The final whistle blew against Wake Forest in the Sweet Sixteen, ending a long race for the Michigan men’s soccer team. The 3-1 loss capped off a full season of playing time for then-junior midfielder Marc Ybarra, who quickly pivoted towards the next race for a national and Big Ten title — a mountaintop he’s strived to reach since claiming it his freshman year.
Ybarra started in midfield for all of the Wolverines’ 22 matches and never left the field, the only Michigan player to do so — a testament to his consistency. This statistic encompasses Ybarra’s character: A workhorse midfielder, a devoted teammate and a player who is always looking to improve, no matter how many miles are on his cleats.
Growing up as a hometown kid in Ann Arbor, Ybarra — the youngest of four siblings — drew inspiration from his older siblings on the soccer field.
“I look up to my brother, Matt Ybarra, who played at Detroit Mercy from 2011-2014,” Ybarra said. “We both play similar positions and he was a captain. He played all the time, and I looked up to his work ethic.”
Marc credited the growth of his game to not just Matt, but all three of his siblings.
“It extends even more than my brother. I’m the youngest in my family, and all three of my siblings played soccer growing up,” Ybarra said. “I had those mentors, and the support of older people than myself.”
“I’m always supporting attackers and supporting defenders. For me, consistency is always being there. Showing up and being there everyday.”
There are two factors that allowed Ybarra to stay on the pitch all season: good health and trust from the coaching staff. Michigan coach Chaka Daley could always count on Ybarra to be healthy and impact the starting 11.
Ybarra’s consistency doesn’t end after the final whistle is blown. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ybarra is helping his fellow midfielders, defenders, attackers and future teammates.
“This team is the first time I have had to embrace that role. Now going into my senior year, I’m reaching out to incoming freshmen,” Ybarra said. “It’s been a different role, but it’s good to be confident that when I leave after next year, the other guys that I am having conversations with will fill the same role I had.”
The stay-at-home orders have struck uncertainty in how Michigan will prepare for the upcoming season. Even without spring matches and in-person practices, Ybarra and the rest of the upperclassmen stayed true to their leadership. Communication plays a key part in Ybarra’s game, both on and off the field — Ybarra is a U-M Leadership, Excellence, Achievement, and Diversity (LEAD) Scholar. In order for the team to develop as much as possible at a distance from one another, Ybarra’s mentorship to the underclassmen and new recruits is essential for success next season.
“We have had a couple calls with the whole team,” Ybarra said.“I think the older guys have taken it upon themselves to reach out to a couple specified players, especially the incoming guys. We’ve been reassuring that they can reach out with anything they need. More of delegating between a couple guys each making sure we’re all in touch and ready to go in the fall, hopefully.”
After playing nearly 2,000 minutes in 2019, Ybarra’s mind does not want to keep count. He is solely focused on the most important team goal: winning.