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Top WoSo moments of 2017: Dominance defines college season

Stanford defeated UCLA, 3-2, to be crowned the 2017 College Cup Champions. (photo courtesy NCAA Soccer)

Despite the talks of increasing parity in college soccer, 2017 saw a very clear separation between the top 4 or 5 teams and everyone else. This season culminated in a College Cup that included three number one seeded teams. This just a year after a single number one seed managed to advance to the final weekend in 2016.

It was one of those moments when past and future almost intertwine and you realize that something consequential is happening in real time. The star-studded rosters that comprised the 2017 College Cup field will soon (some sooner than others) make their way into the professional ranks.

A few of these players–Andi Sullivan, Rebecca Quinn, Jessie Fleming, and Catarina Macario–even look to factor significantly in the futures of their respective national teams. To see them compete for the greatest prize in the collegiate game was certainly a treat and one worthy of the coveted DVR space.

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Although each of the teams that made the trek to Orlando certainly had years to remember from Duke’s 19-game unbeaten streak that included the entire ACC regular season, to South Carolina’s breakthrough to the final weekend for the first time, undoubtedly, the Cardinal stood apart. In the end, the best team in the college game, measured by both the eye test and the numbers, hoisted the championship trophy.

Stanford managed to snuff out opponents’ attacks by depriving them of the ball much the way placing a glass over a candle deprives the flame of oxygen. The patient, calm attacking style was sometimes akin to a death by a thousand cuts. The Cardinal offense was truly prolific registering 91 goals, a full 30 more than the next closest team.

Catarina Macario, whose journey from Brazil to one of the nation’s preeminent programs is as remarkable as her first season in Palo Alto proved to be, was the heartbeat of the Cardinal offense. The skillful forward was near impossible for opposing defenses to stop and if they did she demonstrated her table setting ability. Macario finished her freshman campaign with 17 goals and 16 assists, good for first in the nation in points.

Fittingly. the team’s whose moniker is singular made few missteps on the season as a result of working together, seemingly as one. The only blemish on the season came in the third game, a 3-2 loss to Florida. After that match, the Cardinal allowed just six goals its remaining 21 matches. All of those six came from the penalty spot or off set pieces.

Soccer, often cruel by virtue of its low scoring nature, seems to punish top dogs a bit more than other teams sports. Certainly, it would take several pages to discuss the accomplishments of the national champions but perhaps it’s best to just reflect on the top team actually reaching the zenith. Stanford, while not perfect, was perhaps the most complete collegiate team we’ve seen this decade.

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