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'08 Men's College Champions: Terrapins Cross Finish Line First
by Paul Kennedy, January 1st, 2009 7:09PM

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Only thing was, everyone got which ACC team would win wrong.

Wake Forest, the No. 1 seed, was the overwhelming favorite to repeat as national champion.

A better pick would have been the ACC champion, Maryland.

Two days after the Demon Deacons were upset by North Carolina, 1-0, Maryland beat the Tar Heels by the same score to finish the year with both the NCAA and ACC titles and 18 wins in a row.

On the eve of the Men's College Cup, North Carolina coach Elmar Bolowich was asked about the Wake Forest attack that had scored 12 goals in its previous two games.

"I hope they've run out of scoring!" Bolowich joked.

With 81 goals on the season and a lineup featuring five All-Americans, Wake mysteriously disappeared in the first half of their semifinal against Carolina.

Carolina outplayed Wake, got a well-taken goal from Brian Shriver and then hung on in the second half when the Deacons finally woke up.

Wake peppered the UNC goal with 15 shots in the second half. Marcus Tracy hit the crossbar in the 87th minute on one of several wild sequences in front of Brooks Heggarty's goal.

"We've come up short on two of our goals," coach Jay Vidovich said. "One was to win the ACC Tournament, and one was to win the national championship. But to call the season a disappointment after the performance of these guys — I think they set a new standard in college soccer."

Graham Zusi was the star of the weekend with winning goals in Maryland's two 1-0 wins — a golden goal on a 26-yard free kick against St. John's and the lone goal in the final, a shot from the top of the box on a rebound of a deflected shot by teammate Jeremy Hall.

Zusi and defender A.J. Delagarza were the only Terps to have also played in its 2005 Men's College Cup victory over New Mexico. (Two other freshmen from the 2005 team — Chris Seitz and Robbie Rogers — later turned pro.)

The Terrapins trailed Wake in the Soccer America rankings all season but passed it at the finish line.

"Our motto was from the Home Depot Center to Pizza Hut Park," Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said of the season that began with a 2-1 comeback win over UCLA and ended at the College Cup, played at the home of FC Dallas.

HITS. Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara drew the two biggest crowds of the men's season for their Big West regular-season matches — 11,705 in San Luis Obispo and 9,749 in Santa Barbara. Two other Big West schools, UC Irvine and UC Davis, drew sellout crowds at albeit smaller facilities.
— Loyola (Md.) enjoyed the nation's longest unbeaten streak before falling to Fairfield, 1-0, in the MAAC championship. The Greyhounds were unbeaten in 27 games over two seasons.

MISSES. Like the Bronco women, Santa Clara's men's team was a huge disappointment. It was ranked No. 5 in the Soccer America preseason rankings yet finished 4-9-7 overall and 2-5-5 in the WCC.



SMALL COLLEGES

Yavapai held the distinction of being the only college team to enjoy a perfect season in 2008.

The Roughriders' 26-0-0 season was their first unbeaten and untied season in 20 years of varsity play that has now featured seven NJCAA men's championships.

Yavapai completed its first perfect season when it beat San Jacinto, 1-0, in the national final.

Dirk Petersen, who scored the winning goal, was one of 10 Roughrider sophomores who exited with back-to-back national titles. They won 33 wins in a row over two seasons.

Francis Khamis and Justin Meram finished 1-2 in career goals with 53 goals and 51 goals, respectively. Meram and Khamis are 1-2 in career points with 132 and 125, respectively. Both marks break the records of Edson Rico set in 1989-90.

Yavapai has a long tradition of sending its players on to four-year colleges and the pros. Its graduates include Avery John and Kelvin Jack, who both played for Trinidad & Tobago at the 2006 World Cup. Playing for Ohio State, former Roughrider Roger Espinoza emerged as one of the best collegians during the 2007 season and was drafted by the Kansas City Wizards. In 2008, Yavapai product Irving Garcia was instrumental in UC Irvine's Big West title.

In NJCAA Division III men's play, Herkimer County matched Yavapai when it won its seventh national title with a 2-1 win over Triton College. The Generals overcame an early deficit to win on goals from Joeski Williams and Corey Phillips.

DREAM COME TRUE. The most unlikely hero of the 2008 college season was Nick Blossey, who didn't play a minute of the NCAA Division III Men's Tournament but was voted its Most Outstanding Player.

Blossey came off the bench in the shootout in the final to stop three shots and help Messiah to a 3-0 win on penalty kicks after its game with Stevens Institute ended in a 1-1 tie.

The title was the third in the last four years and sixth in the last nine years for the Falcons, who now own the NCAA Division III record for most championships.

Blossey, a senior, was allowed to enter the shootout under NCAA rules, which permit any rostered player to take part in the penalty kicks.

Blossey blocked shots from Jason Nachman, Peter Bednarsky and Jeremy Lippel to end the session after only three rounds.

Blossey dreamed of such a finish.

"In a way, I feel guilty," he admitted. "It's almost as if I wished this upon us. But I was 100 percent enthusiastic to help the team win. We always talk about needing every single guy on the team to win a national championship. I knew coming in what I needed to do."

NAIA UPSET.
The biggest surprise was Bethel's NAIA men's championship.

Fielding a team entirely comprised of foreign players, the unseeded Wildcats completed their stunning march to their first title with a 4-0 win over No. 1 seed Oklahoma City in the semifinals and a 2-1 overtime win over No. 2 seed Rio Grande in the final.

All 12 players the Tennessee school used in the final were foreigners. Three players, including goalscorer Eric Rosas, were from Mexico, two each from South Africa and Kenya, and one each from Canada, Ireland, England, Sweden and Jamaica.

HOMEGROWN TALENT.
NCAA Division II champion Cal State Dominguez Hills, on the other hand, was a team entirely comprised of players from California high schools or junior colleges.

The Toros dominated Dowling in the final and put three unanswered goals by Brian Alvarez, Andrew Marinez and Hiram Rangel past its giant keeper, the 6-foot-6 Nemanja Veljovic.

(This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Soccer America magazine.)  



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