Regardless of what happens to the Michigan men”s soccer team at this weekend”s Big Ten Tournament in Madison, there is a good possibility that it will chalk this up as a successful year.
In just its second year as a varsity program, Michigan finished with a 3-3 conference record and 9-6-1 overall. That mark was good enough to earn Michigan a tie for third place in the Big Ten with Wisconsin and Michigan State.
“I think we”ve been pretty hard on ourselves,” coach Steve Burns said. “We lost to Bowling Green (1-0) and we thought we should have won. We lost to Florida International (2-1) in a game that we could have won.
“It”s kind of time to take a step back, look at what we”ve done, and realize that this has been a pretty great year.”
Michigan will look to extend that great year as it opens the Big Ten Tournament against host Wisconsin today. The fifth-seeded Wolverines defeated the fourth-seeded Badgers earlier this year in Ann Arbor, 2-1.
In that game, Mike White and Knox Cameron each netted a goal to stake the Wolverines to a 2-0 lead.
Getting off to a quick start has been a large part of Michigan”s formula for success this year. It”s something that the Wolverines will be looking to accomplish again against the Badgers.
“Every game that we”ve scored first in this season we”ve won and every game that we haven”t we”ve lost,” Burns said. “So talk about a fresh sense of confidence when we score early. You see everyone”s game elevate when that happens our body language and our posture stay strong.
“When we get scored on first we try to address that as a team, but most of the time being able to deal with that comes with experience. It”s that little game within a game.”
Perhaps the biggest issue facing Michigan will be attempting to cover Wisconsin”s Dominic Dapra, who leads the team with 15 goals this season. In Michigan”s earlier contest against Wisconsin, marking back James Baez-Silva defended Dapra one-on-one throughout the game. Baez-Silva frustrated the dangerous striker, holding him without a point.
But Baez-Silva received a red card in Michigan”s season finale a 1-0 upset win over Ohio State. Because of that he will be forced to sit out the opening round game against Wisconsin.
It”s a big loss as the Wolverines try to pull an upset on the road.
“As a team we”ve spent a lot of energy trying to get our guys to play Big Ten soccer a very high level of intensity with a physical, aggressive mentality,” Burns said. “But we need to be a little smarter when recognizing when to be aggressive and when not to be.
“But I”m not going to whine and complain we”re just working on adjusting when we have to play a man down.”
The winner of today”s game will advance to play top-seeded Indiana on Friday. But win or lose, this season has left Burns and the rest of the Wolverines happy with what they”ve accomplished.
“In our second year to go from sixth to third place in the conference, that”s a significant jump for us,” Burns said. “It”s sinking in with the players and it”s giving us a renewed sense of confidence heading into the tournament.”