The 2019 season was a shining season for the sixteen 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.
Georgetown – National Champions. This was the year that everything feel into place for the Hoyas. Accolades relating to the 2019 season have to begin with Georgetown. No team in the country had a better, more complete, or historic season than the Hoyas who etched themselves in the history books when they secured the programs first national championship, had a program best 20-1-3 record, and won both the Big East Conference regular season and tournament titles.
It was truly a total team effort for a very deep and talented Georgetown squad that averaged 2.42 goals per contest while allowing an average of only 0.58 goals per game. This was a group with the big play ability, confidence, and mettle under pressure needed to prevail in the close contests throughout the year.
Brian Wiese and his staff were honored as the Division I National Coaching Staff of the Year while senior back Dylan Nealis, junior midfielder Jacob Montes and forward Derek Dodson were named All-Americans.
Virginia – This team will go down as among the best in the tradition rich history of Virginia soccer. It makes no difference that the Cavaliers fell inches short of their goal of securing the programs eighth national championship and third under head coach George Gelnovatch when they were edged by Georgetown in a penalty kick shootout in the national final after the contest was tied 3-3 at the conclusion of 110 minutes of play. By every measure, 2019 was an outstanding season for the Cavaliers who were 21-2-1, won the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division Championship and topped Syracuse 2-1, Wake Forest 1-0 and Clemson 3-1 to claim the ACC Tournament title for the first time since 2008. Virginia was awarded the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and defeated Campbell 2-0, St. John's 3-0, SMU 3-2 and Wake Forest 2-1 to advance to the national final.
This was a balanced and tough Virginia team that averaged 1.92 goals per game while holding opponents to an average of only 0.54 goals per game.
Sophomore forward Daryl Dike, junior midfielder Joe Bell, junior centerback Henry Kessler, and redshirt junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler were All-America Team selections.
UC Santa Barbara – This team reignited the excitement and the mystic that surrounded the vintage UCSB teams in the past but it wasn't easy. What this group accomplished in 2019 was great for the program and one could argue for college soccer in general. This is a proud program but one that had been absent from the NCAA Tournament field since 2015 and it was back in 2006 that the Gauchos won the national championship.
UCSB looked to be a lock for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament with a high RPI but after a disappointing and somewhat uninspired 2-0 loss to UC Davis in the Big West Tournament it was highly unlikely that the unseeded Gauchos would mount a sustained run in the NCAA Tournament. They faced a California team out of the Pac-12 in the first round that they lost to 3-0 early in the season and that they had not defeated since 2003. Should they get past the Golden Bears, up next on their dance card was a date on the road with a Saint Mary's team that was 16-1-0 and that had allowed a total of only eleven goals while placing forty-seven in the back of the net. Anyone who was daring enough to look further down the road would see a contest with number six seed Indiana in Bloomington where the Hoosiers had a thirty-six match unbeaten streak.
The Gauchos under head coach Tim Voom Steeg proceeded to advance past California 3-1, demolish Saint Mary's 4-0 and shock Indiana with senior forward Will Baynham providing the game-winning goal in overtime to send UCSB to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2006. The Gauchos season then came to an end when they were edged by Wake Forest 1-0 to conclude an improbable but brilliant run to finish with a very solid 15-5-4 record that they will seek to build upon in 2020.
Senior Noah Billingsley was named the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year and senior Thibault Candia was honored as the Big West Conference Co-Midfielder of the Year. Freshman midfielder Finn Ballard McBride was named the Big West Freshman of the Year and was named to the College Soccer News All-Freshman Team. Billingsley was named an All-American by the United Soccer Coaches and by College Soccer News.
Wright State – Good things are happening at Wright State. In 2018, Jake Slemker's first as the Raider head coach, Wright State won the regular season Horizon League title but were one win short of earning the program's first ever berth in the NCAA Tournament when they were defeated 3-1 by UIC in the Horizon League Tournament final. But that was not to be the case in 2019 when the Raiders advanced past Green Bay 1-0, Oakland 4-1 and Milwaukee in a contest that was determined by a penalty kick shootout to win the Horizon League Tournament and claim the program's first ever berth in the NCAA Tournament. They then defeated Notre Dame 3-2 in South Bend to secure their first ever win in the NCAA Tournament before their season came to an end in the second round when they came out on the short end of a penalty kick shootout with Michigan after the contest was scoreless at the end of regulation and overtime.
Senior midfielder Deri Corfe (13g, 8a) was an All-Horizon League and All-North Region First Team selection. Senior midfielder Jackson Dietrich (6g, 7a) was a Second Team All-Horizon League and All-North Region honoree while senior midfielder stefan Rokvic was a Second Team All-Horizon League selection.
Slemker accurately summed the 2019 campaign up when he stated, "This team has made history and will forever be remembered."
NJIT – It was a year of firsts that forever raised the standard of excellene at NJIT. The Highlanders won the regular season ASUN title, the ASUN Conference Tournament, and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament at the Division 1 level for the first time in the history of the program. NJIT finished the season with a 10-5-4 mark that tied the school record for wins in a single season.
Fernando Barboto was named the ASUN Coach of the Year and the NJIT coaching staff was named the Atlantic Region Coaching Staff of the Year by the United Soccer Coaches Association. Redshirt junior forward Rene White (17g, 2a) was the unanimous ASUN Player of the Year. Freshman Samuel Reisgys was named the ASUN Goalkeeper of the Year and forward Alejandro Rabell (6g, 7a) was named the ASUN Freshman of the Year. Senior midfielder Andrew Nino (1g, 8a) was also an All-Conference First Team selection.
Pittsburgh – It didn't take long for Jay Vidovich to turn the program around at Pitt. The Panthers returned to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since the 1965 season earning an at-large berth after concluding regular season play with a resume that included signature wins over the likes of Boston College, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Duke and NC State. They then took another step forward under the guidance of Vidovich when they defeated Lehigh 2-0 to secure the program's first ever win in NCAA Tournament play. The Panthers concluded a banner season with a 10-8-2 overall record that provides another block in a solid foundation and springboard to build upon in the future.
Junior forward Edward Kizza (12, 4a), who had five game-winning goals, was an All-ACC First Team selection, freshman midfielder Veijko Petkovic and junior defender Sito Sena were named to the All-ACC Third Team and defender Arturo Ordonez and midfielder Valentin Noel joined Petkovic on the ACC All-Freshman Team.
UC Davis – The third time proved to be a charm for the Aggies. UC Davis' season came to a heartbreaking end in 2017 and 2018 when they came out on the short end of a penalty kick shootout in the championship match of the Big West Conference Tournament but that was not the case in 2019. The Aggies won the Big West regular season title and defeated UC Santa Barbara 2-0 in the 2019 conference tournament final before a standing room only crowd at Aggies Soccer Field to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
Senior Willis Lapsley was honored as the Big West Conference Goalkeeper of the Year and Dwayne Shaffer was named the Big West Conference Coach of the Year. Senior forward Adam Mickelson and junior defender Nabi Kibunguchy were also Big West Conference First Team selections.
Lapsley summed up the significance of the 2019 season when he stated, "We look forward to seeing this program take the next step, and watch others build on what we created and accomplished this year."
UCF – Things just keep getting better at UCF. The Knights checked off a lot of the boxes on their to-do list in 2019.
They finished the year as the number ten team in the country in the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News Polls. They earned the number nine seed in the NCAA Tournament and topped Missouri State 1-0 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in the history of the program. UCF finished the season with a 15-3-2 record to secure the highest single season win total in the programs' history at the Division I level and posted back-to-back thirteen win seasons for the first time.
Senior forward Cal Jennings (18g, 4a) was a consensus First Team All-American and was named the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row. Junior midfielder Yoni Sorokin was named the AAC Midfielder of the Year for the second year in a row and Yannik Oetti the AAC Goalkeeper of the Year for the second year in a row. Scott Calabrese and his staff were named the AAC Coaching Staff of the Year. Freshman midfielder Gino Vivi was honored as the AAC Rookie of the Year and was named to the College Soccer News All-Freshman First Team.
Calabrese accurately stated, "When you really look at the evolution of the program the last three years, it is incredible."
Clemson – The heart of a Tiger. This was a special Clemson team. The fact that they came out on the short end of a penalty kick shootout with Stanford in the Elite Eight does not diminish what this group accomplished. The Tigers rebounded from a 7-9-1 season in 2018 to an 18-2-2 season in 2019 during which they scored a total of seventy goals will allowing a total of only twenty-one. The 2018 team was better than their record indicated but they lacked that something special that they needed to prevail in the close contests. The 2019 team regained it and then some.
Clemson had signature wins over Notre Dame 4-2, Duke 3-1, Louisville 4-0, Syracuse 7-4, Boston College 3-1 and NC State 3-0. Junior forward Robbie Robinson (18g, 9a) was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-American. Senior defender Malick Mbaye was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American. Junior forward Kimarni Smith (13g, 5a) and freshman midfielder Philip Mayaka (2g, 8a) were also All-America Team selections.
Clemson head coach Mike Noonan stated, "This team came together this year to be, and do, something uncommon. They were selfless like no other team I had."
Campbell – Nothing could be finer than to be in Buies Creek, North Carolina in 2019. Few teams in the country had a more productive season than Campbell.
The Camels secured their first regular season Big South Conference title since returning to the conference in 2011 with a perfect 8-0-0 record. They then won the Big South Tournament with convincing wins over Presbyterian 3-0 and High Point 4-1 to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. Campbell then extended their unbeaten streak to fifteen games with an impressive 3-1 win over James Madison on the road in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The win over JMU was Campbell's first in NCAA Tournament play at the Divison I level. They concluded what is arguably the best season to date in the history of the program with a 17-3-2 record when they were topped 2-0 by number one seed Virginia in Charlottesville.
Dustin Fonder was named the Big South Coach of the Year and Fonder along with assistants Tom Pool, Alistair Moore and Ryan Hanson were honored by the United Soccer Coaches as the South Region Coaching Staff of the Year. Junior forward Thibaut Jacquel (18g, 5a) was named the Big South Attacking Player of the Year and senior defender Gideon Betz was named the Big South Defensive Player of the Year. Back Moses Mensah was named the Big South Conference Freshman of the Year and was named to College Soccer News' 2019 All-Freshman Team.
An explosive Campbell attack found the back of the net a total of fifty-nine times during 2019 while a solid defense allowed a total of only seventeen goals. Fonder stated, "We defend as a group. We attack as a group and do everything together."
Penn State – The Nittany Lions were near the top of the list of teams that significantly exceeded expectations in 2019 when they rebounded from a 2018 season in which they were 6-9-2 with a 3-3-2 record in Big Ten play to 12-4-3 overall in 2019 with a solid 6-1-1 mark and second place finish in conference play.
The grit that this team displayed as the season progressed first surfaced when they twice came from a goal down against a very good UCF team on the road to secure a 2-2 tie. After opening the season with a disappointing 5-0 loss to Stanford at home, Penn State regrouped and was unbeaten in their next seven contests before losing to Indiana 3-1. They then rebounded from the loss to the Hoosiers to go 7-0-1 in their next eight contests before losing to Michigan in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Nittany Lions were subsequently awarded an at-large berth and the number fifteen seed and returned to the NCAA Tourney field for the first time since 2014. Their season ended sooner than expected when they were upset by Providence in the NCAA Tournament 3-2 in overtime. Regardless, chances are pretty good that Penn State will look back on the 2019 season as the beginning of something special.
Jeff Cook stated, "We tried to take that team-first mentality and create a situation where the team philosophy, if you will, came to life on the field." He succeeded in doing that much sooner than expected and the result bodes well for the future of the program.
Senior Aaron Molloy (9g, 6a) was named the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year and was named an All-American. Redshirt junior defender Brandon Hackenberg and freshman forward Liam Butts (9g, 1a) were also named to the All-Big Ten First Team. Butts was also named to College Soccer News' 2019 All-Freshman Team. Defender Jalen Watson and goalkeeper Kris Shakes joined Butts on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
Missouri State – The Bears were a formidable group in 2019. They set a new program record for wins in a single season with an 18-1-1 overall record and became the first team in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference to go 10-0-0 in league play. They won seventeen straight contests before falling in a penalty kick shootout to Loyola Chicago in the championship match of the MVC Tournament after the contest was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and overtime.
Missouri State was awarded an at-large berth and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2009 season. The Bears then hosted their first ever NCAA Tournament game and claimed the programs first ever win in the NCAA Tournament when they topped Denver 1-0. A truly historical and magical season then came to an end when they were edged by UCF in Orlando 2-1 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
After the loss to UCF, Head coach Jon Leamy stated, "What an incredible team to be a part of, especially with our four seniors (forward Matthew Bentley, midfielders Stuart Wilkin and Ian Jones and defender Ben Stroud) who have been so great for this program." Leamy added, "We gave everything we had tonight, just like we have all season and came up short, but that doesn't take away all the amazing things we accomplished this year."
The Bears were ranked by College Soccer News as the number eleven team in the country and its final season ending poll and as the number sixteen team in the nation in the final United Soccer Coaches poll.
Forwards Matthew Bentley and Josh Dolling and defender Kyle Hiebert were named All-Americans. Bentley was named the MVC Offensive Player of the Year, Hiebert was named the MVC Defensive Player of the Year and Michael Creek was named the MVC Goalkeeper of the Year. Leamy, and assistants Michael Seabolt, Will Lukowski and Phil Woods were named the MVC as well as the West Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
Iona – A gutsy Iona team under the guidance of head coach James Hamilton generated a lot of excitement when they put together a phenomenal run down the homestretch to earn the program's first ever invite to the NCAA Tournament. The number three seeded Gaels defeated number six seeded Rider 2-1, a team that they had lost to 2-1 in regular season play, in the first round of the MAAC Tournament. They then defeated number two seeded Quinnipiac 2-1 in the semifinals to advance to the MAAC title match to face number one seed Saint Peter's. The Peacocks had topped Iona 3-1 in regular season play despite having to play a man down for the entire second stanza. Saint Peter's appeared to have the championship game under control with a 2-0 advantage with seventeen minutes remaining in regulation but the Gaels rallied and gained new life behind goals from Mauro Bravo and Josh Plimpton to knot the contest at 2-2 to force overtime. Bravo then secured a history making victory for Iona when he sent a left footed shot into the back of the frame out of a free kick with fifteen ticks remaining on the clock in the first overtime.
Iona won the MAAC Conference title for the first time and the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament that accompanies it. The Gael's magical ride then came to an end when they were defeated by Maryland in the NCAA Tournament. Nonetheless, it was a stellar season for the Gaels who finished with a 14-6-1 overall record and their greatest single season win total since 2010.
Senior back Malcolm Moerno was named the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year. Sophomore midfielder Mauro Bravo (11g, 6a) joined Moerno as an All-MAAC First Team selection.
Yale – The Bulldogs turned another corner in 2019. This is a program that has improved annually under the direction of head coach Kylie Stannard who completed has fifth season at Yale in 2019. Yale had a 13-3-2 overall record to record the most wins the program has had since the 1999 campaign. The Bulldogs claimed their first Ivy League title and berth in the NCAA Tournament since 2005. The success Yale enjoyed in 2019 bodes well for the future of the program and reflects the development of a winning culture and habits.
Junior forward Mark Winhoffer (6g, 11a) was named the 2019 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year. Sophomore midfielder Enzo Okpoye, senior midfielder Miguel Yuste and sophomore goalkeeper Elian Haddock joined Winhoffer as Al-Ivy League First Team members. Stannard was named the Ivy League Coach of the Year.
Marshall – It was an exciting year of firsts for the Thundering Herd. The 2019 season was hands down the most successful season in the history of Marshall soccer. The Herd had a program best 16-3-3 overall record. They claimed their first Conference USA regular season and tournament titles, earned the programs first ever invite to the NCAA Tournament and received a number eleven seed in the Tournament. They then advanced past West Virginia 2-1 to secure their first ever NCAA Tourney win before a standing room only crowd of 2,126 fans. Marshall was ranked as the number eleven team in the final season ending United Soccer Coaches Poll and the number twelve team in the season ending College Soccer News Poll.
Head coach Chris Grassie was named the Conference USA Coach of the year. Grassie and his assistants Petsa Ivanovic, Josh Faga and Brian Grassie were named the Southeast Coaching Staff of the Year by the United Soccer Coaches. Forward Milo Yosef was honored as the CUSA Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Yosef was also a United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News All-America Team selection. Senior defender Illal Osmanu and Yosef were All-CUSA First Team selections.
Washington – This was an excellent Washington team with the right balance between offensive firepower and steady play on the defensive side of the ball that has been lacking at times in the past.
Blake Bodily (12, 6a), Lucas Meek (6g, 7a), Jaret Townsend (7g, 1a), Gio Miglietti (5g, 2a), Dylan Teves (1g, 8a) and Joey Parish (4g, 1a) were among those who added pop to a Husky attack that produced a total of forty-five goals while backs Ethan Bartlow (5g, 1a), Freddy Kleeman, Kasey French and Charlie Ostrem were part of a Washington defense that held opponents to a total of only fourteen goals and posted twelve clean sheets.
Washington finished the season with a 17-4-0 record, winning the second-most contests in the history of the program. They secured their third Pac-12 Conference Title and first since 2013 with an 8-2-0 mark in league play. Washington was awarded the number six seed in the NCAA Tournament and proved that they were worthy of it by defeating Boston College and Marshall to advance to the Elite Eight for just the second time in the history of the program. The Huskies season came to an end in the Elite Eight when they were edged 2-1 by eventual national champion Georgetown.
Coach Jamie Clark stated, "This is a group that loved being with each other, a group we loved coaching, and we won't get a chance to do it again. I'm proud of what we've accomplished."
Clark was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year and he and his staff consisting of Jeff Rowland, Richard Reece and Raphael Cox were named the United Soccer Coaches Far West Coaching Staff of the Year. Junior midfielder Blake Bodily was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and sophomore back Ethan Bartow was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Bodily and Bartow were named All-Americans by both the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News.