Summer ’04: The Loss of Knox

 

Senior Knox Cameron was expected to be one of the nation’s
best players in 2004. Last year, he set a school record with 33
points.

But Cameron tore the meniscus in his right knee in an exhibition
game over the summer.

“I put a lot of work in over the summer to prepare for the
season,” Cameron said. “It was tough not being able to
play.”

Michigan coach Steve Burns now had to fill the void that Cameron
would leave for 18 games. The 4-3-3 shape the team had played in
had been specifically built to work on the strengths of Knox as an
aggressive forward.

“Upon losing Knox … we learned early on that it
wasn’t a shape that would help us be effective,” Burns
said.

Sept. 1: The Huskies Takedown

In Michigan’s first game of the season, the Wolverines
traveled to No. 10 Connecticut. Unsure of how the team would
perform without Cameron, Michigan relied on its defense to steal a
1-0 victory. In the 81st minute of the game, sophomore Kevin
Savitskie scored the game-winning goal for Michigan.

Employing a new formation with five defenders, Michigan hoped
this opening game victory would set the pace for the rest of the
season.

“It gave us so much confidence,” junior Ryan Sterba
said. “We were unsure of how we were going to play, playing a
different style and sitting in more.”

Sept 4:

Michigan wins first overtime game of the season against Western
Illinois 1-0

Sept. 24-26: Disaster in the East

Rutgers was the first stop in a six-game series of road games
for the Wolverines, who saw their six-game win streak come to a
sudden halt in a 3-0 shutout.

Suffering its first loss of the season, Michigan hoped to get
back on the winning track against Long Island two days later. The
Wolverines led the Blackbirds 1-0 the entire game. But in the last
minute of regulation, Michigan gave up an own goal on a Long Island
corner kick. The deflected ball slipped past goalkeeper Joe
Zawacki, sending the game into overtime.

After two overtime periods, neither team could break the
stalemate.

“When I look at our wins and losses, probably the game
that we are saying, ‘That should’ve been a different
result’ was the Long Island game,” Burns said.
“We were clearly the better team there.”

Week of Oct. 4: Glinksi goes down

In practice, junior defender Chris Glinksi suffered a leg
injury. The junior was heartbroken by the medical report: a
fractured ankle.

“I was just optimistic about it,” Glinski said.
“I told (the team), ‘You guys will be fine without
me.’ ”

Glinski would end up sitting on the sidelines for seven games
until the Oakland contest.

As one of the fastest players on the Michigan squad, Glinski
would cause Burns to revise the Wolverines’ formation once
again.

“The loss that hurt the most was Glinski’s broken
ankle,” Burns said. “We realized we couldn’t play
the 5-3-2 because we didn’t have the speed in the
backfield.”

Oct. 10: Pick a card…

In an emotional Big Ten matchup, the Wolverines dropped their
game against the Hoosiers, 2-1.

The game was heated until the end, producing a total of 28
fouls, five yellow cards and two red cards between the two
teams.

One consequence of the intense physical matchup was the loss of
senior Dawson Stellberger. He was tackled hard by an Indiana
defender and broke his right leg.

“I knew right when it happened that I had broken my
leg,” Stellberger said. “I’ve always been able to
contribute to the team on the field, and now I
(couldn’t).”

“Dawson is the biggest warrior of a player,” Burns
said. “Dawson was a huge loss for us because he was on track
to help us win a couple of really big games. Without him, we lost a
good portion of our speed on the field.”

Oct. 17: Spartan Heartbreak

The Wolverines had been on the road for six straight games and
hoped that their homecoming game against Michigan State would be a
game to remember.

It ended up being memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Michigan lost 3-2 in overtime, capping a three-game losing
streak and giving the team its first home loss of the season. The
Spartans scored all three of their goals off restarts, something
that the Wolverines had previously prided themselves on
defending.

“The Michigan State team was tough,” Burns said.
“We hadn’t planned on that loss. We allowed the game to
get spread out, and we lost contact with their team.”

Oct. 22: Badger Beating

The Wolverines rebounded against Wisconsin to earn their first
Big Ten victory.

With a 2-1 win in overtime, Michigan was able to snap its
three-game losing streak. Junior Trai Blanks proved to be the hero,
scoring the game-winning goal off an assist from Mychal Turpin.

As has been a recurring nightmare for Michigan, the Badgers were
able to tie the game in the final minutes of the contest off a
penalty kick. But unlike the times before, Michigan pulled out a
win in the end.

“Being on the road is always hard,” Turpin said.
“Getting a victory there was important for us. We
weren’t exactly on a win streak, so getting a result there
was pretty key.”

Oct. 29-31: Home field advantage

Returning to Ann Arbor after playing the last eight of its nine
games on the road, Michigan hoped home-field advantage would open
up the Wolverines’ attack game.

Against Akron, Michigan’s offense was on fire. Michigan
massacred the Zips, 4-0, with junior Adam Bruh, Blanks and Turpin
all contributing to the Wolverines’ most offensive effort of
the year.

Unfortunately against No. 19 Penn State two days later, Michigan
was unable to convert on its scoring chances.

As it turned out, neither team made an appearance on the
scoreboard. A 0-0 tie resulted after double overtime.
Dzubay’s eight saves was just one stat in this defensive
stalemate.

“The Penn State tie was a big one for us,” Burns
said. “For the first 15 minutes of the game, we were all over
them. We could’ve beaten them, but we’ll take that
tie.”

Nov. 3: Cameron and Glinski return to the field against
Oakland.

Nov. 6: Ohio State defeats Michigan 2-0 on home soil.

Nov. 11-14: Big Ten Tournament

After suffering a disappointing loss to Ohio State to end the
regular season, Michigan heads into the Big Ten Tournament in Ann
Arbor under a great deal of pressure.

“Our team has psychologically hardened,” Burns said.
“We know that we are going to be in every game.”

As hosts, Michigan hopes to win the tournament outright and
receive the automatic NCAA bid. Drawing the No. 2 seeded Ohio State
in the first round, the Buckeyes will once again be standing in
Michigan’s way.

“We need to minimize the amount of errors we are making
individually,” Sterba said. “As a team, we’re
playing very well right now. It’s just a matter of
individually making more plays and having one or two guys stepping
up.”

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