Duke University Men’s Soccer

National Champions Hall of Honor
NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship
1986 National Champion

The Duke University Men’s Soccer Program began in 1930 and competed in the 1982, 1986 and 1995 national championship games.  Duke defeated the University of Akron 1-0 to win the 1986 NCAA Division 1 national championship title under head coach John Rennie.  In so doing, the Blue Devils brought home the school’s first NCAA team championship.

On four previous occasions, athletic teams at Duke had played for national championships and lost, including one in soccer four years prior.  The 1986 triumph erased some of the sting from Duke’s 2-1, eight-overtime defeat by Indiana in the 1982 title match and fulfilled a four-year dream of that year’s class of 11 seniors to return to the championship game and bring the trophy home. “Unfinished business” was the way coach John Rennie referred to Duke’s title match.  “This feels just unbelievable,” he added.

Blue Devils Tom Stone and Kelly Weadock claimed the offensive and defensive most valuable player awards in the game.  Stone, a junior forward, scored the lone goal at 46:38, and senior sweeper Weadock, starting all 87 games in his Duke career, anchored the Blue Devils’ defense to its 12th shutout of the season.

Rennie found it hard to single out players for commendation, however.  “If Duke University were to give a degree to this team, then it would be for chemistry,” he said.  “Our guys had their own magic formula for the last six weeks.  Chemistry is what all great teams have.”

Although the game was played on the artificial indoor surface of the Tacoma Dome in Washington State, Duke, 18-5-1, stuck with virtually the same game plan that had carried them to the championship game:  attack early and get the ball out of their end quickly.  The quick-striking Blue Devils took only 1:38 of the second half to put the game’s only goal on the scoreboard.  Robert Probst was fouled near midfield by Akron forward Roderick Scott.  Freshman midfielder Joe Valenti took the long free kick for Duke.  He crossed the ball over the head of Akron sweeper Matt Smith to the far post for Carl Williamson, who knocked it back to the near post for Stone.  “It came right to my left leg and I swung away,” said Stone, who drilled it high into the open net from seven yards out for his 16th goal of the year, just one off the school record.

Both teams concentrated their defenses to stop the opposition’s top scorer.  Duke used Probst, a freshman stopper, to mark Scott, a sophomore forward who was also a member of the Canadian National Team.  Akron fullback Shaun Docking was assigned to Duke’s John Kerr, who, following the championship, was named the recipient of the 1986 Hermann Trophy, given to the nation’s top player, and the National Player of the Year Award of the Missouri Athletic Club.

Coach Rennie stressed after the game, “You win with defense.  It’s like that in any sport.”

Call it destiny if you like.  The Duke soccer team could then wave their extended index fingers and chant, “We’re number one,” and know that it was true.  Now, 33 years later, the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame recognizes the Duke University Men’s Soccer Program with a well-deserved induction into its National Champions Hall of Honor.