- James Coller/Daily
By Kelly Hall, Daily Sports Writer
Published August 27, 2014
Senior co-captains Adam Grinwis and Tyler Arnone expected some of their teammates to participate in their captain-led summer two-a-days, but they got more than what they bargained for.
The second-year captains were able to facilitate 100% attendance. Not one player missed their three-week camp.
“I think that helped prepare for the preseason and I believe that’s why we were able to put together a good preseason — we won three games — because we were thinner and sharper than the other teams,” said resdshirt senior midfielder Arnone.
The captain-held camp was the first of its kind for the program. After last season's 8-7-3 finish that ended without an NCAA Tournament berth, the Wolverines knew they needed to do something different.
For their best chance at achieving goals like becoming Big Ten champions in a conference that has four top-25 RPI teams and a schedule that includes seven top-50 RPI teams — including NCAA champion Notre Dame and runner-up Maryland, the camp helped prepare the team mentally.
“I think (the camp) helped our mentality and our culture at Michigan,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “I think the best teams in the country get together periodically throughout the summer, so I think that was a good thing for them and their camaraderie. Winning is not just Xs and Os. Winning is not just performing on the day of the game. Winning is team spirit and culture. I think that stuff becomes contagious and that stuff becomes consistent because it’s something you continue to do and continue to grow upon.”
The freshmen are now comfortable on campus after their near month-long stint, and after losing six seniors, that’s important for the Wolverines. Michigan will rely heavily on their new freshmen to contribute immediately.
According to TopDrawerSoccer.com, Michigan has the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation including the No. 1 player in the Great Lakes Region, forward Ahinga Selemani, and the No. 2 goalkeeper, Evan Louro.
Louro and senior redshirt senior goalkeeper Grinwis have so far split time in net this preseason, and Selemani is expected to start at forward on Friday.
Selemani will be critical to the Wolverines’ more offensive formation this season. Different from seasons past, Daley is planning on implementing a 4-3-3 formation. He hopes for a more possession-oriented team.
“For (Selemani), Will (Mellors-Blair), Colin McAtee and James (Murphy), we hope that all four of them, not just Ahinga, will be consistent goal-scoring threats and goal scorers,” Daley said. “I think that’s our goal playing with three forwards. We think all three guys are very formidable. Ahinga’s the young one of the group, but we certainly feel he’ll do well with Mellors-Blair, who’s extremely formidable, and McAtee, who’s matured leaps and bounds in his two years here with me.”
The Wolverines will have plenty of talent returning to the back line and midfield, including returning starters Arnone, the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year, and Big Ten All-Freshmen defenders Rylee Woods and Lars Eckenrode.
In Daley’s third year with Michigan, optimism in the soccer program is growing despite the difficulty of the Wolverines’ upcoming schedule. The Big Ten coaches chose Michigan to finish third in the conference this season, which would be an improvement upon last season’s fourth-place finish.
Like many coaches and players, Daley prefers not to look ahead at his daunting season, but rather on a game-to-game basis.
“That’s just a prediction. It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s not tangible. We still have to go play the games and the only thing we have our minds set on is FIU on Friday night,” Daley said. “We’re one game at a time.”
Added Arnone: “Reaching the NCAA tournament is our priority alongside with winning Big Ten Championships. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. What’s been working with us so far is that we’ve just been taking things day-by-day and game-by-game.”