March 26, 2001
With a host of high expectations and a talented corps of players, head coach Ed Kelly headed into the 2000 soccer season on a mission: to improve on his team's 6-9-2 performance in 1999. Returning his top eight scorers, Kelly knew that his team had the weapons to make waves, but he also knew his team had the heart. Picked ninth in the Preseason BIG EAST Coaches' Poll, Kelly was looking for his team to surprise many - except themselves - and break into the top four teams in the league.
Sixteen games later, the Eagles rested third in the BIG EAST and were headed to not only their first league tournament title since 1990, but also their first NCAA tournament appearance since the same year. Some might say that the team was sent down destiny's path, facing the same opponent in the league final - Seton Hall - as it had a decade earlier. But the team would say that it was theirs to earn. Hard work and a true team mentality led the Eagles to the first winning season in five years at the Heights.
THE SEASON STARTS
After a 1-0 loss to Stony Brook in the season opener, Boston College came back and defeated cross-town rival Boston University, 4-3, in double overtime. Junior Chris Cleary led the scoring with two goals, including the game's third goal and the game-winner in the 119th minute. Freshman Ramon Smith added his first goal of the year off the bench.
The Eagles then topped Notre Dame, 2-0, at home for their first conference win of 2000 on scores by freshman Kenny Adams and sophomore Casey Schmidt. The win, in front of a boisterous home crowd at the Newton Campus Soccer Field, was a sign of things to come as BC would come out and shock many opponents throughout the season.
With the next two games on the road, Boston College traveled to Providence and earned a 3-0 victory over the Friars. BC played the last minutes with only 10 players as senior Sjur Gundersen was cautioned a second time in the game and was ejected in the 78th minute.
Three days later, the Eagles went to South Orange, N.J., to face Seton Hall and defeated the Pirates, 1-0, despite being outshot 17-3 in the game. Boston College also played a man down for the entire second half as senior Jorgen Lie received two yellows by the game's 44th minute. Schmidt's goal in the fourth minute held as the game-winner from Cleary as keeper senior Chris Hamblin made five saves to preserve the win. Schmidt's goal was his fourth in four games, marking a career high scoring streak.
Returning home a week later to face Rutgers, the Eagles managed to keep the Scarlet Knights off the board until the 92nd minute when a successful penalty kick sunk the Eagles in overtime and handed BC its first BIG EAST loss of the season.
The Eagles redeemed themselves against Villanova on Oct. 24, with a 2-0 victory. The team's leading scorers - Schmidt and Cleary - netted the team's scores.
Boston College next faced two Ivy League opponents in Harvard and Dartmouth, dropping both. The Eagles fell, 1-0, in a physical match at Harvard on Oct. 1, and then traveled to Dartmouth and lost 2-1. Gundersen tallied the Eagles' lone goal on the team's first penalty kick of the season. It was the first goal of his career.
Boston College fell to West Virginia, who was searching for their first BIG EAST win of the season. They found it with two late-game goals and defeated the Eagles, 2-0, in Morgantown. BC was playing without senior captain Kevin Boyd who was suspended for the game after accumulating his fifth yellow card of the season against Dartmouth.
TURNING POINT OF THE SEASON
With three straight losses, the Eagles were facing a turning point in the season. Four nationally-ranked teams were next on the schedule, two at home and two on the road. BC turned the corner and the makings of the improbable season started gel. The Eagles took five points and only allowed two goals in the four-game tretch.
In one of the bigger games in recent memory, BC tied then top-ranked Connecticut, 1-1. Schmidt opened the scoring before the Huskies tied the game minutes later. The Eagles clamped down on one of the nation's most potent offenses and held the team scoreless through two overtimes to preserve the tie.
Four days later, BC shutout seventh-ranked Pittsburgh, 1-0, for the second consecutive year on Schmidt's goal. Boston College traveled to No. 12 St. John's and despite being outshot 10-1 in regulation, held the Red Storm scoreless in the first 90:00. However, St. John's scored in the extra session to win, 1-0. Finally, the Eagles topped 22nd-ranked Syracuse, 1-0, in Syracuse for a key two points in the standings on Cleary's score.
In a game with home-field advantage implications for the BIG EAST quarterfinals, Boston College topped Georgetown, 1-0, to secure the Eagles a third-place finish in the league. Thompson scored the deciding goal in the 14th minute off a feed from Cleary and Lie. Hamblin made eight saves for his career-high seventh shutout of the season.
The final game of the regular season was a non-league match-up between Brown and the Eagles. Thompson again proved to be the hero, coming in off the bench to score the game-winner in the 67th minute from seniors Martin Cantillo and Brian Mollo. Three keepers combined for the win with sophomore Danny Caruso getting the win in his first action of the season. The starting line-up featured 10 of the 11 seniors on the Eagles roster in celebration of Senior Day.
The Eagles marched into the BIG EAST Quarterfinals with homefield advantage and used the added benefit for the win, netting a 2-1 overtime victory over sixth-seeded Georgetown on Cleary's goal in the 102nd minute. The Eagles surrendered a 1-0 lead in the 46th minute, then held on for the win in the extra session.
In the BIG EAST Semifinals, the third-seeded Eagles topped the seventh-seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 1-0, in a game being played at Rutgers' own Yurcak Field. Schmidt netted the game-winner after suffering a recurring leg injury seconds before netting the deciding goal. Hamblin held on and made five saves for his eighth shutout of the season that advanced the team to its first BIG EAST Championship game since 1993.
One of the biggest games in program history in at least 10 years occurred in the BIG EAST finals when BC topped fifth-seeded and 15th-ranked Seton Hall, 2-1, to claim its first league tournament title since 1990. Thompson assisted on Mollo's first goal of the season (with Gundersen) to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead and then added what was supposed to be the insurance goal in the second half and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Seton Hall added a late goal in the 89th minute, but the Eagles staved off heavy pressure to secure the win and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
In what turned out to be the final game of the amazing 2000 season, the 22nd-ranked Eagles fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament to 17th ranked Rams of Rhode Island, 3-0, in a game played in Kingston, R.I. Schmidt and Pfeifer tried for a scoring bid in the first half, but the Rams were able to score first in the opening half then added two more scored in the second to take the win and advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
HONORS POUR IN
The Eagles ended the playing season with a 12-7-1 record and ranked 26th in the final NSCAA rankings, but the individual accolades were still to come. Kelly was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year, then a month later, was honored as the New England Coach of the Year. Hamblin, who rested far outside the national peripheral view at the season's outset, was honored as the nation's best keeper as he was named a NSCAA first team All-American. Earlier, he and Schmidt were named first team New England Regional All-Americans. Boyd was chosen for the second team.
On the league level, Hamblin was named BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year, while Schmidt was honored as the Offensive Player of the Year. Both were named to the All-BIG EAST first team and Boyd joined them on the second team. Freshman Kirt Dorsett was selected to the All-Rookie team.
More honors we still to come as Hamblin was honored for his academic achievements. The BIG EAST selected him as the BIG EAST/Aeropostale Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Later, CoSIDA recognized Hamblin as an Academic All-America all-district honoree.