The 2018 season was a shining season for the programs identified. They may have greatly exceeded expectations, had more wins that ever before, accomplished something that will serve as 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.
Maryland – The 2018 accolades have to begin with the Terps who rebounded from a 4-5-3 start to go 9-1-1 down the homestretch in an amazing run that concluded with the National Championship. Maryland's NCAA Tournament run included wins over NC State, Duke, Kentucky, Indiana and Akron during which time they found the back of the net eight times and didn't allow a single goal. The National Title was Maryland's third under the direction of head coach Sasho Cirovski. It was a total team effort for a unified group that was unstoppable once all the pieces fell into place. Junior center back Donovan Pines was named an All-American by United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News. Senior midfielder Amar Sejdic joined Pines as First-Team All-Big Ten selection. Midfielder William James Herve was a College Soccer News First-Team All-Freshman Team selection.
Akron – Unbroken. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season for Akron. The Zips could have settled for an average season after concluding regular season play with a 7-6-2 overall record and a disappointing 1-2-1 mark in MAC play. Instead they rallied and topped SIUE, West Virginia, and Western Michigan to win the MAC Tournament and the program's twelfth consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament. Unseeded Akron then faced what appeared to be an impossible path to the College Cup. But they defied the odds by defeating Rider 3-1 at home and Syracuse 3-1, Wake Forest 1-0 , and Stanford 3-2 on the road to punch their ticket to the College Cup for the second consecutive year. Akron then topped Michigan State 5-1 before being edged by Maryland 1-0 in the national championship match. It was a season to remember for an Akron team that showed a ton of grit and talent by rebounding to win nine out of their last ten contests.
Michigan State – A senior led Spartan team advanced to the College Cup with a brilliant run in the NCAA Tournament that included wins over UIC at home, number four seed Louisville and number thirteen seed Georgetown on the road, and James Madison at home. It was the first time since the 1967 and 1968 seasons that Michigan State advanced to the College Cup. The Spartans' season had ended in the Elite Eight three times in the prior five seasons but that was not to be the case in 2018. Michigan State concluded a banner year with a 14-5-4 record which tied the program record for wins in a single season. The excitement in the program that this team generated will pay dividends for years to come.
Kentucky – The 2018 team forever raised the standard of excellence at Kentucky. The Wildcats concluded the season with a 19-2-1 overall record and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in the history of the program. Kentucky had signature wins during regular season play over Louisville, Indiana, and Old Dominion. They won the CUSA regular season and tournament titles and were ranked as the number one team in the country in the College Soccer News regular season ending poll. Kentucky was awarded the number three seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced past Portland 4-0 and Lipscomb 2-1 before their season came to an end in the Elite Eight when they were topped by eventual national champion Maryland 1-0. It was an outstanding and history making season which will serve as a building block for even greater seasons in the future. The Wildcats were ranked as the number five team in the country in both the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News Final 2018 Season Ending Polls.
Saint Mary's – The Gaels deserve to be at the top of the short list of teams with historic 2018 seasons. No team in the country exceeded preseason expectations or raised the bar of excellence for a program more in 2018 than Saint Mary's. The Gaels have had successful seasons in the past including a run to the Elite Eight in 2011 but in 2018 Saint Mary's had their best season in program history with an 18-0-2 record, surpassing the previous win total for a single campaign by six wins. Saint Mary's found the back of the net a total of fifty times while allowing a total of only eight goals. They won the 2018 West Coast Conference title, returned to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2011, and were awarded the number eight seed. The Gaels topped Oregon State 1-0 before being edged by Stanford in the Sweet Sixteen in a contest that was decided by a penalty kick shootout after in was scoreless after 110 minutes of play. Forward Jake Rudel and goalkeeper Remi Prieur were United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News All-America selections. Saint Mary's was ranked as the number eight team in the country in the College Soccer News final season ending poll and the number nine team in the nation in the United Soccer Coaches Poll. Gael head coach Adam Cooper and his assistants Josh Duffy and Charlie Campbell were honored by the United Soccer Coaches as the Division I Coaching Staff of the Year.
James Madison – Paul Zazenski's first season as the head coach at JMU was a truly memorable one. Coming up with an encore may not be easy but that is a nice problem to have. The Dukes swept both the CAA regular season and tournament titles, returned to the national rankings for the first time since the 2011 season, and earned the program's thirteenth invite to the NCAA Tournament. James Madison then took to the road to defeat High Point 3-0 in the first round of the tourney. They followed that up with an impressive 2-1 win over number five seeded North Carolina in Chapel Hill and a 3-0 win over number twelve seeded Virginia Tech in Blacksburg before being edged 1-0 by Michigan State in East Lansing in the Elite Eight. The trip to the Elite Eight was JMU's first since 1995. The Dukes finished a truly outstanding season with a 15-5-3 record, recording the most wins in a single season since 2004. The Dukes were ranked by College Soccer News as the number nine team in the nation and by the United Soccer Coaches as the number ten team in their final season ending polls. Zazenski and his staff of Adam Perron, Nicholas Melville and Joe Warren were named the Atlantic Region Coaching Staff of the Year by the United Soccer Coaches. Junior midfielder Manuel Ferriol was a First Team All-Atlantic Region selection and graduate student midfielder Yannick Franz was an All-Atlantic Region Second Team honoree. Redshirt sophomore TJ Bush anchored a tenacious JMU defense that posted thirteen shutouts.
Air Force – The Falcons recorded a program best seventeen wins in 2018 topping the previous high held by the 1993 squad. Air Force won the Western Athletic Conference regular season title for the second season in a row, they were a perfect 10-0-0 at home, and secured back-to-back invites to the NCAA Tournament. The Falcons topped Central Arkansas 4-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and upset number nine seed Denver on the road to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1993. Their season came to an end in the Sweet Sixteen when they were defeated by number two seeded Indiana 2-0 in Bloomington. Air Force head coach Doug Hill summed it all up when he stated, "I'll be remembering this season for a long time." Hill and his staff of Chris Foster, Hank Lewis and Tyler Amerman were named the Far West Region Coaching Staff of the Year by the United Soccer Coaches. Senior co-captains forward Austin Dewing and midfielder Tucker Bone were College Soccer News and United Soccer Coaches All-America selections. The 2018 senior class finished their tenure at Air Force with the most career wins (52) of any Air Force class in program history. The seniors clearly raised the bar of excellence and left their mark on the program.
West Virginia – The Mountaineers secured the program's first Mid-American Conference regular season title in 2018 with a perfect 5-0-0 mark in league play. They were 14-7-0 overall recording the most wins in a single season since back in 2007. West Virginia returned to the NCAA Tournament field for the thirteenth time and the first time since the 2011 season. The Mountaineers topped LIU Brooklyn 4-2 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a contest in which they came from two goals down. Their season subsequently came to an end when they were edged 1-0 by thirteenth seeded Georgetown 1-0 in the second round. The 2018 season created a solid foundation which should serve as a stepping stone for even greater success in the future. Senior midfielder Joey Piatczyc, who finished a stellar career in Morgantown with thirty-five carrer assists and twelve goals, was honored by both the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News as an All-American and was named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year. Sophomore goalkeeper Steven Tekesky was named to the All-MAC First Team. Marlon LeBlanc was honored as the MAC Coach of the Year.
Lipscomb – It was a gutsy "never say never" year for Lipscomb. The Bisons rebounded from a 1-7-0 start to finish the season with a 10-10-1 recored that included a national ranking and the program's first ever run to the Sweet Sixteen. Lipscomb punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournamnet by winning the ASUN Tournament for the second year in a row. The Bisons then took to the road and advanced past Washington in a contest that was decided by a penatly kick shootout and fourteen seeded UCF 1-0 before what was truly a storybook season came to an end when they were edged by number three seed Kentucky 2-1. Redsirt senior forward Logan Paynter, a four-time All-ASUN First Team selection, was a 2018 College Soccer News All-American. The 2018 team made a statement that will fuel the continued success of the program. It was a speciall season that head coach Charles Morrow and his staff, the Lipscomb players, and the Lipscomb community will remember with a great deal of pride.
UC Irvine – The 2018 season signaled that good things are in the works at UC Irvine under the direction of second-year head coach Yossi Raz. The Anteaters won the Big West Conference regular season title for the first time since 2013 with an impressive 5-1-1 mark in league play and returned to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2014. The Anteaters then advanced past Grand Canyon in a contest that went to a penatly kick shootout before falling to west coast powerhouse Stanford 2-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to conclude a very successful season with a 11-7-4 overall record. Ivan Canales was named the Big West Offensive Player of the Year and was named a Third-Team All-American by College Soccer News. Daniel Crisostomo was honered as the Big West Midfielder of the Year while Raz was named the Big West Coach of the Year to become the first Anteater to claim that honor since George Kuntz did so in 2008. UC Irvine will miss the services of a solid senior class that included the likes of Canales and Crisostomo and defender Darren Hamilton but the addition of a very talented 2019 recruiting class bodes well for continued success.
Oregon State – It is highly likely that Oregon State will look back on the 2018 season as the beginning of a significant turnaround for the program. Under the direction of first year head coach Terry Boss, the Beavers recorded the highest win total in Pac-12 play since the 2003 season with a 6-3-1 mark in league play. Oregon State punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time in the history of the program and the first time since the 2014 season. The Beavers then advanced past SMU 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Saint Mary's 1-0 in the second round to finish the season with a solid 11-6-3 overall record. Boss was honored as the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, midfielder Sofiane Djeffal was named the 2018 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and senior forward Don Tchilao was a Pac-12 First Team selection. The Terry Boss era at Oregon State got off to a great start in 2018.
High Point – The 2018 season will be remembered as the first in which HPU earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament. It was a histroy making season for the Panthers who broke into the national rankings while earning their second consecutive Big South regular season championship with a 7-0-1 mark in league play. High Point finished the season with a 13-3-2 overall record that included a signature 1-0 win over Duke University on the road. Head coach EJ O'Keeffe and assistants Josh Gillon, Travis Morris, and Erik Casterline were honored as the South Region Staff of the Year. Senior defender Johnny Fenwick was a United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News All-America selection. Fenwick accurately summed the significance of the 2018 season up when he stated, "Everyone involved has worked so hard to leave the program in a better place than we found it, and because of that the future looks very promising for HPU men's soccer."
Grand Canyon – It was a history making season for the Lopes who claimed the WAC tournament title, secured the program's first ever NCAA tournament bid, and closed out the season on a seven-game unbeaten streak. After not securing a victory over a top-25 opponent in their first five Division I seasons, the Lopes secured a spot on the college soccer map in 2018 when they surprised everyone with season opening wins over nationally ranked Wisconsin and Creighton and signature wins later in the season over Seattle and Air Force twice. Coach Schellas Hyndman summed up the significance of the season when he stated, "It's historic. It just goes to show that if you keep working at it and you give it time, you can really turn a program. The future of GCU, this is the the start." Hyndman added, "We'll make history and it'll be easier moving forward because people will want to be here."