By JERAMY STOVER, Staff Reporter
After a rough 3-11-1 season last fall, the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s soccer team isn’t lowering the expectations bar one bit.
Head coach Matt Quirk made it known that earning a playoff spot is a top goal for the team. The Wolverines fell just short of making the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference playoffs last season by losing a tiebreaker to Cornerstone University for the final spot in the playoffs.
Quirk is entering his second season leading the program. He tributes his players’ hard work in the offseason as a key reason why they will be a better team this year. Quirk also notes that the comfort level between him and the players will play a positive factor as well.
“In the offseason, the guys did so much work on their own,” Quirk said. “Each of them built up their own relationships with each other to see to it that each other came back better.”
Prior to last season, UM-Dearborn didn’t hire Quirk until April, which made it difficult to prepare for a well-rounded offseason and didn’t give the rookie coach much time to recruit new players for the upcoming season. With a full offseason to train his team, Quirk feels his players will be better prepared for the season ahead.
“It’s nice to know all the guys way better coming in (to this year), and to know where the pieces go. We did have a nice offseason where I was actually directing them and letting the leaders lead, the guys are way more fit than they were last year.”
The Wolverines will be led by their three senior captains, Chris Porreca, Mario Konja, and Michael Masserant. They have six seniors on the roster and plenty of young talent that will play a significant role in the team’s success.
A question mark in the lineup is goalkeeper. With three goalies on the roster, a competition has been brewing all offseason as to who will take the starting job. According to Quirk, the competition is on-going.
“All three of them are very talented in very different ways, so at this point it’s up in the air exactly how that’s going to work, but it’s very exciting to have three that are very good,” Quirk said.
The Wolverines will be welcoming back three players that missed all of last season, Alek Vasilevski, Michael Bowyer, and Matt McCourt. Quirk explained the impact the returning trio will bring to the team.
“I’m very excited because I know they’re good players, I know they’re good guys and good teammates and I think they are going to have (a) great impact this year,” Quirk said.
The second-year coach did say a team goal is to win the conference championship but he knows the daunting challenge his team faces in order to achieve that goal. That is because the top two ranked teams in the country both happen to play in the WHAC.
The Wolverines will host No. 1 ranked Davenport on Sept. 26. Nearly a month later on Oct. 24, second-ranked Northwestern Ohio make the trip north to face-off against the maize and blue.
UM-Dearborn has already played two games this season. It lost their first game 3-0 to Spring Arbor University.
In the second game, the Wolverines fell into an early hole getting down 2-0 just 15 minutes into the game. They were able to rally back to draw a 2-2 tie with Jackson College. Both Fedaa Saleh and Evan Behrendt scored the first career goals for UM-Dearborn, with Saleh’s coming in his first ever game with the program.