

Senior Albert Ruiz (22g, 5a), one of the three finalist for the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy, is among the most effective and explosive finishers in the country. Ruiz will be joined up-top in 2017 by redshirt junior Arion Sobers-Assue (11g, 11a) who is also capable of scoring in multiples. Sophomore forward Shak Adams (4g, 0a) who saw action in every contest in 2016 as a freshman also adds yet another dimension to the Eagle attack.

The midfield looks to be talented and experienced with seniors Kamar Marriott (1g, 2a), Jiro Barriga Toyama (2g, 3a), and Robert Ferrer (3g, 4a) along with graduate student Dylan Sacramento (4g, 3a) returning. Sophomore Migel Perez (2g, 3a) who gained valuable experience last year also figures to be in the mix in the midfield.

The defense should be improved in 2017 with sophomore Jared Brown returning in goal with the advantage of a year of playing time under his belt along with senior backs Nicolas Samayoa, Eli Roubos, Caleb George, and junior Preston Kilwien.

FGCU has dominated the ASUN Conference and Butehorn did a great job of getting the program on the college soccer map from a national perspective. However, the Eagles have yet to put together a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Cormier looks to have the ingredients on board to have a good shot at accomplishing that in his first season at the helm of the program in 2017.

Louisville - The Cardinals, like just about everyone else, have some holes to plug heading into the 2017 season due to graduation.  Perhaps the most crucial one is the gap that exists between the pipes due to the departure of graduate student Stefan Cleveland who played for three seasons at Dartmouth before a one year tenure at Louisville in 2016.

The good news, and there is plenty of it, is that forward Mohamed Thiaw who was the main man in the Louisville attack last year returns for his senior season. Thiaw, who joined Louisville last year after two banner seasons at Cincinnati State Technical Community College, hit the ground running.  Thiaw made a huge impact finding the back of the net twelve times in 2016 including seven, yes seven, game-winning goals.  

Tate Schmitt (5g, 2a), Jack Gayton (3g, 0a) and Chenf Dieye (5g, 0a) are among returning players who provide Ken Lolla a solid core of midfielders around which to build. Ditto that for a backline that will feature All-American Tim Kubel (3g, 11a), Danny Reynolds and Joey Kunkel (0g, 1a). 

Lolla will likely again bring on board a recruiting class that will include several players, like Cleveland and Thiaw  last year, who will contribute immediately.

Louisville finished the 2016 campaign with a 14-6-2 overall record. They were awarded the number four seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the past seven years. The Cardinals belong in any discussion of potential top contenders heading into the 2017 season.

Butler - The Bulldogs may not contend for a national title in 2017 but they look to have the personnel and the momentum to have another very successful season.  

Nine starters are slated to return from the 2016 team that was 13-5-2 overall, won the Big East Tournament, returned to the NCAA Tournament field, and was awarded the number fifteen seed. As a result Paul Snape looks to have the talent and the experience on board needed to build on the success they enjoyed in 2016. 

Sophomores Lewis Suddick (11g, 4a) and Issac Galliford (4g, 6a) and juniors Jared Timmer (2g, 9a), Marco Charalambous (3g, 3a) and Eric Leonard (2g, 2a) are among those who will provide offensive punch for the Bulldogs. The defense should be very solid with redshirt senior goalkeeper Eric Dick and backs Joe Moulden, Alex Lehtinen, and Kieran Geldenhuys all slated to return.

The unanswered question, and it is a big one, is who will fill the void on the offensive side of the ball due to the graduation of All-American forward David Goldsmith (12g, 4a).  Solve that and opponents will find Butler to be a very difficult team to have on their dance card.


2016 Was A Season To Remember For These Programs - College Soccer

College Soccer News annually acknowledges those programs that had special seasons. The 2016 season was a shinning season for the schools identified. They may have greatly exceeded expectations, had more wins that ever before, accomplished something that will likely be a springboard for future seasons, or put together an impropable run. Regardless of the reason, it was a season that will be remembered, that will always be a source of pride and accomplishment for those involved, and that will have a positive impact on the program for years to come. 

Stanford - No team had a better season than Standord. It does not happen often but the Cardinal defied the odds with back-to-back national championships. As a result Stanford belongs on the top of the list.

The Cardinal entered the 2016 season with high expectations tempered with the fact that they had several key gaps to plug from the 2015 National Championship team. After a slow start to the season in which they they were 0-1-3, everything began to come together for a Stanford side that gelled as a unified team and steadily improved under the guidance of head coach Jeremy Gunn.

The Cardinal proceeded to secure their third consecutive Pac-12 title with an 8-1-1 mark in conference play and their second consecutive National Championship by advancing past Pacific, Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina and Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament during which time a tenacious defense did not allow an opponent to score a single goal.  

Junior goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, junior forward Foster Langsdorf and junior defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce were All-America selections for a team that displayed a ton of talent, grit, and heart throughout the entire season. 

Wake Forest -  Another stellar season. The Demon Deacons recorded another banner season under second year head coach Bobby Muuss during which they advanced past Notre Dame, Louisville, and Clemson to win the extremely competitive Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

They were subsequently awarded the number two seek in the NCAA Tournament and played their way into the national championship match by defeating Coastal Carolina, SIUE, Virginia Tech and Denver. In the national final Wake Forest and Stanford were evenly matched but when it was all said and done Stanford prevailed 5-4 in penalty kicks after the contest was scoreless at the end of regulation and two ten-minute overtime periods.  

Wake Forest finished the season with a 19-3-3 overall record.  The support, loyalty and not to mention success that this program has enjoyed over the years was reflected in the large number of former Demon Deacon players who were present at the College Cup in Houston to support Wake Forest.   

Senior midfielder Ian Harkes was named the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy winner.  Harkes, along with senior midfielder Jacori Hayes and redshirt senior goalkeeper Alec Ferrell were consensus All-America selections. Midfielder Ema Twumasi who also had a banner season was named to the College Soccer News All-Freshman team.  

It was a great season for a team that came within a penalty kick of winning the 2016 National Championship.

University of Denver - The bar of excellene was forever raised at Denver in 2016. In 2015 the Pioneers entered the NCAA Tournament with a 15-0-3 overall record and a number thirteen seed.  However their season came to an abrupt and unexpected end when they where topped by SMU at home in their opening contest in the NCAA Tourney to take a little shine off what had otherwise been a banner season.

No doubt the memory of that loss helped keep the Pioneers focused in 2016 as a very determined and talented team took the program to a new level as they claimed their fourth straight Summit League title and entered the NCAA Tournament with a 17-0-3 overall record along with a number six seed. The Pioneers under the direction of second year head coach Jamie Franks then topped UNLV, Washington, and number three seed Clemson on the road to advance to their first ever College Cup where a record breaking season came to an end when they were topped by Wake Forest 2-1 in overtime in the national semifinals to finish the season with a 20-1-3 overall record. 

The Denver coaching staff consisting of Franks, Ryan Hopkins, Levi Rossi, Zander Deitz, Mac Hemmi, Dan Jackson, Matt Shaw and Michael Eckert were named the NSCAA National Coaching Staff of the Year. Redshirt senior defender Reagan Dunk was a consensus All-American selection. 

Virginia Tech - The Hokies greatly exceeded expectations in 2016 with a breakthrough season. After four wins in 2013, seven in 2014 and five in 2015, everything fell into place for Virginia Tech under the direction of head coach Mike Brizendine in 2016 when they rolled to a 13-5-4 overall record and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2007 season. 

The Hokies had key regular season wins over Ohio State, South Florida, Georgetown, and Delaware among others and a tie with Charlotte to go undefeated during regular season play when facing non-conference opponents. . 

The Hokies then put an exclamation mark on a very special season with wins in the NCAA Tournament over East Tennessee State at home followed by upset victories over number ten seed Charlotte and number seven seed Indiana on the road to advance to the Elite Eight where they were topped by Wake Forest.

Virginia Tech newcomer junior forward Marcelo Acuna (11g, 3a) was an impact player who added an additional dimension to the Hokie attack. Acuna was recognized as an All-South Region First Team selection and named an NSCAA Third Team All-American, 

Albany - The Great Danes 2016 season can be summed up in one word - Historic. The 2016 campaign was a year of firsts for the Great Danes.

Albany gave notice that they were for real with an eye opening signature regular season win over top ten ranked Syracuse. They won a program high thirteen games, secured the program's first ever America East Championship by advancing past Vermont and Hartford in the League Tournament to claim the program's first ever berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The Great Danes were subsequently awarded the number fourteen seed in the NCAA Tournament and topped Boston College 3-0 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen where a truly special season came to an end when they were topped on the road 3-1 by number three seed Clemson.  

Albany, which flew under the radar on the national scene for most of the year, concluded the 2016 campaign ranked as the number seventeen team in the nation in the final NSCAA poll and as the number eighteen season in the final College Soccer News poll.

Look for the Great Danes under the direction of head coach Trevor Gorman to utilize the 2016 season as a springboard for even greater accomplishments in the seasons to come.

Portland - 2016 was a season that Portland will build on.  A good case can be made that no first year head coach in the country had a more immediate positive impact in 2016 than Portland's Nick Carlin-Voight. 

The Pilots won a total of just one contest in West Coast Conference play in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 they improved to 6-1-0 in conference play and claimed the WCC title for the first time since the 2002 campaign.  As a result they returned to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since the 2009 season.

Portland's 12-5-2 overall record included seven consecutive regular season wins which was the program's longest winning streak since back in 1995. 

The success the program enjoyed in 2016 resulted in a renewed level of excitement and support for the program as reflected in the crowd of 4,362 partisan fans that were present at Merlo Field to witness the Pilots final regular season contest.

Forward Eddie Sanchez (6g, 7a) was named the WCC Player of the Year and was a College Soccer News Third Team All-American. Forward Benji Michel (10g, 4a) was honored as the WCC Freshman of the Year and was a College Soccer News All-Freshman Team selection. 

UMass Lowell - Wow! The 2016 campaign was aptly described as "Season for the Ages" at UMass Lowell based on the success the program enjoyed even despite the fact that the River Hawks were ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA reclassifying rules.

After an 8-9-1 overall record in 2015 that included a 2-4-1 mark in America East Conference play, UMass Lowell had a breakout season in 2016 that warrants a prominent spot on the short list of teams with a turnaround season. The River Hawks were 13-1-2 overall in 2016 with a 5-1-1 record in league play to secure the America East regular season title for the first time in the history of the program. 

Senior Wuilito Fernandez (11g, 5a) and redshirt freshman Ivan Abramovic (9g, 8a) were part of a UMass attack that netted a total of twenty-nine goals while senior back Eric Martin and junior netminder Austin Kroll anchored a rock solid defensive that held opponents to a total of only twelve goals. Fernandez was named an All-American by both the NSCAA and College Soccer News. Abramovic was named to the CSN All-Freshman team.  Head coach Christian Figueroa and his staff of Bob Thompson, Frankie D'Agostino, Abel Wassua and Keady Segel were named the NSCAA East Region Coaching Staff of the Year.

After the final contest of the year Figueroa accurately summed up the 2016 campaign and the momentum it has created when he stated, "It's exciting, it's an exciting time for this program right now."  

Pacific - Hold that Tiger! They called the 2016 season as "A Season for the Books" and indeed it was. After recording a 1-15-1 overall record in 2015, the Tigers roared out to a 13-4-2 record in 2016 that included signature wins over San Diego State and Portland, they finished second in the West Coast Conference, they secured the program's first ever berth in the NCAA Tournament, and they advanced past CSUN in the first round before losing to eventual national champion Stanford in the second round of play.

It warrants pointing out that the 11.5 win-loss improvement at Pacific between the 2015 and 2016 seasons is tied for the best improvement in NCAA history. .

The 2016 season was just the third season since the men's soccer program at Pacific was reinstated. Pacific head coach Ryan Jordan summed up what his team accomplished in 2016 and what it bodes for the future when he stated, "They have done everything we have asked. It's been encouraging as we look at the development." Jordan added, "I'm really looking forward to the direction we can continue to go over the course of the next few years." 

Junior forward Tristan Blackmon (4g, 5a) and senior midfielder Julio Cervantes (9g, 3a) were NSCAA All-Far West Region First Team selections. Jordan and his staff of Jordan Ferrell, Matt Gow, and Avneet Shergill were honored as the NSCAA Far West Region Coaching Staff of the Year.

Loyola Chicago - The 2016 season was a record setting and difference making season at Loyola Chicago. The Ramblers took a giant step forward in 2016 making their presence known on the national scene and in the Missouri Valley Conference with a single-season school record fourteen wins that bodes well for the continued success of the program in the future. 

Loyola Chicago won the regular season MVC title with a 6-1-1 mark in league play, they were a perfect 9-0-0 at games played at Loyola Soccer Park, they earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, and topped UIC 2-0 to secure the program's first NCAA Tournament victory.  

The Ramblers concluded the season ranked as the number twenty-one team in the country in both the NSCAA and College Soccer News season ending polls.

Redshirt junior Andrew Chekadanov, junior forward Elliot Collier and redshirt sophomore Grant Stoneman were NSCAA All-West Region First Team selectins.

Neil Jones will enter his fifth season at the helm of a program in 2017 with a very solid foundation in place and with a team that looks to have the talent, depth, drive, and big play ability to build on the success they enjoyed in 2016.

FGCU - The Eagles soared in 2016. FGCU was 14-4-3 overall with a 4-1-1 mark in Atlantic Sun Conference play in 2016 establishing a new program record for wins in a single season that featured an impressive ten game winning streak. The Eagles claimed their fourth ASUN championship in the past six seasons and their fourth berth in the NCAA Tournament. FGCU then topped in-state rival South Florida in the NCAA Tourney in a match that was decided by a penalty kick shootout to advance to the second round for the first time.  

Albert Ruiz (22g, 5a) and Arion Sobers-Assue (11g, 11a) led a multi-dimensional, high powered, and extremely explosive FGCU offense in 2016 that scored a total of fifty-five goals. 

Ruiz was named an All-American by the NSCAA and College Soccer News and was one of the three finalists for the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy. 

For their accomplishments, head coach Bob Butehorn and his staff of Joe Dincecco, Henry Apaloo, and Eduardo Villarreal were named the NSCAA Southeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year.  The Eagles were ranked twentieth in the final NSCAA poll and as the number twenty-two team in the country in the final College Soccer News poll. 

At the conclusion of the season, Butehorn resigned from the head coaching job at FGCU after ten highly successful seasons to accept the head coaching job at South Florida which became vacant when George Kiefer resigned to become the head coach at North Carolina State.

Butehorn put in place an excellent and very solid foundation of success during his tenure in Ft. Myers. As a result you can expect FGCU to continue to be a force in the future in both the ASUN and on the national scene. 

North Carolina - Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina! The Tar Heels have had a lot to clebrate over the years. The 2016 season was no exception. North Carolina has earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament seventeen times in the last eighteen seasons, advanced to the Elite Eight seven times out of the last nine years, finished with a top ten ranking in eight of the last nine seasons, advanced to the College Cup on multiple occasions, and were the national champions in 2001 and 2009.  

UNC had another stellar and notable season in 2016 with a 14-3-4 overall record and a 5-1-2 mark in ACC play to lead the highly competitive Coastal Division. They were awarded the number nine seed in the NCAA Tournament and subsequently topped FGCU, Syracuse and Providence to advance to the College Cup where they played eventual national champion Stanford to a scoreless tie before being topped ten to nine in a penalty kick shootout.

North Carolina was solid on both sides of the ball in 2016. The Tar Heel offense produced a total of thirty eight goals while the defense anchored by Colton Storm who was selected in the first round of the MLS draft, Walker Hume who was selected in the second round, sophomore Alex Comsia, and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper James Pyle limited opponents to a total of only ten goals.  

UNC under the direction of head coach Carlos Somoano, who is the active leader in winning percentage among Division I head coaches, ended the 2016 season ranked as the number four team in the country in both the NSCAA and College Soccer News. 

Butler - Who let the dogs out!  The Bulldogs took their game to a higher level in 2016 sprinting right out of the gate to a 7-0-1 record before losing a heartbreaker in overtime in the 97th minute of play to Indiana on the road in Bloomington. Butler had an outstanding season during which they were 13-5-2 overall, won the Big East Tournament by topping Villanova and Creighton, earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010, and secured the number fifteen seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Butler's season came to an earlier end that expected when they were topped 5 to 4 in a penalty kick shootout by SIUE in the NCAA Tournament after the contest was scoreless at the end of regulation and overtime.  Regardless, the Bulldogs had a special season in 2016 during which they took a major step forward while making a statement in the Big East Conference as well as on the national scene.

Senior David Goldsmith (12g, 4a), who completed his tenure at Butler with forty-one career goals, had another impact season in 2016. Goldsmith was named to both the NSCAA and College Soccer News All-America Teams. Midfielder Lewis Suddick (11g, 4a), who was named to the College Soccer News All-Freshman Team, was among the new additions who was a difference maker and added additional big play ability to the Bulldog offense.

For their accomplishments, Bulldog head coach Paul Snape who was in his sixth year at the helm of the program and assistant coaches Adam Bruh, Jason Perry, and Fabian Knopfler were named the NSCAA Great Lakes Region Coaching Staff of the Year. 

Providence - What a season! The Friars won their first ever regular season Big East title with a 7-2-0 mark in conference play. They faced adversity early on due to injuries but gained momentum in October putting together an eight game winning streak.

Providence was awarded an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament making their third appearance in the five seasons to date that Craig Stewart has been at the helm of the program. They then topped Delaware in the first round, pulled off the upset of the year when they scored four second have goals to overcome a 4-1 deficit to defeat number one seed Maryland 5-4 in the second round, and advanced past Big East foe Creighton to secure a spot in the Elite Eight where they were topped 1-0 by North Carolina in overtime.

Providence completed a very productive 2016 season with a 15-7-0 overall record. The Friars were ranked as the number nine team in the nation in the final College Soccer News poll and the number ten team in the country in the season ending NSCAA poll. 

Senior midfielder Julian Gressel was named the Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Year. He was a Hermann Trophy Semifinalist, an NSCAA and College Soccer News All-America Team selection, and was the number eight selection in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft becoming the highest Providence player to date ever selected in the draft. 

St. Francis Brooklyn - Unified might be the best way to decribe the Terriers in 2016. St. Francis Brooklyn was 12-4-3 overall with a 6-0-1 in Northeast Conference play. The Terriers didn't allow a conference opponent to net a single goal in route to winning their first outright NEC regular season title since 1997. St. Francis then defeated Sacred Heart and Saint Francis University to earn their third NEC Tournament Championship in the past four seasons and to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the tenth time.

A very impressive season then came to an end when the Terriers were topped 1-0 in overtime by Dartmouth in the NCAA Tourney. Head coach Tom Giovatto accurately described the heart and culture of his 2016 team when he stated, "It's just about hard work and staying together; this is a really tight group."

Junior defender Collyns Laokandi was named the NEC Defensive Player of the Year and to the All-Northeast Region First Team. Senior forward Yussuf Olajiide who netted six goals including five game-winners and junior defender Dominick Falanga who had a team high six assists were All-Northeast Region Second Team selections. 

Colgate - The 2016 Colgate team left a legacy upon which to build. The Raiders won their sixth Patriot League Championship in 2016 with a gutsy performance in the Patriot League tournament in which they advanced past Army, Loyola, and top-seeded American to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament field for the sixth time. Colgate's season and their goal of winning a contest in the NCAA Tournament came to an end when they traveled to Los Angeles and were topped 4-2 by the UCLA Bruins in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to conclude the season with a 13-7-2 overall record.   

The thirteen wins in 2016 tied the Raider's single season win record that was set in 1994. Colgate's ten victories in 2015 and thirteen victories in 2016 resulted in the first back-to-back ten win seasons since 1991-1992.  The Raiders,led by a very determined senior class, displayed a solid work ethic, grit, and devotion to team throughout the season that made this a unique group whose imprint upon the program will no doubt set the pace and pay dividends for seasons to come.  

At the conclusion of the season, Raider head coach Erik Ronning stated, "I am really proud of this group. They're a special group of young men who represent Colgate, their families, myself and this program in the brightest of lights. They were fantastic for the entire year." Ronning then added, "This is one of the best teams, if not the best team, that I've had the privilege to coach."  

Senior forward Ethan Kutler, who found the back of the net a total of thirty-three times during his tenure at Colgate, was named to the NSCAA All-Northeast Region First Team, senior defender Zach Tamen who was the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year was an NSCAA All-Northeast Second Team and junior midfielder Jared Stroud was named to the Third Team. 

PODCAST: George Kiefer (NC State)

New NC State head coach George Kiefer joins the show this week to talk about moving into the ACC after spending over a decade building the program at South Florida.


This week's guest is new NC State head coach George Kiefer. Kiefer talks about what lured him out of South Florida, including the savvy recruiting tactics that the Wolfpack used. He also discusses some of the similarities between the NC State job and his previous stops at USF and UConn, and the goals for the program both in the short and long term.

Get these interviews “on the go” by subscribing to the podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, or listen on TuneIn Radio, or to download the audio portion of this interview only, click here.

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