Jacob Plotnik
For the Daily

Michigan has nation’s No. 1 toughest schedule

Though the Michigan men soccer team may not be ranked at the top the country, its schedule is. Having played six ranked teams this season, the Wolverines’ (6-8-1 overall, 2-2-1 Big Ten) record may not accurately reflect how well they’ve played.

In the most recent RPI rankings, Michigan was positioned at No. 26, the highest ranking for a team below .500 in the country. 32 teams make the NCAA tournament.

A tough schedule is something that Michigan coach Chaka Daley said he

“I think as we grow as a program, there’s no reason why Michigan can’t compete against the best in the country,” Daley said. “All the teams that are doing big things play great schedule. You want to emulate the best, and that’s what we’re doing with our schedule.”

The players said they feel the same way. Senior defender Brian Klemczak, who on Saturday anchored the defense to their fifth shutout of the season en route to a victory over Valparaiso, echoed Daley’s thoughts.

“It helps build competition for us, it helps us see what the tough matchups are like and (to) see what we’re made of,” Klemczak said.

In order to make the NCAA tournament, one of two things needs to happen for the Wolverines. Michigan can either win the Big Ten tournament starting on Nov. 7, or they can receive an at-large bid, which is possible given their high RPI ranking.

However, to receive an at-large bid, a team must achieve at least a .500 record. Currently, the Wolverines sit two games under that mark with two regular season games left as they approach Big Ten tournament.

As a result, the Wolverines can’t afford to overlook their next two matchups.

“It very much is one game at a time right now,” Klemczak said. “We need to concentrate on each individual match.”

Daley said the team is determined to continue its momentum into the Big Ten tournament.

“It’s not a foregone conclusion that we can’t win a Big Ten championship, we’ve played some good games,” Daley said. “You want to be ready for your conference tournament and you want to be ready for (the) postseason by playing these tough games.”

Saturday against Valparaiso, Michigan’s defense shut down the Crusaders’ attack. In the second half, Valparaiso only mustered one shot on goal. The Wolverines won the game, 1-0.

“I think in the second half we played pretty well.” Daley said. “We carried the game, had good possession.”

To make the NCAA tournament, Michigan needs more performances like the one on Saturday. For the Wolverines, one of the hardest schedule in the country has prepared them for the late season grind

“You don’t enjoy a season against all easy teams, it’s been great” Klemczak said. “Finding ways to win the big games also show you ways that you can defeat the other opponents, too.”

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