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December 08, 2003 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-12-08

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The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - December 8, 2003 - 3B

Despite loss,
Precious'
season will
be cherished

SANTA CLARA
Continued from Page 1B
instructing the team to play a more pos-
session-oriented rather than direct style
of play. To help implement this plan, he
made his first, and only major sub of the
game -junior Matt Niemeyer for soph-
omore Chris Glinski, whose headers pro-
vide the key in a more direct style game.
Despite the setback at the end of the
first half, Michigan came out looking
dangerous after the break.
"They typically have been very strong
in the second half," Santa Clara coach
Cameron Rast said. "Especially in the
first twenty minutes of the second half, I
think we were under a lot of pressure."
But then it was the 80th minute, and
Michigan had still failed to score. The
crowd of Michigan fans was aware of a
feeling of urgency slowly spreading
through the team with 10 minutes to go.
Santa Clara's Igwe may have

sensed Michigan's desperation; he
scored his second goal for Santa
Clara with nine minutes left - a
final nail in the coffin.
"When they got that third goal, it just
didn't look like it was going to be our
day," senior Joey Iding said.
The players fought hard in those last
10 minutes as the rain surged down
harder than ever, knowing that their Cin-
derella story had come to an end.
"Playing in the tournament is like
playing for your last breath of air,"
Burns said. "And with that is a lot of
heart, and that comes from the leader-
ship from the seniors, and they put that
together on the field. There was no quit
in them - and that embodies what we
want to do as a program."
Note: The game was played in Santa
Clara despite the Wolverines' higher
seeding because the Michigan athletic
department failed to place a bid for the
game.

J. BRADY MCCOLLOUGH
The SportsMonday Column
T otkeep his players from reflect-
ing too much on their miracu-
lous trip to the Elite Eight,
Michigan men's soccer coach Steve
Burns took a page out of Lloyd Carr's
playbook.
During the football team's run to
the national championship in 1997,
Carr used a book called "The Pre-
cious Present" as a guiding force to
motivate his players and keep them
focused week in and week out. Burns
introduced his team to the book in the
preseason and dusted it off last Mon-
day at practice.
The book is a parable about the jour-
ney of a young child growing up into a
man. As the years go by, the child has
trouble enjoying the present and con-
stantly searches for happiness through
thinking about the future. That is, until
he meets an old man who is content
with his life.
"He's content because he's learned
that staying in the present moment is
one of the special things of life,"
Burns explained, "not dwelling on
past failures or looking ahead to
future outcomes.
"(My team has) taken that to heart."
But after Michigan's 3-1 loss Satur-
day night to Santa Clara in the NCAA
quarterfinals, it would be easy for the
Wolverines to let the present, suddenly
frustrating and painful, overshadow
what they've accomplished in the past
and how they've laid out their poten-
tially bright future.
There is not a program on this cam-
pus that has gained more ground in the
past four years, and while the Wolver-
ines may not accept this silver lining
right now, we, as students, should
applaud them.
I remember attending Michigan's
first-ever varsity game against Dayton
Sept. 1, 2000, at a sun-drenched Elbel
Field. I was one of many freshmen

Seniors leave soccer
program at new high

CURTIS HILLER/Daily
Junior forward Mychal Turpin was the only Wolverine to score a goal In Saturday's game against Santa Clara. Michigan lost 3-
1 to the Broncos In the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.

who had gotten in free as part of a
Welcome Week gimmick, and I didn't
think about the men's soccer team
again - until this fall.
Four seasons later, the Wolverines
finished second in the Big Ten with a
5-1 record and now can consider them-
selves one of the top eight teams in the
country.
Michigan (14-7-1 overall) received a
first-round bye, virtue of its high RPI
rating (No. 12 out of 199 teams).
Schools around the country - includ-
ing Santa Clara - felt the Wolverines
did not deserve it. But Michigan made
quick work of Saint Peter's, 6-2, in the
second round and shocked the college
soccer world by upsetting No. 3 Notre
Dame in a third-round shootout.
Not bad for a team everyone expect-
ed to be "one and done" in its first
NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Wolverines won just four Big
Ten games total in 2000 and 2001
before making an improbable run to
the Big Ten Tournament championship
game last season. Michigan lost to
Penn State, 2-1, and did not make the
NCAA Tournament, despite a solid 11-
7-2 record.
"What we used as fuel for our fire
was that last year really should have
been our first year in the NCAA Tour-

nament," Burns said. "We had a lot of
motivation to prove to the college soc-
cer world that we're better than a one-
and-done team.
"The saying is you have to lose
before you can win."
The Wolverines learned that les-
son again this season. After cruising
into the Big Ten Tournament seeded
No. 2 with a 13-5 overall record,
Michigan was stifled offensively by
No. 7 seed Northwestern, a perenni-
al Big Ten doormat, and fell in the
first round, 2-1.
After the game, the team lingered in
the lockerroom with its gear on, para-
lyzed with shock over what had just
happened.
"It was bad, probably worse for me
than anyone because I know the poten-
tial we have," recalled senior tri-cap-
tain Kevin Taylor. "Everyone was kind
of stunned. No one really knew what
to do."
"Normally after a loss, everybody is
taking their stuff off and doing their
own thing," Burns said. "I walked into
the lockerroom after the loss, and
everybody was sitting there not doing
anything, and I realized we need some
leadership here.
"They were gutted."
Burns and his team gathered

around the TV the next Monday in
Crisler Arena's studio to watch the
NCAA Tournament selection show,
their fate again firmly out of their
hands. When Michigan popped up on
the bracket, the Wolverines received
a new lease on life.
"Every one of our guys looked at
(the loss to Northwestern) and said,
'Our season could be over right now.
That could be how my senior year
ends. That could be my last game. Was
I pleased with how I played in my last
game? Did I play like it was the last
game of my season?"' Burns recalled.
"We've really used that to kind of jar
everybody and wake them up. That's
what we've rallied around."
During the past four years, we sen-
iors have had the pleasure of watching
our own journey - that of a young
program growing up into one of the
nation's elite.
But unlike the young man from
"The Precious Present," it would do
the Wolverines some good to look at
their past as they deal with their not-
so-precious present.
Odds are, they'd feel content too.
J Brady McCollough can be reached at
bradymcc@umich.edu.

By Ellen McGarrity
Daily Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - What do
you do when everything you've worked
toward for fours years ends in disap-
pointment? The nine seniors on the
Michigan men's soccer team faced this
reality Saturday after losing to Santa
Clara, 3-I, in the NCAA quarterfinals.
After the scoreboard counted down
the last seconds of the game, senior
defender Kevin Taylor stood bent over,
taking in his final moment as a team
captain and student-athlete before walk-
ing off the mud-soaked field.
Senior defender Joey Iding, who was
subbed out in the last five minutes of
the game, sat on the bench in agony,
wondering if his presence on the field in
those final moments could have saved
the team from defeat.
"It's a weird feeling as a senior,
knowing your career is possibly over and
this is the last soccer team you'll ever be
apart of' forward Kevin Robinson said.
"I was standing there in shock, disbelief
and sadness that the last four years had
flown by, and it's all done now"
For the seniors, this loss was espe-
cially heart-wrenching. Four years ago,
they were the freshman class on Michi-
gan's brand new varsity team. They
never dreamed that in this short amount
of time, the program they helped begin
would make it this far.
But the ending for this class of sen-
iors was not all darkness.
As senior Mike White sat cupping his
head in his hands after the game, memo-
ries of all the good times he'd had with

his team went through his mind -
including this painful ending. Moisture
stained his face, a mixture of rain and
tears. But then he felt a tap on his shoul-
der. Looking up, he was greeted with the
smiling face of his 10-year-old cousin
who drove up to the game with her par-
ents from their home in Los Angeles.
"Hi, Mike," she said.
White said he knew then he would
get through that moment.
Even though the seniors would have
written a different script for how the
season ended, after the loss sunk in,
they realized the giant step the soccer
program had taken because of them.
"I'm proud to have been part of a
program that wasn't even existent five
years ago and now we're here in the
Elite Eight," Iding said.
Advancing so far in the tournament,
as well as receiving a No. 11 spot in the
blank poll earlier in the season, will also
help with recruiting.
"We had a breakout year," Michigan
coach Steve Burns said. "Continuing
into the future, we've emerged as a
team who can say they're stepping into
a power position in college soccer."
One senior who will get the opportu-
nity to play another year is defender
Matt Niemeyer. After redshirting last
season with a torn ACL, Niemeyer ini-
tially thought himself unfortunate. Now
his outlook has changed.
"I feel lucky, junior Matt Niemeyer
said. "With how hard (the seniors)
worked and now being done and having
to go home makes me feel like, 'All
right, I owe it to them to do what I can
next year.' "

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