2002 Season Highlighted by First-Time Accomplishments
Oakland entered the 2002 season tabbed second in the Mid-Con preseason poll. These were modest expectations for a team that has won at least a share of the Mid-Con Regular season title the past two years. Despite a young team that did not have one senior, the Golden Grizzlies were out to prove they had the experience and talent to succeed.
The Oakland mens soccer team achieved that goal capturing its third straight Mid-Con regular season title, the teams first Mid-Con Tournament championship, and earning the teams first bid to the NCAA Division I Tournament. On top of all that Oakland placed a league-high six players on the 2002 Mid-Con Mens Soccer all-conference teams, including forward Philip Braathen (Oslo, Norway) and goalie Jeff Wiese (Omaha, Neb.), who were cited as the conferences Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, respectively. Braathen and Wiese were two of the four Oakland players cited as first-team All Mid-Con honorees. Braathen led Oakland in scoring with 15 points on six goals and three assists, and tied for seventh in the Mid-Con in goals scored and total points. He also led the league with his 53 shots taken. Wiese posted a 1.21 goals against average and a league-best five shutouts while making 71 saves. Defender Jason Perry (Southfield, Mich.) and midfielder Anders Vollen (Oslo, Norway) were also named to the first team. Forward Chris Edwards (Glasgow, Scotland) and defender Ryan Rzepka (Novi, Mich.) were selected as second-team honorees.
After going 1-1 in the preseason, which included a loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a win over IPFW, Oakland started the season with two losses for the first time since 1979. The season began at the Diadora Challenge in Omaha, Neb. where the Golden Grizzlies faced Creighton and Southwest Missouri State. Redshirt freshman Jeff Wiese, a native of Omaha, Neb., had a tough homecoming in his goalkeeping debut for Oakland making five saves, while allowing four goals in the tournament. Following their disappointing start the Golden Grizzlies went on a five-game unbeaten streak that began with a 2-2 tie at home to Dayton. During that stretch Oakland was able to regain their confidence with a tough 1-0 win at Marquette and a 3-0 win over Bowling Green. Wiese redeemed himself from earlier in the season with the two-shutout wins and garnered Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts.
The streak continued with a 2-1 home win over cross-town rival Detroit. Doug Rice (Brighton, Mich.) converted on a penalty kick late in the game to end the Titans unbeaten streak at eight games. Oaklands unbeaten streak would come to an end in their next game as they fell to Wright State 1-0 in double overtime. The Golden Grizzlies rebounded with a 4-1 win over Western Illinois in their first conference game of the season. Co-Captain, Ryan Rzepka had two assists and led a stingy defense that only allowed one goal to earn Mid-Con Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Oakland concluded their four-game homestand on October 9th against Big Ten opponent Michigan State. Freshman Chris Edwards scored two goals and Rzepka had two assists as the Golden Grizzlies shocked the Spartans with a 3-1 win.
Oakland then traveled to IUPUI for their second conference game. The Golden Grizzlies may have overlooked the Jaguars following their win over the Spartans, dropping a 2-1 decision which gave IUPUI just their second win of the season, and first in the conference.
In Oaklands next game Ohio State invaded Rochester and came away with a 3-0 win to hand the Golden Grizzlies their second two-game losing streak of the season. A 3-2 win over conference opponent Oral Roberts ensured the losing streak would not extend any further.
Oakland suffered their fourth shutout loss of the season on October 23rd, losing at Cincinnati 3-0. A depleted Oakland team, plagued by injury and suspension due to an accumulation of yellow and red cards, had to make due without half of its starting lineup.
In their final two home games, Oakland faced Valparaiso and UMKC to wrap up their conference schedule. They played the Crusaders to a scoreless tie before bouncing the Kangaroos 4-0 to finish with a 3-1-1 conference mark. Edwards notched his third two-goal game of the season against UMKC, as he was named Mid-Con Offensive Player of the Week in the final week of conference play.
Going unbeaten in their final two conference games, Oakland controlled its own destiny and captured their third straight Mid-Con regular season title. This was the first time Oakland had won the title outright. With a first place finish in the Mid-Con, Oakland would host the 2002 conference tournament as the top seed.
Before beginning post-season play the Golden Grizzlies had two road games remaining against Western Michigan and the University of Michigan. Oakland captured a decisive 3-0 win over Western, but closed out the regular season with a 2-1 loss at Michigan to finish with an 8-7-3 overall record.
In a rematch of last years semifinal game, top seeded, Oakland faced fourth seed UMKC. Oakland sought revenge for last years game when UMKC eliminated the Golden Grizzlies from the tournament with a 4-3 win in a penalty kick shootout.
After falling behind 1-0 early in the game, Oakland scored two goals late in the second half to capture a 2-1 victory and advance to the championship game for the first time. Shahar Ktovim (Holon, Israel) tied the game in the 81st minute and Bret McNabb (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) scored the game-winner less than three minutes later to complete the come back.
In the championship game Oakland cruised to a 3-0 win over Western Illinois, scoring all three goals in the second half. Ktovim once again came through for the Golden Grizzlies scoring the game-winner in the 48th minute. Oakland made history as they not only captured their first tournament title, but also became the first host team to win the tournament.
Ktovim was named tournament MVP and was also selected to the All-Tournament Team. He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by teammates Anders Vollen, Chris Edwards, and Ryan Rzepka.
With the win, Oakland also received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which marked the first time in the history of Oakland athletics that a mens team made it to the NCAA Division I Tournament.
Oakland drew Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and would once again travel to Milwaukee to take on the Panthers. Despite playing a better game the second time around, Oaklands season would conclude just as it began, with a loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Braathen tied the game for Oakland in the 25th minute but the Panthers scored in the 62nd minute to come away with the 2-1 win. Oakland closed out the season at 10-8-3.
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