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Tracy turnaround powers Wake Forest to national title
December 17th, 2007 8AM



Paul Kennedy on the Men's College Cup star
If you never heard of Marcus Tracy before this weekend, you'll certainly hear about him now that he put on one of best individual performances ever at a Men's College Cup.

Tracy scored both goals in Wake Forest's 2-0 victory over ACC rival Virginia Tech in Friday's semifinals and scored the first goal and set up teammate Zach Schilawski for the winning goal in the Demon Deacons' 2-1 comeback victory over Ohio State in the final on Sunday.

Tracy scored 100 goals in his high school career at Newtown (Conn.) High School, but injuries hampered Tracy in his first two seasons at Wake Forest. A hamstring injury limited him to five games as a freshman, and he struggled with a knee injury and hernia injury in 2006.

This fall, Tracy scored eight goals in 21 games entering the NCAA Tournament but was scoreless in three games entering the Men's College Cup.

Virginia Tech's Patrick Nyarko and Ohio State's Xavier Balc entered the final four as its big names, but Tracy outplayed both of them.

In the semifinal, Tracy broke a scoreless deadlock in the second half with a powerful header and then put the game away with a volley from 15 yards.

Ohio State dominated the first half of the final, going ahead on Roger Espinoza's goal in the 13th minute, but Tracy triggered Wake's turnaround with the tying goal on a feed from Cody Arnoux 21 minutes into the second half.

All weekend, Tracy showed an ability to take on defenders, and his run through the OSU defense late in the game set up Schilawski -- the hometown kid from Cary -- for the winning goal.

The Schilawski's goal was not without controversy. Buckeye goalkeeper Casey Latchem argued vehemently that Tracy had touched the ball with his hand before passing off to Schilawski. Latchem was issued a yellow card -- one of six handed out in the game.

Another was issued to Espinoza when his foot met Wake's U.S. U-20 defender, Julian Valentin, in the face in the 81st minute. Valentin received 30 stitches for cuts on his cheek, forehead and nose.

"Yeah sure it hurts," Valentin said while receiving his stitches after the game. "But you know, right now, I really don't care. We're national champions!"

The national championship was the first for Wake Forest, which became the sixth ACC school to win a men's soccer championship. The Deacons have been arguably the ACC's most consistent team over the last decade, but they struggled in the NCAA Tournament. Last year was the first time Wake advanced to the College Cup.

"We've taken a lot of grief over the years of dying in beauty, and we couldn't get it done in the tournament," said Wake Forest coach Jay Vidovich, who is in his 14th season, having succeeded the late Walter Chyzowych in 1994. "But we just believed in what we were doing."

Tracy, an economics major and all-academic selection, said he was thankful that Vidovich believed in him.

"It's a credit to Jay Vidovich," Tracy said afterwards. "All throughout the year and throughout my career, he's instilled confidence in me. He was responsible for my turnaround today."

Vidovich called Tracy a big-time player.

"He's gathering up his game now," said Vidovich, "and he's learning how to play."

All-Tournament Team:
Zack Simmons, Massachusetts
Patrick Nyarko, Virginia Tech
Casey Latchem, Ohio State
Roger Espinoza, Ohio State
Eric Brunner, Ohio State
Doug Verhoff, Ohio State
Marcus Tracy, Wake Forest
Sam Cronin, Wake Forest
Zack Schilawski, Wake Forest
Brian Edwards, Wake Forest
Cody Arnoux, Wake Forest

Most Outstanding Offensive Player:
Marcus Tracy, Wake Forest

Most Outstanding Defensive Player:
Brian Edwards, Wake Forest


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