Written by: Billyle Alman
U of M’s soccer team enters the fall of 2017 with more questions than answers. In a 2016 campaign that saw a roster lead by experienced seniors, the Wolverines finished the season with a 4-11-4 record (1-6-1 Big Ten).
Last year’s team was hindered by injuries early on but the collection of seniors in Andre Morris, Lars Eckenrode, Michael Kapitula, Brett Nason, Tyler Anderson and Rylee Woods were only able to weather 1 Big Ten Conference win, leaving their NCAA postseason fate in the hands of the Big Ten Tournament. It was there in the second round that Maryland ended the 2016 Umich season with an overtime heartbreaker.
Here we stand in 2017. Entering the 6th season in the Daley era, let’s first review this season’s set up for the Wolverines. In contrast to last years season kickoff in the sunshine state (2 road draws vs USF, FGCU) Michigan will kick off the 2017 regular season on Friday, August 25th at home against William & Mary. That contest will follow a home pre-season friendly on August 19th when UW Green Bay will visit.
A 2016 mid-season road match against William & Mary saw Umich fall 0-4 in Williamsburg, VA. Thus, Michigan will look to kick off the August 25th opener in the spirit of revenge. The William & Mary contest will launch the first of 5 games in an opening Wolverine home stand. The first road game of 2017 will have conference implications as Umich visits Indiana midweek for a September 13th night game in Bloomington.
The 8 match Big Ten schedule lies as an even split of 4 home and 4 away for Michigan. As Umich will face rival Michigan State at home on September 17th, it faces the likes of Ohio State, Maryland and Penn State on the road in this fall.
For those local fans, a lot of the interest in the schedule falls in the non-conference opponents. In what have become annual inner-state matchups, the Michigan schedule includes Western Michigan, Oakland and Detroit once again.
Following their home Sunday matchup against MSU, Umich will travel to Kalamazoo Wednesday, September 20th to face Chad Wiseman’s Broncos. WMU stole a 0-1 result here in Ann Arbor in 2016. Oakland visits Ann Arbor for the second consecutive year on September 27th. The Wolverines saw their highest margin of victory in 2016 with a 5-1 over the Golden Grizzlies. The final non conference date of the season welcomes Detroit Mercy to Ann Arbor for a October 25th night game. Umich earned their first win of the 2016 season with a 2-0 home win against U of D last year.
Aside from the in-state rival component of the 2017 non-conference slate, results in those mitten state matchups are crucial for a wolverine resume in regards to an NCAA at large bid.
If the Wolverines can earn a result in their home opener vs William & Mary, the following matches approaching Big Ten play have to be viewed as favorable. Though the 2016 Florida road trip brought the wolverines home very optimistic, we later learned the toll of starting the season so far from home. As we expect this team to feature plenty of younger players, we love Daley’s efforts to start this season at home. The risk in that will come in lack of result. Dropping non conference games at home will do Umich no resume building favors, but we like the Wolverines chances in all 4 early season matches.
A 2OT loss at Wisconsin broke the back of this team early last year. In Michigan’s first Big Ten match of 2017, the Badgers will visit. With 4 games to sort out a Big Ten ready line up, we expect Umich to enter the September 8th match schematically looking for all three points. A win could flip the fortune 2016’s result and propel Michigan into a positive Big Ten start.
Indiana earned an NCAA bid in 2016 with a Big Ten record of just 3-0-5, Michigan State with just 4-3-1. Those sides held serve in conference, and solidified their resumes in the non conference.
We believe the Michigan schedule sets up the same. Predicting a 3-3-2 Big Ten campaign including a home win against the Spartans. 7-6-4 is our prediction for the season, but non conference results would certainly give the Wolverines an opportunity to flip, our predicted, 7 season wins into 11 if they were able to win each contest. Looking nationwide, a top 4 Big Ten finished, paired with a 10 to 11 win season would put them in the NCAA tournament mix. We believe 12 wins would make them a lock.
Make sure to check Michigan Soccer Now as we will soon be releasing our Roster Overview ahead of the friendly on August 19th.