Senior leadership. In the last decade, the simple phrase has frequented college sports. Ask most coaches about the importance of the two words and they will recite a speech of Biblical proportions.

Paul Wong
Michigan junior forward Stephanie Chavez will have the luxury of seven experienced seniors leading the way this season, but she will also be expected to serve as an example for younger players.

Many people in college athletics feel a strong senior presence is the most important aspect of a team. But this year, Michigan men’s soccer coach Steve Burns and the Wolverines are trying to prove everyone wrong.

Robert Turpin is the only senior on the 2002 Michigan roster. As a two-time captain, he instantly gains respect and adoration from his peers.

“Younger guys look up to (Robert) like a grandfather. He is a great leader and everyone looks to him on the field as well as off of it,” Burns said.

Although Turpin is the team’s lone senior, Burns has a hard time believing that the team will lack guidance.

“People think that the best leadership is seniors, which may or may not be true,” Burns said. “I think that juniors are just as strong of components of leadership.”

If Burns’ “junior hypothesis” is correct, the Wolverines are loaded with possible leaders. Michigan boasts 11 juniors, including Mike White and Joe Iding, who share the captain duties with Turpin. Burns feels that these two juniors can fill any void left by a lack of seniors.

“Mike is a guy that speaks his mind. He’s always willing to step up and challenge teammates and coaches in a respectful way,” Burns said. “And Joe is everything you want from an athlete. He is 100 percent committed to the program.”

Talented defender Kevin Taylor returns for his junior year after earning All-Great Lakes Third Team honors in 2001.

While the upperclassmen on the team look to offer leadership and experience, the best raw talent for the Wolverines this season lies in their younger players.

Sophomore Knox Cameron has been unstoppable with four goals in the first two contests this year. Cameron is coming off a marquee year in which he earned many accolades, including being named to Soccer America’s 11-member All-Freshman Team. Cameron also tuned up his game over the summer on the US Under-20 National Team. Another offensive weapon and “super soph” for Michigan is Mychal Turpin, who earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors last year. Sophomore netminder Joe Zawacki had a sound performance against Wright State with five saves, and could be the factor on the team. Many players from the class of 2006 are also brewing excitement for the Maize and Blue faithful.

In August, College Soccer News ranked the incoming freshman class of 2002 No. 27 in the nation. Adam Bruh has already turned heads by becoming the fastest Wolverine to accumulate three assists in team history.

With a very deep team, the Wolverines have set their sights high. They’re looking to contend for the Big Ten title and an NCAA bid.

Although Michigan only has one senior, they are talent-ridden, and Burns thinks his players have the drive to take their game to the top.

“The team wants this to be a breakout year,” Burns said. “And I see a hunger in them to do so.”

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