Silence. A collective scream. And then a mob of people rushing
into the hall to make urgent phone calls.

Janna Hutz
Michigan senior Mike White breaks away from Northwestern defensemen. White will be counted upon to score in the absence of Michigan star Knox Cameron. (RYAN WEINER/Daily)

Anyone standing in the hallway outside Crisler Arena’s
media room late Monday afternoon would have thought a murder had
just taken place.

To some on the Michigan men’s soccer team, the event that
transpired may have actually felt like a life and death
situation.

The team had gathered to watch the NCAA selection show to find
out if Michigan would be awarded its first-ever chance at a
tournament appearance.

As ESPN began showing the tournament brackets, a stillness came
over the room. Faces ranged from anxious to tranquil as each player
squinted to find Michigan’s name on the screen. And then
there it was.

But the name was in a different spot than expected. Instead of
being in the first round, the team had earned the 12th-seed
position, meaning Michigan would have a bye.

“I was quite surprised,” said Michigan coach Steve
Burns. “The possibly of getting that first-round bye never
crossed our minds.”

Burns and the team consider themselves lucky to have even earned
a spot in the tournament. Last Thursday in the first round of the
Big Ten Tournament, No. 2 seed Michigan lost to No. 7 seed
Northwestern. The Wildcats’ 2-1 victory over the Wolverines
was their first win over a Big Ten team in four years. Michigan
worried that the loss might lead to a repeat of last year’s
NCAA selection — a year ago Michigan was overlooked even
after making it to the Big Ten Championship game.

Now that the team has been selected, some players reflected on
last week’s loss in a positive light.

“I think we’re going to stay focused, because our
loss on Thursday really put us in place,” senior forward Mike
White said. “I think that we know that we can lose.
We’ve said all year, ‘Any team can lose to any other
team on any given day.’ ”

White is one of nine seniors that have been with the program
since its start four years ago.

“We don’t want to stop here, especially as
seniors,” said White. “Every team that we’ve lost
to, every team that we’ve seen play, we’ve said,
‘We can beat them.’ We really have a lot of confidence
in our team.”

With its first-round bye, Michigan will now face the winner of
the Brown-St. Peter’s game next Wednesday in Ann Arbor. But
one key Wolverine will be missing on the field.

Junior midfielder Knox Cameron, who holds the Michigan record
for career and season goals, will be playing with the U.S. Under-20
national team in the FIFA World Youth Championships in the United
Arab Emirates.

“In soccer, because goals are so difficult to score, you
rely upon more of the team to win games,” said Burns.
“Certainly we’ll miss Knox, but now greater emphasis
will be placed on Mike White, who will step in for him at the
target forward position. Kevin Robinson and Trai Blanks will also
see more minutes.”

Cameron also is not worried about his team.

“I was gone last year the last four regular season games
and the Big Ten Tournament, and we ended up making it to the
finals,” Cameron said. “We’re a great team, and
obviously, I’ve had a good year, but I know they can pull
through.”

 

 

 

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