By JERAMY STOVER, Staff Reporter
This season has been plenty interesting for the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s soccer team. After dropping their first seven games, the Wolverines found themselves in a heated playoff race in the final week of the season. With two conference games against Lawrence Tech and Concordia, the Wolverines were trying to sneak their way into the playoffs.
In a must-win game Wednesday night against Lawrence Tech, the Wolverines defeated the Blue Devils 2-0. Along with the team, goalkeeper Andrew Pietrzak recorded his first shutout of the season.
The first half was a back and forth skirmish with both teams attacking strong. Lawrence Tech outshot the Wolverines 9-4 in the first half, but the game remained a scoreless tie.
That ended in the 51st minute when UM-Dearborn’s Richard Hodnicki fired a shot into the net from 10 yards out. The freshman now has three goals on the season, all coming in the month of October.
Lawrence Tech continued to win the shot battle, but couldn’t find a way to beat Pietrzak. The Blue Devils finished with a 7-3 lead in shots on goal.
UM-Dearborn would add salt to the wound when Iris Mesic scored in the 90th minute to extend the lead to 2-0. Mesic received a long pass from Pietrzak, took a couple touches towards the middle and chipped the ball over the goalie from 25 yards out.
The win keeps the Wolverines playoff hopes alive going into their final game Saturday against Concordia. They are now tied for the last playoff spot with Cornerstone, but would lose the head to head tiebreaker.
“It was great,” said head coach Matt Quirk. “It was our first thorough win.”
Very pleased with his teams play, Quirk said his team played “really well” and was happy to see his team be calm on the ball.
“We were patient, we knew our chances would come. We had the feeling we were gonna score,” he said.
Mesic, gave credit to his fellow striker Hodnicki and has been impressed with the freshman’s performance.
“He definitely is playing better than I thought from the beginning and I like playing with him,” Mesic said.
With the Wolverines earning their first shutout of the year, the defense was given much recognition.
“Andrew had a great game and our back four really brought it,” Mesic said.
Saturday night, with their playoff hopes on the line. UM-Dearborn battled Concordia in hopes of getting three points. The Wolverines did just that with a 4-2 come-from-behind victory.
Concordia would score first off a header in the 17th minute. Just five minutes later, the Cardinals would strike again as a rebound was fired into the lower right corner of the net.
UM-Dearborn would not go into halftime quietly. Nate Szymkowicz would put home a rebound in the 25th minute to cut the lead in half.
Two minutes later Szymkowicz would fire a rocket shot past the Cardinals goalkeeper to tie the game at two.
After the game became tied, UM-Dearborn’s Brody Hall said the momentum was all theirs.
“It seemed like we were going to lose it all over again,” he said. “But then Nate (Szymkowicz) put in a couple goals and the momentum after that was all us.”
Starting the second half the Wolverines knew their season could be on the line with 45 minutes to go.
Freshman, Richard Hodnicki scored to give the Wolverines the lead in the 64th minute after a couple of missed chances. It was Hodnicki’s fourth goal on the season.
The Wolverines weren’t done there. Mario Konja picked a perfect time to score his first goal of the season. Konja battled around defenders and shot the ball in the lower right corner to double the Wolverines lead 4-2 in the 68th minute.
The Wolverines would hold off the Cardinals for the final 20 minutes to earn the victory. They also beat Concordia in shots on goal with an advantage of 8-7. Konja and Hodnicki would both finish with a goal and an assist each.
As the Wolverines sat at halftime tied, they had plenty of motivation to go out and earn the win.
“We felt that we were better and deserved to win the game,” Hall said. “And we came out second half and did our job.”
Mesic, who finished the season as the team’s leading goal scorer with five, said the comeback win felt “really good.”
“Just when you think you lose hope after going down 2-0 you get one goal and instantly you’re right back into the game and that gave us confidence to score more and win the game,” he said.
Even with the victory, the Wolverines celebration would be short lived. With wins by Cornerstone and Aquinas on Saturday night, UM-Dearborn was eliminated from conference playoff contention.
After starting the season 0-7, the Wolverines fought throughout the month of October to give themselves a chance at making the conference playoffs. They finished with a final record of 3-11-1, 3-6-1 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference.