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Dec. 23, 2011
GREENSBORO, N.C. – On a North Carolina team loaded with quality talent, junior midfielder Ben Speas stood out with his exceptional play during the postseason.
The 2011 Soccer America Player of the Year had two goals and an assist in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship final, the key assist to get the Tar Heels back into the Men's College Cup semifinals and the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Charlotte in the final. Speas, who won the NCAA title with Akron as a sophomore, also scored in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Coastal Carolina and had the second goal against St. Mary's in the quarterfinals.
He is the first Tar Heel to win the Soccer America Player of the Year award.
The Tar Heels’ Carlos Somoano, Soccer America's 2011 Men's Coach of the Year, made the seamless transition from assistant coach to head coach, leading North Carolina to the 2011 NCAA Division I title. He became just the second head coach in NCAA Division I men's history to claim a national title in his first year.
Somoano was promoted, becoming only the fifth head coach in the UNC program's 65-year history. when long-time head coach Elmar Bolowich left for Creighton. Somoano had a major rebuilding job ahead of him, losing seven starters, including three who became starters in MLS. But transfers Ben Speas (Akron) and Matt Hedges (Butler) stepped right in and filled key roles, while Billy Schuler came back from a shoulder injury to have a superb junior season. Three freshmen -- Mikey Lopez, Jordan McCrary and Boyd Okwuonu -- stepped right into the starting lineup.
Three players from North Carolina -- Speas, ACC Defensive Player of the Year Hedges and Schuler -- head the 2011 Soccer America MVPs first team. The ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Duke’s Andrew Wenger, also earned a spot on the first team. The ACC is represented on the second team by UNC midfielder Enzo Martinez.
Soccer America's MVPs were introduced in 1976 and honor the players who have had the biggest impact on their team's success regardless of position. Beginning in 2007, Soccer America selected first and second teams.
UNC’s Lopez, McCrary and Okwuonu lead the 2011 Soccer America All-Freshman Team. They were joined on the first team by Duke forward Nick Palodichuk. Clemson’s Brynjar Benediktsson and Boston College’s Diego Medina-Mendez earned second team All-Freshman Team honors.
2011 Soccer America MVPs First Team
GK Brian Holt (Creighton), Jr.
F Dom Dwyer (USF), Jr.
F Ethan Finlay (Creighton), Sr.
D Matt Hedges (North Carolina), Sr.
F Chandler Hoffman (UCLA), Jr.
F Darren Mattocks (Akron), Soph.
D Charles Rodriguez (Charlotte), Sr.
M Ben Speas (North Carolina), Jr.
F Billy Schuler (North Carolina), Jr.
M Luis Silva (UC Santa Barbara), Sr.
F Andrew Wenger (Duke), Jr.
2011 Soccer America MVPs Second Team
GK Brian Rowe (UCLA), Sr.
F Ashton Bennett (Coastal Carolina), Jr.
D Austin Berry (Louisville), Sr.
F Evans Frimpong (Delaware), Sr.
F Miguel Ibarra (UC Irvine), Sr.
F Arthur Ivo (SMU), Sr.
D Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Connecticut), Soph.
M Enzo Martinez (North Carolina), Jr.
M Kelyn Rowe (UCLA), Soph.
D Kyle Venter (New Mexico), Jr.
M Paul Wyatt (James Madison), Jr.
F Gyasi Zardes (CSU Bakersfield), Soph.
2011 Soccer America All-Freshman First Team
GK Andre Blake (Connecticut)
F Andrew Bevin (West Virginia)
D Nikko Boxall (Northwestern)
F Giuseppe Gentile (Charlotte)
D Walker Zimmerman (Furman)
M Mikey Lopez (North Carolina)
D Jordan McCrary (North Carolina)
D Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina)
F Nick Palodichuk (Duke)
M Wil Trapp (Akron)
F Eriq Zavaleta (Indiana)
2011 Soccer America All-Freshman Second Team
GK Tyler Miller (Northwestern)
F Brynjar Benediktsson (Clemson)
M Seth Casiple (California)
D Darion Copeland (UAB)
F Juan Pablo Correa (Rutgers)
M Jimmy McLaughlin (Colgate)
M Diego Medina-Mendez (Boston College)
D Juan Monge Solano (VCU)
F C. Nortey (Marquette)
F Matt Wiesenfarth (UC Davis)
D DeAndre Yedlin (Akron)