NCAA Top 20 Rankings: Tar Heels finish season at No. 1
MLSsoccer.com's Top 20
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North Carolina’s triumph over UNC Charlotte in the College Cup final on Sunday signaled the end of the 2011 soccer season. And, unsurprisingly, the champions locked up the No. 1 spot in MLSsoccer.com’s final rankings of 2011.
It was a well-deserved accomplishment for a team many regarded as the country's best all season. The Tar Heels never fell anywhere lower than sixth, got contributions from all over the field via veterans and freshmen alike, and produced one of the most memorable performances in College Cup history with their semifinal win over UCLA.
Add in the fact that they were playing with a new coach and a new system — Carlos Somoano's possession-based 4-3-3 was a major deviation from previous head coach Elmar Bolowich's staid 4-4-2 — and this UNC side is one that was worth every accolade they received.
Making it more remarkable is that they were able to accomplish what they did despite losing nearly half the team to MLS in the 2011 SuperDraft. Jalil Anibaba, Eddie Ababio, Michael Farfan and Stephen McCarthy all went within the first 24 picks of the draft, while Dustin McCarty was a second round selection in the Supplemental Draft.
Somoano will have to pull off a similar reload this offseason, as stars like Billy Schuler and Enzo Martinez are expected to sign Generation adidas contracts, while stalwart seniors Matt Hedges and Kirk Urso are both likely to be selected as well.
Rounding out the top four were the other College Cup entrants – Creighton, UCLA and Charlotte. There was very little separating the four sides at the College Cup, as three games yielded just five goals in total. The semifinal between UNC and UCLA accounted for four of them.
Dormant powerhouses such as Connecticut, Louisville, South Florida, New Mexico, Maryland and Indiana rounded out the Top 10.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com