By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
Since 2014, I have written a sports column for The Michigan Journal‘s final issue of the year, where I would reflect on the year of athletics at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
It’s a nice way to end things before a long period off and has become almost traditionary. I decided to do another reflections column this year. But instead of reflecting on the year of sports, I chose to reflect on my time around UM-Dearborn athletics, since it is my last year — and issue — with the Journal.
I have been around UM-Dearborn athletics in some capacity for the past five years. And during that span, I’ve seen a lot of things.
So let’s take a walk down memory lane as I look at the best and worst of UM-Dearborn athletics during my time around the programs, along with some of my favorite memories and moments.
The best team during my time at UM-Dearborn was hockey this year (sorry, 2015’s softball team). Chris Haltinner has preached about making nationals and winning a ring for many years, and the Wolverines were finally able to deliver the former this year. Hockey won the GLCHL tournament title, beat Adrian three times and Oakland four times, and made it to the second round of nationals.
There are two choices for the worst team. Based on record, it would be the 2014 volleyball team, which didn’t win a single game. But women’s basketball this year, coached by Dymetrius Ware, gives volleyball a run for its money. Ware coached the women’s basketball team to an 0-17 record before Jordan Sweeney took over. Though they’d win only two games from that point on, they were, at times, a completely different team.
When it comes to players, there are many who qualify as “best” material.
There’s hockey’s Michael Macari, who, three years after his playing career ended, had his number retired. He’s one of the best players to play at UM-Dearborn, in any sport.
Women’s basketball’s Jalissa Williams, lacrosse’s Dylan Hatcher and Ruben Cabello and hockey’s Ryan Urso and Nate Ferris are also in that upper echelon category.
Williams was a dominant athlete during her final two seasons. Hatcher and Cabello set several records during the lacrosse’s first varsity season. Urso and Ferris have been at the center of the hockey’s rebirth — both were valuable additions at their positions and should be able to do some fantastic things the next two seasons.
I think you’ll be able to add hockey’s Tyler Groat and men’s basketball’s Ali Farhat and Marcus Williams to that list soon.
The theme around UM-Dearborn athletics used to be rebuilding. And for some programs, it still is. But two teams were able to break through for a pair of incredible moments this winter.
Hockey made an improbable run at the GLCHL tournament title at the end of February. They had to get by pesky Indiana Tech in the first round and powerhouses Adrian and Davenport in the second and third rounds, respectively. And they did just that.
Then there’s men’s basketball’s chase for No. 14 — the record for most wins by the program in a single season. The team accomplished the feat with three games remaining in the season. Thanks to an eligibility issue, though, they had to forfeit five of their wins before the season finale. No more history, no more record — all gone. It was a gut punch to a team that was trying to take the next step in their revival.
Now, let’s look at some of my favorite memories and moments from being around UM-Dearborn athletics.
My first exposure to UM-Dearborn athletics came shortly after I became a student here at the university. It was a volleyball game that I broadcasted for WUMD Sports.
Little did I know that was only the beginning of my time at the Fieldhouse. I began broadcasting hockey and it lead to one of my top UM-Dearborn athletics moments.
It was a November 2011 hockey game played at Adrian. Former Journal sports editor Chris Zadoronzy and I made the trip to broadcast hockey’s 13-1 loss. But the score hardly defines the game — there were several fights, including the ever-elusive goalie fight. It’s a memory I enjoy sharing to this day.
Another big moment was the Wolves to Wolverines name change prior to the 2013-2014 academic year. It would certainly shake things up.
In my opinion, the name change began a new era of athletics at UM-Dearborn. A new sense of pride was placed on UM-Dearborn athletics. I loved the Wolves name and how it made UM-Dearborn stand out from U-M, but three years after its introduction, I know the Wolverine name has been beneficial.
Some other moments that stand out: women’s basketball playing at Crisler, softball finishing runner-up in last spring’s WHAC tournament and lacrosse and men’s soccer becoming varsity sports.
There’s one word I’d use summarize my five years around UM-Dearborn athletics — evolution. I’m sure that, five years from now, the things I have reflected on in my column will seem prehistoric.
And that would be great.