By JERAMY STOVER, Staff Reporter
Every season is filled with excitement and disappointment. Every team hopes for less of the latter.
For the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s soccer team, their final week of the season was one that won’t be forgotten. Struggling for the first half of the season, it seemed as if the Wolverines playoff hopes were vanishing quickly.
But on an October night in Indiana, that all changed. The Wolverines got their first win: an important road conference victory that sparked belief that postseason play was possible.
With just one week left in the season, UM-Dearborn was in a thick race for a spot in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference playoffs. It was inevitable that the Wolverines needed to win both remaining games. They did just that.
With wins against Lawrence Tech and Concordia, the Wolverines did what all they could to give them the best chance to make it in the playoffs.
Unfortunately the other games in conference did not favor UM-Dearborn and it fell short of the playoffs due to a tiebreaker. The Wolverines finished the year with a 3-11-1 (3-6-1) record.
The Wolverines started the season 0-7. Allowing four goals per game during the stretch was a key contributor to the seven-game skid. Fortunately for the Wolverines, only two of the losses came in conference play.
Once conference play started, injuries became a factor. Starting forward Iris Mesic was one Wolverine to get bit by the injury bug. His presence was missed heavily when he was not on the field.
Two critical games for the Wolverines were against Siena Heights and Cornerstone. UM-Dearborn was up 1-0 for most of the second half against Siena Heights, but the Saints scored in the 86th minute for a 1-1 draw. Cornerstone defeated the Wolverines 3-0 in mid-October. This was the loss that caused UM-Dearborn to miss the playoffs.
Since Oct. 8, the Wolverines went 3-4-1. Even with more losses than wins, this stretch gave UM-Dearborn a great chance to make the playoffs. Averaging 1.5 goals per game was a needed upgrade from 0.7 they averaged before Oct 8.
The emergence of freshman Richard Hodnicki was key, as he scored all four of his goals in the eight game stretch.
Head coach Matt Quirk decided to move Nate Syzmkowicz from defense to forward for the last couple weeks of the season. The move paid off in the final game when Szymkowicz scored two goals in less than two minutes to tie the game against Concordia.
Team MVP: Iris Mesic
It’s hard to not choose Iris Mesic. The senior striker led the team in goals (5), points (12), and shots on goal (16). Mesic missed one game and his presence was dearly missed in a 5-0 loss to Madonna.
His four goals in the second half of the season was a big factor in why the Wolverines even had a chance to make the playoffs. Mesic scored goals in consecutive games twice during the 3-4-1 stretch.
Freshman of the Year: Richard Hodnicki
Let it be known that Richard Hodnicki will be hard to deal with for years to come. The 6-foot tall freshman scored four goals and one assist this season. Like Mesic, he scored goals in back to back games twice. The latter pair of goals coming in the final two games of the season, the most important games of the season.
Most Improved Player: Andrew Pietrzak
Junior goalkeeper Andrew Pietrzak showed strides of improvement throughout the year. Assistant coach Justin Hunter said that he improved his soccer I.Q. from last year, and used it to make smart plays throughout the season. Quirk also noticed improvement from his starting net minder. Pietrzak recorded a shutout in crucial game against Lawrence Tech.