The college season has come and gone, bringing with it a new batch of players prepared to make the leap and try their hand at MLS. But before diving into the rapidly approaching SuperDraft madness, here’s the 2011 edition of MLSsoccer.com’s NCAA Awards.
Coach of the Year
Plenty of worthy candidates guided their sides to success this past season. But eclipsing them all is Elmar Bolowich for what he accomplished as Creighton. While his side fell in the College Cup semifinal – and Bolowich’s former side UNC triumphed in the final – he made a smooth transition to his new role in Omaha, guiding the Bluejays to a fantastic year.
Freshman of the Year
Many of the nation’s best were in their first year of collegiate soccer, but none had a better year than North Carolina midfielder Mikey Lopez. Playing a more defensive role in the midfield of UNC’s 4-3-3 formation, Lopez started 21 times and only missed one game all year as the Tar Heels won the national title.
Defender of the Year
While he’ll go down as a one-hit wonder in Chapel Hill, the influence of defender Matt Hedges cannot be overlooked on the title-winning side. With a cool and calm demeanor on the ball and good size, Hedges’ decision to transfer from Butler prior to the 2011 season proved to be a perfect fit.
Goalkeeper of the Year
While his size is a concern at the next level, Creighton’s Brian Holt conceded just five goals this season – an astounding mark. While the team couldn’t find a crucial goal against Charlotte at the College Cup, that doesn’t erase what was still a tremendous year for the senior.
Player of the Year
He didn’t dominate any of the statistical categories, but the influence and impact of North Carolina’s Billy Schuler on the national champs can’t be matched anywhere in the nation.
Whether it was with his clutch goals – including a game-winning goal against Indiana in the tournament and his scrappy equalizer against UCLA – or his ability to hold the ball up, Schuler edges out the rest of a very talented field this year.
G Brian Holt, Creighton
The 5-foot-8 goalkeeper answered questions about his size, backstopping the nation’s top defense and posting a goals against average of 0.20 to go along with 19 shutouts.
D Matt Hedges, North Carolina
A tall, dominant defender who was at his best in the two College Cup matches.
D Austin Berry, Louisville
Another outstanding center back who helped steady Louisville’s ship during an up-and-down season.
D Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Connecticut
One of a few underclassmen to nab postseason honors, Jean-Baptiste was the centerpiece of UConn’s tough defense.
D Tyler Polak, Creighton
The left back on the Bluejays’ dominant defense, the former US youth international consistently shutdown the opposition and logged the most minutes of any field player for Creighton.
M Enzo Martinez, North Carolina
The creative fulcrum in North Carolina’s midfield, Martinez’s nine goals and 10 assists were second to only Schuler for highest offensive output on the team.
M Greg Jordan, Creighton
A commanding defensive midfielder who is good in the air, Jordan adding more steel to Creighton’s already stout defense.
M Luis Silva, UC Santa Barbara
One of the nation’s best players, Silva scored 17 goals and added 10 assists, one of the highest production totals in the country.
F Billy Schuler, North Carolina
A quick, explosive forward who troubled defenses all season, scoring 16 goals and chipping in five assists for the Tar Heels.
F Andrew Wenger, Duke
One year after a dominant season as a center back, Wenger moved up front, scoring 17 goals and adding eight assists.
F Ethan Finlay, Creighton
For a team with such a good defense, they still needed a scorer to provide the goals. The pacey, quick Finlay fit that role well, scoring 14 times.
G Andrew Blake, Connecticut; D Chris Estridge, Indiana; D Tommy Meyer, Indiana; D Andrew Duran, Creighton; D R.J. Allen, Monmouth; M Kenney Walker, Louisville; M Lance Rozeboom, New Mexico; M Scott Caldwell, Akron; F Dom Dwyer, South Florida; F Chandler Hoffman, UCLA; F Darren Mattocks, Akron
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.