This past weekend, the University of Michigan Men's Club Soccer program travelled to Foley, AL to compete for the 2016 NIRSA National Club Soccer Championship.
Grouped with West and Northeast regional champions, Colorado School of Mines and University of Connecticut, respectively, the Wolverines faced a difficult task in making it out of the group stage. In the first match, Michigan jumped to an early lead against the Miners when senior forward, David Farber, redirected a ball played across the face of the goal by junior defender, David Mintz. The rest of the game was a very exciting affair with both teams getting quality chances on goal and fighting for an all-important opening-game victory. Unfortunately, it was a Michigan defensive error that lead to a Miners goal and a disappointing draw for the Wolverines after an impressive start to their campaign.
Later that afternoon, the Wolverines faced a simple fate when they met the University of Connecticut: win and go through to the round of 16. As has been their habit all of 2016, Michigan jumped out to an early lead when, in the 12th minute, senior midfielder and Michigan captain, PJ DiNardo, deflected a driven free kick from Hunter Mejaly into the back of the Huskies goal to give Michigan the goal advantage. U Conn followed up with everything they had as they searched for an equalizing goal to salvage the match. However, Michigan's defensive was solid and allowed for the Wolverine attack to take advantage one last time when senior forward, Austin Harms, fired a shot past the Huskies goalkeeper to solidify the Michigan victory and berth in the 2016 NIRSA knockout stage.
The Cavaliers from the University of Virginia stood in the way of Michigan and a historic NIRSA tournament run. With no current member ever having made it past the Round of 16, the Wolverines looked to continue their season and their run for the 2016 title. For nearly the entire match, the Wolverines outplayed the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, it was, once again, another defensive error that lead to one of Virginia's few chances on goal that they converted on to give them the lead with only 9 minutes left in the match. Unable to equalize, Michigan was left stunned and defeated when the final whistle was blown. Visibly distraught, Michigan walked off the field and denied a spot in the quarter-finals for the second year in a row. Remarkably, for also the second time in as many tournament appearances, Michigan lost to the eventual NIRSA national champions as it were the Cavaliers from Virginia that went on to claim the 2016 title.
With the loss, Michigan looks to build on an incredibly successful 2016 campaign. Although several seniors will graduate and leave the program, the Wolverines return an incredibly talented and passionate core of underclassmen as well as a committed and knowledgeable coaching staff.
The Wolverines thank all of our friends, family, and supporters who provided encouragement throughout the year. We especially thank our graduating seniors who have been a part of and spearheaded an initiative to advance Michigan Men's Club Soccer into what is now an incredibly well-organized, professional, competitive, and enviable club soccer program.
We truly believe that, "Those who stay will be champions" so please stay tuned for future news of the Men's Club Soccer program as we begin preparations for the 2017 after a brief break upon our return to Ann Arbor.