After missing two straight NCAA Tournaments, the Michigan women’s soccer team will need to do everything in its power to break the trend next season.
Tuesday afternoon, that campaign began with the naming of three captains for the 2016-17 season: junior forward Madisson Lewis, junior midfielder Jessica Heifetz and redshirt sophomore forward Ani Sarkisian.
“Jess, Madi and Ani will make a great trio of captains to lead our 2016 team,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan in a statement. “Spread evenly throughout the pitch, with Jess in the midfield, Madi on the back line and Ani up top, we will have a great leader in each area of the field.
“These three captains are supported by an outstanding senior class. We view the whole class as a leadership team, and we are enjoying the meetings we are having as we create a shared vision for our 2016 team.”
Former captains Maddie Clarfield, Corinne Harris and Christina Murillo now hand over the reigns to another trio composed of three players who have each had vastly different experiences as Wolverines.
During their freshman seasons, both Lewis and Heifetz were part of the Michigan squad that reached the 2013 Elite Eight. Heifetz saw almost no action that season, though, and played in only one game — against Oakland.
Lewis, on the other hand, was one of the team’s difference-makers on the frontline that year and rarely played like a freshman — a statement often backed by Ryan. After Michigan’s NCAA Tournament first-round win against Milwaukee, he even compared Lewis to being “faster than a rocket ship” to describe her ability to quickly break any opponents’ backline and find a scoring lane.
After ending the season ranked second on the team in goals (six), assists (nine) and points (21), Lewis was a unanimous selection for the All-Big Ten Freshman team. Since coming to Michigan, she hasn’t missed a game.
The next season was a turnaround for both future captains, as Lewis played more minutes as a defensive back and still notched five goals, and Heifetz went from playing only one game to 18 while adding three goals as well.
Though the Wolverines’ season was short-lived that year, it marked the arrival of Sarkisian, a Florida State transfer who missed the 2013 season due to injury.
Returning from an injury was no problem for Sarkisian, who has started every regular-season game since donning the maize and blue. She hasn’t skipped a beat, finishing last season with seven goals, three assists and 17 points — tying all three categories for first on the team with sophomore forward Taylor Timko.
“All three captains have been key impact players on our team since arriving at Michigan,” Ryan said. “They have the complete respect of our coaching staff and of their teammates for how they carry themselves on and off the field.”
The Wolverines are still waiting to make it to the Big Dance after coming close last season, which ended with a loss in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Michigan will soon begin its strength and conditioning regimen in addition to a competitive spring season, but the Wolverines will have to wait until August to see meaningful results. The election of Lewis, Heifetz and Sarkisian is a start, though, and it might just be Michigan’s antidote.