Wake Forest finally winning their first championship by a score of 2-1. Last year, after setting a school-record for wins, the Demon Deacons lost in penalty kicks to a rough-and-tumble Santa Barbara team in ice-covered, wind-biting St. Louis. Wake's then freshman Zack Schilawski did what every soccer player has nightmares about: missed the last PK. This year? He scored the winning goal in front of the home crowd.
Marcus Tracy's sweet nudge to Schilawski for a look-easy goal would have won this award -- until Wake captain Julian Valentin received a rough cleat to the face. Sound painful? It looked painful to everyone ... except Valentin. The Wake trainer tried all he could to stop the bleeding, but for an all-out gash that would eventually need 30 stitches, there was no hope. Valentin didn't seem to mind the blood coming down his face in a perfect-shoe shape -- he mugged for ESPN with the trophy and ran around hugging his entire team. He might have a nasty scar for awhile, but hey, he has a trophy for life.
UMass. After some budget woes hit the athletic department, the Minutemen brought in Sam Koch to coach the team for a year, then find the players a place to transfer so they could shut down the program.
New plan. Koch resurrected the program into a national-championship caliber team. After knocking off top-ranked Boston College in the second round, UMass went on to lose a tough 1-0 match to Ohio State in the semis.
Wake Forest fans alternating "Wake. Forest." Seriously? That's it?
There's something about national championships that bring out the rough-and-tumble and make stretches look like run-ups to huge brawls. Last season's championship saw five cards, this season's saw six. In 2005, the matchup between Maryland and New Mexico was a little cleaner: there were only four cards. An average game? One to three.
Goalie Casey Latchem. Pro scouts are betting not many people could take Marcus Tracy one-on-one, but Latchem did it during clutch times in the second half of the game.
Valentin taking a cleat to the face not only fired up his team, but destroyed the momentum of the game. He's been touted as his team's emotional leader, and this time he took it to a whole other level -- he left the field with only 10 players until it was clear he wouldn't be able to play, but with him on the sidelines his team was out for blood. It showed as they controlled the game for the last 10 minutes and emotionally unraveled the Buckeyes.