During the 2011 campaign, the University of Redlands men's soccer program accomplished several goals and milestones en route to a 20-3-2 overall performance. The Bulldogs' run was highlighted by a second consecutive Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) regular-season championship, the third 20-win season in program history, a 16-game winning streak, and a Sweet-16 appearance at the NCAA Championships. In addition, the Maroon and Gray finished out the memorable season as the No. 12 team in the country while collecting various individual accolades along the way.
In the squad's first action of the year, senior forwards Cody Carlson (Burbank, CA) and Jamie Griffin (Seattle, WA) each recorded five points as the Bulldogs posted four unanswered netters to score the most goals in a season-opener since 2003. Redlands downed the Red Men of Carthage College (WI) in a game that was rather indicative of what was on the horizon for the Maroon and Gray.
After dropping back-to-back overtime losses to East Coast opponent Rutgers University of Newark (NJ) and regional foe Chapman University, the Bulldogs gained an inspirational spark from junior defender Nick Eary (Las Vegas, NV) during the SCIAC opener on September 14. For only the second and third time in his career, he found the back of the net, scoring two goals in Redlands' dominating 6-0 victory over the Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer Colleges.
Next, the crew hopped a plane to Texas for tough competition against a pair of regional rivals. First off, the Bulldogs went up against traditional powerhouse and No. 5 Trinity University (TX) but fell to the Tigers in what would be Redlands' final loss of the season. To say the least, the Maroon and Gray quickly rebounded just one day later by ripping off a four-goal performance over Southwestern University (TX).
Once the U of R returned to sunny Southern California, the team really found its stride as it won games at a historic pace. Sophomore midfielder Pat Roraff (Redlands, CA) set the ball rolling by providing an overtime netter on September 21 to take down the Poets of Whittier College in a physical SCIAC bout.
Redlands went on to record the program's fifth undefeated conference regular season en route to its 11th SCIAC Championship. During this impressive run, the Bulldogs scored 62 goals while allowing just four, and posted a scoring differential of at least two goals in every victory.
One of the SCIAC highlights came against Whittier on October 15 when Carlson recorded a hat trick during a 26-minute span in the second half. He was later named the SCIAC Player of the Year and eventually finished his time at Redlands with 31 scores to rank fifth all-time for career goals.
In addition, freshman forward Charles Izydorek (Redlands, CA) posted a seven-point effort against the Caltech Beavers on October 22. Upon conclusion of the conference season, he was honored with the first-ever SCIAC Newcomer of the Year for men's soccer.
The team recorded the second-most All-Conference honorees in program history with seven awards. Along with Carlson and Izydorek receiving their top honors, senior defender Danny Day (Beaverton, OR), junior midfielder Gabe Ramirez (Pasadena, CA), sophomore defender Richie Marquez (Pomona, CA), Griffin, and Silva all landed on the First Team.
During the conference season, the Maroon and Gray dominated the field in nearly every statistical category. On the offensive end of the ball, Redlands cruised by the competition with 182 points, 62 goals, 4.4 goals per game, 55 assists and 3.9 assists per game (3.9). With tenacious defensive from the back-liners and smart play by the goalkeepers, UR also led the conference in goals allowed (4), goals-against-average (0.29) and shutouts (11).
As the No. 1 seed, the squad entered the 2011 SCIAC Postseason Tournament with incredible momentum and confidence, easily taking down Pomona-Pitzer for the third time in 2011 with a clean hat-trick victory. Senior goalkeeper Jason Smuckler (Woodland Hills, CA) stepped up for the Bulldogs, replacing an injured sophomore Andreas Silva (San Jose, CA), and nabbing his first collegiate shutout and the team's 13th on the year.
In one of the most dramatic games of the season, Redlands squared off against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament final for the third consecutive year. With the automatic bid to the NCAA Championships on the line, the contest ended in a hard-fought 1-1 tie. Unfortunately, the Stags gained the upper hand in the penalty-kick shootout, forcing the Bulldogs to play the waiting game for a possible at-large berth.
The Bulldogs' impressive record and national ranking helped to secure a spot in the field of 64 teams. In addition, Redlands was rewarded with the opportunity to host the first two rounds of the tournament. Fellow SCIAC foe CMS, regional rival Chapman and Northwest Conference Champion Pacific Lutheran University (WA) all joined the Maroon and Gray for an exciting west-regional showdown at Farquhar Field.
Redlands opened up "The Big Dance" with a striking 4-1 victory over the high-powered offense of Pacific Lutheran. Carlson, Griffin junior forward Alex Laughton (Pleasanton, CA) and sophomore midfielder Evan Keny-Guyer (Portland, OR) each registered sweet netters in the win-or-go-home game. Laughton's crushing goal from about 30 yards out ignited the home crowd into a frenetic celebration.
With fire in its belly, Redlands rattled off the third hat-trick showing against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps this season, taking down the Stags to advance to the third round of the NCAA Championships. With the win, the Bulldogs extended their unbeaten streak to 19 consecutive games while moving onto the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007.
With momentum on its side, Redlands excitedly prepared to host the sectionals of the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2003. Calvin College (MI), Randolph College (VA) and the University of Texas-Tyler made the trek to Southern California for an exciting match-up of some of the nation's best teams.
Despite playing at home amidst the Bulldog faithful, the Maroon and Gray's playoff dreams came to an end in a heart-breaking shootout against Calvin. After playing to a 1-1 tie through regulation, the teams battled it out in two 10-minute overtime periods. With the match declared a tie, the Knights finally advanced to the Elite Eight with a 5-3 performance in penalty kicks. There was little comfort for the Bulldogs as the Knights eventually became the Division III national runners-up.
Illustrating the team's undeniable success and talent, the team ranked among the elite across the nation in various categories. Redlands shared the total goal-scoring title (87) while sitting second for assists (73), third in goals per game (3.48), ninth for save percentage (0.80), tied for ninth in shutout percentage (0.60), and 12th for goals-against-average (0.58).
Along with the team's remarkable statistical numbers, several members of the program collected awards for individual contributions during the season. Five different Bulldogs landed on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's (NSCAA) All-Far West Region team. Once again, Carlson headlined the group with his First-Team recognition, while Day and Griffin earned Second-Team honors, and Silva and Marquez collected Third-Team nods.
Beyond the soccer-related awards, several student-athletes gained accolades for their performances in the classroom. Day received his second consecutive College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) All-District award, while Carlson, Ramirez and junior midfielder Tim Berggren (Salt Lake City, UT) gained their inaugural selections for this academic distinction.
Furthermore, senior reserve goalkeeper Charles Pratt IV (Phoenix, AZ) earned All-America honors from the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) for his commitment and success in the weight room.
Head Coach Ralph Perez also gained significant honors during this memorable season. He was named the NSCAA Far West Coach of the Year and the Walt Chyzowych Memorial Foundation Coach of the Year, which distinguishes the top coach in American soccer.
Clearly, the senior class comprised of Carlson, Day, Griffin, Pratt, Smuckler, defender Sean Cruz, and midfielders Garrett Cottam (Taos, NM) and Joe MacMillan (Pasadena, CA) left a significant mark on the program's history while continuing to raise the bar of excellence for the Bulldogs. Although filling the void will be challenging, the Redlands men's soccer program holds on to the fact that this historical season provides incredible motivation for continued success. As the returning players work to exceed this year's efforts, they look to carry on the tradition of Bulldog men's soccer into next season and beyond.