(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
CHARLOTTE, N.C.- Junior two- time All-American Chris Gbandi (Houston, TX) hooked in a 23-yard direct kick early in the first half and senior All-American Darin Lewis (Tunapuna, Trinidad) added an insurance score late in the second half as the University of Connecticut men's soccer team defeated Creighton University, 2-0, on Sunday to win the 2000 NCAA Division I National Championship.
Gbandi, a defensive specialist who on Saturday was named winner of the Hermann Trophy symbolic of the nation's top collegiate player, went on the offensive 15:27 into the first half of the national championship match at Ericsson Stadium. UConn was awarded a direct kick after a Creighton foul and Gbandi calmly curved a left- footed shot inside the right corner of the net past the dive of Blue Jay goalie Mike Gabb. After handing UConn its early lead, Gbandi returned to his defensive post and ended the national championship match being named the "Outstanding Defensive Player" of the NCAA College Cup.
UConn maintained that advantage until the final five minutes of regulation when a trio of Huskies combined for an all-important second goal. Sophomore Rui Fernandes (Bridgeport, CT) got the ball up the right sideline to junior David Castellanos (Philadelphia, PA) who crossed it into the top of the circle. Lewis, who was named "Outstanding Offensive Player" of the NCAA College Cup, settled the ball in front of the goal and rifled a shot from eight yards out past goalie Gabb at the 85:41 mark.
The score for Lewis was his 10th of the season. Lewis had scored one goal and added an assist on Friday night in UConn's 2-0 national semifinal victory over Southern Methodist.
UConn sported a slim 11-9 advantage in shots on goal but Connecticut did not allow Creighton to dent its net. Connecticut junior goalkeeper Bryheem Hancock (Middletown, DE) chalked up four saves in net as he established a single-season school record by notching his 15th shutout of the season. The shutout loss was the first match all season that Creighton (22-4) had failed to score.
Five members of the victorious Connecticut national championship squad were named to the NCAA College Cup All-Tournament teamtri-captain Gbandi, Lewis, Hancock, two-time senior All- American and tri-captain Brent Rahim (Diego Martin, Trinidad), and senior tri-captain Max Zieky (Glastonbury, CT).
The national championship victory for the Huskies completed in perfect fashion the rebuilding of the UConn men's soccer program by fourth-year head coach Ray Reid. UConn advanced to the 1999 NCAA College Cup in Reid's third year in charge of the program, losing in the national semifinals. Connecticut returned to collegiate soccer's "Final Four" for the second consecutive year in 2000 and posted back-to- back shutout wins en route to the national crown.
Connecticut is now two-for-two in NCAA men's soccer title matches. In 1981, UConn claimed the NCAA Division I national championship, defeating Alabama A&M 2-1. Ironically, Connecticut's final overall record in its 2000 national championship season, 20-3-2, was the identical overall record for the 1981 UConn national champions.
NCAA Division I College Cup--Ericsson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Connecticut 1 1 - 2 Creighton 0 0 - 0
UC-Chris Gbandi 15:27
UC-Darin Lewis (David Castellanos, Rui Fernandes) 85:41.
SHOTS ON GOAL:
UC-4 (Bryheem Hancock); C-4 (Mike Gabb).