Hokies Conclude Memorable Season
Tech set several records, received many honors on and off the field in 2005
December 19, 2005 BLACKSBURG, Va. - The 2005 Virginia Tech men's soccer season will be looked upon as a year in which the Hokies not only rewrote the record book, but proved to the rest of the country that they could be a contender for the national title under head coach Oliver Weiss. "We had a good year," Weiss said. "I am very pleased with our players' performance from start to finish, although we were disappointed in not making it beyond the second round of the tournament." The team not only earned its first-ever first-round bye in the NCAA Championships, but also earned its first-ever top-10 ranking along the way. After finishing the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament with a 10-5-4 overall record, Tech received a first-round bye in the NCAA Championships, earning the No. 12 seed. On a day filled with snow showers and gusting winds, the Hokies and Spartans of UNC Greensboro played to a 0-0 draw, with the Spartans advancing to the round of 16 after edging Tech 4-3 in penalty kicks. The Hokies faced nine schools that made the NCAA Championships, including one school, Duke, twice. In the 10 matches that Tech played against those foes, the Hokies garnered a 3-4-3 record. All three wins were against ACC competitors that were ranked in the top 10 nationally at the time. Tech knocked off then-No. 4 North Carolina, then-No. 7 NC State and then-No. 5 Virginia. "We have the belief in this program that we can beat any program at any time as we've fared well again against top-10 schools," Weiss said. "We need to improve on our consistency from the start of the season to the end and get good results against quality teams." On Oct. 8, the Hokies went to Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, N.C., and did what no team had done all season - defeat North Carolina at home. With just over five minutes remaining, freshman forward Patrick Nyarko netted his third goal of the year, giving Tech a 1-0 lead that senior goalkeeper Chase Harrison would protect with his fourth shutout of the season. The win was Tech's first-ever over the Tar Heels. Two matches later, on Oct. 15, the Hokies would defeat another program that it had never beaten. NC State came to Blacksburg sporting an 8-3-1 record and went home with a 4-0 loss. Sophomore Marcus Reed broke through the Wolfpack defense with the first goal of the night at the 6:31 mark. Less than two minutes later, redshirt-sophomore Scott Spangler put the Hokies up 2-0. Reed and Nyarko added second-half goals that gave Tech a solid victory. Continuing its winning ways, Weiss' team headed into Charlottesville to take on a fifth-ranked Virginia squad that was looking for redemption after suffering its first-ever loss to Tech in 2004. The Hokies and Cavaliers battled to a scoreless draw for the first 80 minutes of the match. The Cavaliers' Ian Holder put the home team up 1-0 at 81:14 only to see Nyarko tie the match less than four minutes later off an assist by Harrison. In overtime, Nyarko would strike again, giving Tech its second consecutive 2-1 win over Virginia. "The victory over UVa was another superb effort by players in a very difficult situation," Weiss said. "Winning on the road in the ACC, especially at UVa, is not an easy task. Our players showed how resilient they are in adverse conditions." All three of the victories over ACC competition came during the Hokies' school-record 10-match unbeaten streak. The 10-match span also included a school-record setting seven-match winning streak. Posting the three wins over ACC opponents helped the team finish 3-2-3 in the toughest league in the country. The record also earned them a fourth-place finish a conference that featured all nine teams being nationally ranked at one time or another in 2005. During the record-setting streak, Tech broke another school record that had lasted four years. The Hokies held an opponent without a goal for 495:03, besting the mark that was set in 2001 of 402:35. Tech posted four consecutive shutouts - all wins - including three straight 1-0 victories, which was another first for the program. "We pride ourselves in playing good defense," Weiss said. "Not giving our opponents a look at our goal has to be and will continue to be one of our utmost priorities." In the seventh match of the streak, the Hokies tied two school records in a 10-1 win over the University of Charleston. Tech dished out 10 assists and tallied 30 points on the night. After beginning the season 1-3-3, Tech won nine of its next 10 matches and 9-2-2 in its last 13 matches, ending up with a 10-5-5 overall mark. With the team battling season-ending injuries to Ben Nason after two matches and Charlie Howe after four matches, the team persevered and relied on an influx of new additions to the team as well as the senior leadership of Harrison and midfielder Magnus Einarsson. "Even when we were struggling with results in September, we had a feeling of confidence that we could win the remaining games on the schedule," Weiss said. "Leadership and self-belief by our seniors, including Dustin Dyer, Magnus Einarsson, Chase Harrison and Greg Roach, made the biggest difference during our stretch of wins." Harrison continued to rewrite the Tech record book in his final season between the pipes, amassing just about every record possible for goalkeepers while garnering third-team All-South Atlantic Region honors. He increased his own school record for career shutouts, finishing with 24, while tying his single-season mark of eight shutouts that he set in 2004. Harrison also finished as the leader in minutes played (7181) and the best in goals against average (1.12) for a keeper. In 2005, he made 63 of the squads' 68 saves, which was an all-time low for saves. Harrison ended up with a 0.94 goals against average for the season, which is second only to Colin Kibler's mark in 2001 of 0.90. "Chase has always embodied this program and development over the past four years," Weiss said. "As Chase became better, so did our program. As Chase started to lead the troops, our program climbed the rankings. Chase is a big reason we are where we are in our building process in the ACC and nationally. We thank him for that." Defensively, the Hokies will lose seniors Dustin Dyer and Harrison to graduation. The rest of the back line will be strong again in 2006, with seniors Chad Steuck and Brent Dillie leading the way. Alexander Baden started every match in 2005, and the experience should help him in 2006. Bryan Collier started 11 matches in 2005, but went down with an injury halfway through the season before returning for the UNC Greensboro match. Scott Dillie, Brent's younger brother, saw playing time in 16 matches while starting two. The defenders' experience will help the goalkeeper that will replace Harrison adjust to the collegiate game. Einarsson, completing his graduate degree in mechanical engineering, tallied six goals on the year, including his first career one in the tie with then-No. 7 Duke. He was third on the team in points and second only to Nyarko for goals scored. Einarsson was one of four players that started in all 20 matches, with the others being Baden, Brent Dillie and Harrison. Despite losing Einarsson and Roach in the midfield, the return of Howe and Nason should help fill the holes. Alongside the two returning from injury, Joshua Boateng, Brad Collins, Bo Lawrence and Kevin McFadden, Jr., all saw valuable minutes, as did Eric Vickers and Shota Ban in 2005. The group will be relied on heavily to make the transition quickly from defense to offense and serve the forwards for fast-break opportunities in 2006. "Losing seniors always hurts," Weiss said. "This 2005 group worked especially hard on helping everyone on the team to concentrate in crucial moments throughout the season. Leadership helped the younger players mature and take charge. We feel we will have another great year ahead of us with our players rising up and being leaders in the future." On the field, the Hokies' offense was led by Nyarko, who only played in 15 matches after having to sit out the first five before being cleared by the NCAA. Starting 12 matches, Nyarko netted a team-best eight goals while dishing out six assists for a team-leading 22 points. His assist total was good enough for second on the team, just behind Spangler's seven. Nyarko was honored throughout the season for his play, being named to the College Soccer News All-Freshman first team. On two occasions he was named ACC Player of the Week (Oct. 10, Oct. 31), to the Soccer America Team of the Week (Oct. 12, Nov. 2) and to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week (Oct. 10, Oct. 31). For his efforts against Radford and Virginia, Nyarko was tabbed the Soccer America Player of the Week on Nov. 2. He took home the hardware as Tech's only selection to the All-ACC first team. In addition to his first-team accolades, he was named to the All-ACC freshman team and was named the ACC Freshman of the Year. Nyarko was also named to the All-South Atlantic Region second team. "Patrick may have garnered many individual awards and has been recognized deservingly this past fall, but he was only the final piece of the puzzle needed to help our team achieve this year," Weiss said. "It was a great give-and-take between our core players who contributed offensively and defensively around Patrick, and Patrick to show up when it counted most and score the important goal." Off the field, the Hokies proved to be some of the brightest student-athletes around. Dyer and Einarsson were named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District first-team. Two weeks later, Dyer was named CoSIDA third-team Academic All-America, becoming the second All-American in the program's history, both of which have come under Weiss. "Dustin is the epitome of a student-athlete," Weiss said. "He is a true Academic All-American and we are truly proud of him for bringing such a prestigious award to our university." In the final Soccer America poll that was released on Nov. 13, before the start of the NCAA Championships, the Hokies were honored with the highest final ranking in school history, grabbing the No. 14 slot. "Rankings are very subjective and are always a big topic of discussion," Weiss said. "We are pleased people recognize us among the top-25 teams during the 2005 season, but what we need to do is not get sidetracked by rankings - ours or our opponents - and remind ourselves we have to get better each game, especially when ranked. We played the role of underdog well the last few years and we have to now defend our position of being a recognizable program in the Division I soccer market." With the return of Nason and Howe back from injury, Nyarko and Boateng being able to play a full season after both having to sit out some in 2005, and with 75 percent of its scoring returning in 2006, the Hokies look like they will improve on their national ranking and contend for their first College Cup berth and national championship. "I am very optimistic about next year and any season beyond that as we have collected a great core group of returning players," Weiss said. "I feel confident our incoming players will help our proven players and help us reach higher goals in 2006, such as advancing past the second round of the NCAA Championships and eventually to the College Cup."