Aug. 26, 2004
The University of Michigan men's soccer team will look to pick up in 2004 right where they left off in 2003. This season, the Wolverines will look to improve on their 5-1 conference mark from a year ago and contend for the Big Ten regular season and tournament crowns. U-M also has hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year where they advanced to the quarterfinals in 2003.
Head coach Steve Burns' 2004 Wolverines are an experienced group with eight returning starters and 13 upperclassmen. Of Michigan's eight returning starters, seven have been at their position for two or more years. Statistically, the Maize and Blue bring back 106 of its Big Ten-leading 146 points from 2003 and both of its starting goalkeepers from the past three seasons.
Leading Michigan will be Hermann Trophy award candidate and preseason All-American senior Knox Cameron (Bronx, N.Y./Cardinal Spellman HS). Last season, Cameron enjoyed his best season in a Michigan uniform, setting a school record with 33 points on 12 goals and nine assists. Joining Cameron on the front line will be fellow senior and All-Big Ten Conference second-team member Mychal Turpin (Pontiac, Mich./University of Detroit Jesuit HS) and junior Ryan Alexander (Pontiac, Mich./University of Detroit Jesuit HS). In 2003, Turpin combined with Cameron to provide the bulk of U-M's offensive punch. He set school records with 33 points and 14 goals, including a pair of four goal performances against UNC Greensboro (Sept. 14) and Bowling Green (Sept. 28). Alexander will look fill the void left by All-Big Ten Conference first-teamer Mike White. A transfer from Wake Forest, Alexander totaled 29 points in two seasons with the Demon Deacons.
Returning from the 2003 roster to backup the three starters will be junior Trai Blanks (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer HS), senior Jeff Mirmelstein (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) and sophomore Bobby Trybula (Loveland, Ohio/Archbishop Moeller HS). Blanks has appeared in 27 games in his first two years at U-M and played an integral role in Michigan's NCAA Tournament run, starting all three of the Wolverines' games. Mirmelstein has started 12 games over the past two seasons, setting a career high with four assists in 2003. Trybula saw action in 10 games as a freshman last season, tallying one goal.
In the midfield, Michigan will be anchored by returning starters junior Adam Bruh (Roslyn Heights, N.Y./Wheatley HS), fifth-year senior Matt Niemeyer (St. Louis, Mo./John Burroughs HS) and senior Dawson Stellberger (Crested Butte, Colo./Crested Butte Academy). All three have started in U-M's middle third for two seasons. Bruh will be featured in the offensive midfield position where he set a Michigan record with 13 assists in 2002 and was second on the team with eight helpers in 2003. Niemeyer returned for his fifth-year to captain the 2004 Wolverines. Niemeyer is third on U-M games played list behind Cameron and Turpin. Stellberger will join with Niemeyer to cover the defensive duties of the midfield. In the past two seasons, Stellberger has missed only one start and he set a personal best with four assists in 2003.
Sophomore Brian Popeney (Canton, Mich./Plymouth Salem HS) will backup the midfielders as well as possibly playing in the front third. As a freshman in 2003, Popeney saw action in seven games, posting seven shots with two shots on goal.
The defensive corps are the least experienced group of Wolverines, but what they lack in experience, they make up for in depth. Junior Ryan Sterba (Westlake, Ohio/St. Ignatius HS) and sophomore Kevin Savitskie (Plymouth, Mich./Salem HS) are expected to start on the flanks while sophomore Kevin Hall (Kalamazoo, Mich./Portage Central HS) and the committee of junior Chris Glinski (Rochester, Minn./Lourdes HS), senior Karl Lopata (Farmington Hills, Mich./Farmington HS) and sophomore Mike O'Reilly (Spring, Texas/Klein HS) will handle the interior defensive duties. As a two-year starter, Sterba is the most experienced of the group. Savitskie cracked the starting lineup as a freshman halfway through the season in 2003 and finished the year with 12 starts in 16 games. Hall also contributed immediately as a freshman in 2003, playing in 20 of the Wolverines' 22 games.
Michigan's starting goalkeeper has yet to be determined, but regardless of who is serving as the last line of defense, the Wolverines should have outstanding goalie play throughout the season. The incumbent, junior Peter Dzubay (Slyvania, Ohio/Northview HS), was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season, leading the conference and setting a school record with 110 saves. Dzubay also set records with 12 wins and five shutouts in 2003. He will be challenged for the starting spot by fifth-year senior captain Joe Zawacki (Livonia, Mich./Livonia Stevenson HS). Zawacki handled the majority of the goalkeeping duties in 2001 and split time with Dzubay in 2002. Last season he missed the majority of the season due to injury, but still posted a 2-0 record in his two starts. Sophomore/freshman Ryan Bennett (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer HS) will compete for the backup job.
The Wolverines will welcome seven first-year players to the program in 2004. Forward Cam Cameron (Ann Arbor, Mich./Saline HS), defender Justin Aramaki (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer HS), defender Mike Schneider (South Barrington, Ill./Barrington HS), forward Tolu Olowolafe (Bear, Del./Glasglow HS), midfielder Steve Hecker (Portage, Mich./Portage Northern HS) and midfielder Michael Parke (Portage, Mich./Portage Central HS) will all come in as freshman while midfielder Zach Abbott (Lookout N.Y./Long Beach HS) will join the team as a walk-on sophomore. The class is highlighted by Gatorade State Players of the Year Hecker and Olowolafe who may see early playing time for the Wolverines.