By JERAMY STOVER, Staff Reporter
The first one is always the toughest, so they say. The University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s soccer team knows how true that phrase is.
After opening the season with seven straight losses, the Wolverines were able to get their first win of the season last Wednesday against Indiana Tech. They lost the second game of the week to Aquinas College, 4-2, Saturday.
After the Wolverines (1-7, 1-2) 2-1 victory over Indiana Tech (5-3-1, 2-2), Head coach Matt Quirk expressed just how big the win was for his team.
“It’s massive… it’s a weight off our shoulders,” he said.
The Wolverines were able to capture their first lead of the year when John Mertic snuck a low grounder past the Warrior defender from 30 yards out in the 30th minute. Even with being outshot heavily in the first half UM-Dearborn was able to take a 1-0 lead into halftime.
“We put in that first goal and suddenly we were playing really well as a unit,” said Brody Hall.
The Wolverines opened the second half with the kickoff and were able to find the back of the net just 15 seconds in. Senior forward Iris Mesic received a pass in the middle of the field from Nate Szymkowicz and fired a shot past the Warrior goalkeeper from 15 yards out.
“We had a nice play design and it happened so beautifully. That let us dictate the speed of the game,” said Quirk.
The Wolverines knew Indiana Tech would come out of the locker room looking to even the game and countered that by out working their opponent.
“We thought they were going to come out hard and press us early so we were really jacked up to come out the second half and counter that and it paid off,” said Hall.
Mesic, whose game winning goal was his second of the season said the goal felt “really good.”
“We knew they were gonna come out hard and it gave us a good two goal cushion,” he said.
The Warriors would not go down without a fight as they would score their only goal of the game in the 80th minute to cut the lead in half 2-1. They would almost tie the game just minutes later off a rebound, but the goal was called back by an offside.
The two teams tied in shots on goal with six. UM-Dearborn starting goalkeeper Andrew Pietrzak recorded five saves on the night and gave compliments to his defense in front of him.
“We figured out that they like to cross the ball and defended them closely not allowing them to cross the ball too much,” Quirk said.
Quirk was impressed with his teams play and said it was the first team they outplayed an opponent.
“As far as good real chances we had the better chances, I was pleased,” he said.
This is Quirk’s first win as a college coach and he was more than excited.
“I can’t even put it into words,” he said.
UM-Dearborn returned home Oct. 11 to face conference foe Aquinas College, who defeated the Wolverines 4-2.
For the second game in a row, UM-Dearborn (1-8, 1-3) would get out to an early lead when Iris Mesic ripped a shot that deflected off a Saints defender and into the net in the 16th minute. Jad Hmadeh received an assist on the goal.
Mesic now has a goal in consecutive games, for the first time all season.
“(I) feel like I’m getting back into good form and just hope it continues,” he said.
Before the half was over Aquinas (7-5-1, 1-3-1) evened the game up on a chip shot that banked off the post and found its way across the goal line.
The Saints would take their turn to open a half with a goal by netting two goals early to get out to a 3-1 lead. Freshman, Richard Hodnicki, would bring life to the Wolverines by scoring from just a few yards in front of the net after a Wolverines corner kick in the 65th minute.
Aquinas would add one more goal and keep the Wolverines offense silent the rest of the way as they would go on to win the game 4-2. The Saints recorded 13 shots on goal, while the Wolverines managed three. The result flips the two teams in the conference standings as Aquinas is now in seventh and the Wolverines fall back to tenth.
Pietrzak started in goal for the Wolverines and tallied eight saves, a season high.
UM-Dearborn forward Brody Hall said the two teams were “pretty even” and said his team played solid even though coming up short with the win.
“We didn’t have too bad of a game, we just had a hard time possessing the ball, but we finished the chances we had,” Hall said.
Hall, a freshman who has seen significant playing time this year, said playing with the senior Mesic has helped himself throughout the season.
“It does a lot for your confidence playing with such talent,” he said.
UM-Dearborn will look to rebound with two conference games next week. The Wolverines travel to Siena Heights on Oct. 15 and return home to play Cornerstone on Oct. 18.