BLOOMINGTON — After Saturday’s third-round NCAA Tournament loss to Indiana, Michigan men’s soccer coach Steve Burns brought his seven graduating seniors together as their teammates applauded the unit’s impressive accomplishments.
Goals: 36, including eight game-winners.
But more than anything, the loud clapping by the underclassmen acknowledged the seniors’ leadership.
“Their work ethic is one of the main things I’ll take away from them,” redshirt freshman Adam Shaw said. “They were always working, always wanting to do more to succeed and help the team, and I think that I’ve really come to realize that you really have to put in the extra effort to go to the next level, to be at the next level and to win at the next level.”
As the Wolverines look forward to next year, they are quickly realizing that leadership roles are what really need to be filled, beyond a shutdown defender like Michael Holody, a fast midfielder with a strong foot like Santos Perez or a solid forward like Steve Bonnell.
“We just have to take what (the seniors) taught us throughout the season and take it to next season and hopefully we can have the same success we had this year and give the same thing back to the players that are beneath us,” junior forward Peri Marosevic said.
One thing next year’s leaders will try to duplicate will be the family vibe this year’s seniors instilled in the team.
“I made it clear to everybody, we work as a team but we’re family, so we’re going to make sacrifices for each other, and we’re going to fight for each other,” Perez said.
But the family atmosphere started more than four years ago, when Burns recruited this year’s senior class. Most of the players already knew each other before they moved into South Quad together because they had played together or against each other on various club teams.
“We were all kind of deciding where we wanted to go,” senior midfielder Jake Stacy said. “We were always talking about it and for me it impacted my decision knowing that I was going to be spending four years with all those guys.”
It was the first time that many of the players were the youngest and most inexperienced members of a soccer team, despite their impressive résumés which include accolades ranging from Michigan Mr. Soccer to Gatorade Player of the Year to the State Dream Team.
As the seniors move on to the next phase of their lives, whether it includes soccer or not, Burns hopes his players understand the magnitude of what they were a part of at Michigan, and that they will look back at their college years with no regrets.
Most of the seniors haven’t come to the realization that their college playing days are over yet and have yet to understand the impression they will leave on the underclassmen.
“I haven’t missed anything yet because the other guys haven’t started their winter practices,” Stacy said. “But I’ll miss being a Wolverine for sure.”