Thursday, December 14, 2006

COM: Blogarithmic #185

Lapira is Soccer America Men's Player of the Year
For the second year in a row, the Soccer America Men's Player of the Year is a Louisianan.

Last year it was Maryland's Jason Garey from Gonzales, located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The 2006 recipient is Notre Dame junior Joseph Lapira, from Lake Charles in Acadiana.

Nicknamed the "Ragin' Cajun" by Irish coach Bobby Clark when he attended the Notre Dame soccer camp while in high school, Lapira played the 2006 season with a meniscus tear in his knee -- an injury suffered in Notre Dame's opening game against UAB -- but that didn't stop him from having a breakout season. He led the country in scoring with 22 goals and 50 points.

He put on one of the greatest performances by a visiting player in the long history of Indiana's Armstrong Stadium, scoring four goals in a 5-4 overtime win over the Hoosiers over Labor Day weekend.

In October, he went on a scoring tear that included two goals in five straight games and goals in seven games in a row.

Lapira's knee injury limited his practice time late in the season, but he had the two biggest goals of the season in the NCAA Tournament. He scored in the 1-0 victory over UIC in the second round and struck the golden goal that knocked off defending champion Maryland, 1-0, in the third round. The Irish's quarterfinal finish was the best in their history.

Although Lapira had decent freshman and sophomore seasons -- with three goals and seven goals, respectively -- no one would have predicted he would break out like he did as a junior. Clark credits Lapira's hustle around the goal for his ability to create multiple chances for himself. Lapira, who finished with 11 game-winning goals, says a positive attitude kept him from getting down like he did in previous seasons when he missed chances.

SOCCER AMERICA MEN'S COLLEGE AWARDS
Soccer America Men's Player of the Year
Joseph Lapira (Notre Dame)

Soccer America Men's MVPs
M Nico Colaluca (Virginia)
F Charlie Davies (Boston College)
D Andy Iro (UC Santa Barbara)
F Joseph Lapira (Notre Dame)
D Jay Needham (SMU)
M David Roth (Northwestern)
G Chris Seitz (Maryland)
F Jarrod Smith (West Virginia)
D Julian Valentin (Wake Forest)
M Michael Videira (Duke)
M Sal Zizzo (UCLA)

Soccer America Men's Coach of the Year
Marlon LeBlanc (West Virginia)

O'Reilly is Soccer America Women's Player of the Year
Heather O'Reilly's college career ended as it started - with a national championship.

After starting as a freshman on one of the great North Carolina teams in history three years ago, she was the senior leader on a freshman-dominated team that won 27 straight games to claim the Tar Heels' 18th national championship.

O'Reilly didn't put up the numbers some of the other contenders for Player of the Year honors did - she finished with a respectable 12 goals and 14 assists - but she saved the best for last.

O'Reilly scored the insurance goal in Carolina's 2-0 victory over UCLA in the semifinals of the Women's College Cup and chipped the ball over Notre Dame keeper Lauren Karas for the first goal in the Heels' 2-1 victory in the final.

A regular on the U.S. national team since before she enrolled at North Carolina, O'Reilly has admitted that her national team responsibilities distracted her at times, but she says her senior season in Chapel Hill was special.

"It's truly an honor to play for the U.S., of course, to play for your country and score for your country," she said after the final. "But there's something special about playing for the University of North Carolina - the tradition involved, the dynasty that we're now proving that we're continuing."

O'Reilly, who finished her career with 59 goals overall and 15 in the NCAA Tournament (tied with Mia Hamm for third all-time), says she loved the daily routine of college life spent with her teammates.

"They're your best friends on and off the field," she says. "There's something special about college soccer and the way that we train every day after school at 2:30. I haven't found another training environment quite like that."

SOCCER AMERICA WOMEN'S COLLEGE AWARDS
Soccer America Women's Player of the Year

Heather O'Reilly (North Carolina)

Soccer America Women's MVPs
M Yael Averbuch (North Carolina)
D Marian Dalmy (Santa Clara)
M Christina DiMartino (UCLA)
F Kerri Hanks (Notre Dame)
D Ali Krieger (Penn State)
D Stephanie Lopez (Portland)
G Jillian Loyden (Villanova)
D Kasey Moore (Texas)
F Heather O'Reilly (North Carolina)
F Ashlee Pistorius (Texas A&M)
F India Trotter (Florida State)

Soccer America Women's Coach of the Year
Anson Dorrance (North Carolina)

APRIL HEINRICHS: Former U.S. coach leaves UCI
April Heinrichs, who coached the USA to the women's soccer gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, has quit her coach as women's coach at UC Irvine after only one season to accept a position with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Heinrichs' decision to take the Anteater job last season was a surprise, and she was unable to turn around the program. UCI went 3-13-1 after going 2-13-1 in 2005.

Heinrichs will become the Team Leader of Team and Technical Sports, a newly created position in the USOC's Sports Performance Service Department.

"The timing of leaving UCI is terrible and I didn't fulfill my commitment, but the USOC job allows me to transition into the next phase of my career," Heinrichs said. "The decision is indicative of me and not a reflection of UC Irvine."

CENTRAL ARKANSAS: Men's soccer reinstituted
Thanks to the support of its student body, the University of Central Arkansas did an about-face and reinstituted its men's soccer program a month after it decided to drop the program.

The school's Board of Trustees accepted a Student Government Association recommendation to raise athletic fees by 50 cents per credit hour. This increase is expected to generate an additional $150,000 to be used to keep the program alive as an independent until a conference agrees to accept the team. Once UCA was accepted in a men's soccer conference -- among the possibilities are the Missouri Valley and Mid-American -- the student funding will be dropped.

The UCA case underscored the difficulties men's soccer programs face. They must not only have the support of their school and community but they must have the support of their school's conference. In the UCA situation, men's soccer was successful at the Division II level, but when the school went DI, men's soccer found itself with no one to play since the Southland Conference, its new conference, has women's soccer but no men's soccer. The Southland is one of nine conferences that sponsor women's soccer but not men's soccer because there are not the six teams necessary to qualify for an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

DI CONFERENCES WITHOUT MEN'S SOCCER
Ratio of men's to women's soccer programs:
Big Sky (1/9)
Big 12 (0/12) !!!
*Mountain West (5/8)
Ohio Valley (1/10)
SEC (2/12)
Southland (1/9)
Sun Belt (4/12)
SWAC (1/10)
WAC (1/8)
*BYU's men's program plays in the PDL.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Another So Cal sweep
Cerritos College's men and Santiago Canyon College's women captured their first COA soccer championships, the fourth successive sweep of state junior college titles by Southern California schools.

Santiago Canyon (25-1-1), from Orange, stunned three-time champion Cypress, 2-0, in the women's final on second-half goals by Kathleen Benton and Megan Konishi. The Hawks, whose lineup features Sarah Califf, sister of former MLS defender Danny Califf, were 0-1-1 against Cypress (24-2-2) during the regular season.

Cerritos (20-3-5) edged Taft, 1-0, on midfielder Juan Huerta's 36th-minute goal to capture its first COA soccer crown. Defender Eusebio Alvarez, who led to Falcons to two 1-0 victories in the final four, was selected tournament MVP.

The Commission On Athletics (COA), which governs junior college sports in California, is not affiliated with the NJCAA, and California schools do not participate in NJCAA events. COA competition is generally deemed superior to that in the NJCAA.
-- Scott French

OBITUARY: Bob DiGrazia
Bob DiGrazia, who coached the University of California's men's team for 28 years (1953-80) and remains the Bears' all-time winningest coach with a 202-133-39 record, died Dec. 11.

A San Francisco native, DiGrazia played for Cal in 1948-50 and became the Bears' first All-American in 1950. As coach, he guided the Bears to their first two NCAA playoff appearances, in 1960 and 1977. Fifteen of his players collected a total of 19 All-American honors.

In 1983, DiGrazia earned the 43rd annual Honor Award from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).

He served as a Cal assistant athletic director for six years after his coaching career ended.

DiGrazia, who had suffered from Parkinson's disease, was 79.



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