2003 Season Ranks as One of the Best for Oakland Men’s Soccer
With all the key players returning from a team that made the NCAA Tournament a year ago, the Oakland men’s soccer team looked to duplicate its success in 2003. They would be challenged right away, beginning the season at the Portland Nike Tournament against Portland whom was ranked 22nd in the national NSCAA preseason poll. Oakland answered the call in exciting fashion; defeating the Pilots in double overtime to give head coach Gary Parsons his 300th career win. In the second game Oakland went the distance against Washington before settling for a 1-1 double overtime tie against the Huskies, and a share of the prestigious tournament title. Senior Jason Perry (Southfield, Mich.) was selected defensive MVP for the tournament. Goalkeeper Jeff Wiese (Omaha, Neb.) would also be recognized for his efforts as Soccer America’s Goalkeeper of the Week in helping the team to a No. 30 ranking in the College Soccer News Poll.
Oakland would gain more attention as they handily defeated Marquette at home 4-1. They remained at the same spot in the College Soccer News Poll and received a No. 20 ranking in the NSCAA/adidas National Rankings. It was the second time in the programs history the Golden Grizzlies broke into the NSCAA poll and the team’s highest ever ranking at Division I.
A tie against cross-town rival Detroit followed by a 2-1 win at home over then No. 10 Akron gave the Golden Grizzlies a 4-0-2 start, their best since 1994 when the team went 6-0. The win against Akron raised the eyebrows of poll voters as Oakland continued their ascent up the NSCAA/adidas rankings to No. 12, their best rank since moving to NCAA Division I in 1998. They also invaded the Soccer America Top 25 at No. 21. Junior Ryan Rzepka (Novi, Mich.) received recognition as a member of Soccer America’s Team of the Week for Sept. 22nd.
Oakland settled for a 1-1 tie on the road against Dayton, extending its unbeaten streak to seven games, which dropped them to No. 17 in the NSCAA Poll. A physical match at home against intrastate rival Michigan followed as Oakland put its unbeaten steak on the line. The Wolverines would come out on top with a 1-0 win, handing the Golden Grizzlies their first loss of the season.
Up next, Oakland opened up conference play against IUPUI as they began defense of their Mid-Con regular season title. Touted as the preseason favorite, the Golden Grizzlies took care of business with a narrow 1-0 win over the Jaguars. Oakland ran into some trouble after that, going 0-2-1 over a three-game stretch, dropping them out of the national polls. They suffered a pair of back-to-back one-goal losses. The first was an overtime loss at Michigan State (1-0) that began a five game road trip, before a loss against conference opponent Western Illinois by the same score gave Oakland its third loss in four games. The losing streak came to a halt as the Golden Grizzlies picked up a 2-2 draw at Ohio State and the team went on to win their next three. Oakland outscored its opponents 8-0 over the three-game stretch with the majority of those goals coming in a 6-0 rout at home against Valparaiso. Junior Phillip Braathen (Oslo, Norway) led the way with two goals against the Crusaders and a two assist outing for Rzepka would earn him defensive conference player of the week honors.
Oakland could not get complacent following the rout with a trip to Cincinnati up next to face the nationally ranked Bearcats. A 0-0 tie extended the Golden Grizzlies unbeaten streak to four games with three games left in the regular season, which included two conference matches. Oakland would have to run the table though if they were to have a shot of at least a share of the regular season conference title. Awaiting Oakland for its first test was conference leader UMKC. The Golden Grizzlies found themselves down 1-0 at the end of the first half. Oakland’s defense held the opposition to just six shots following the goal and the offense came up with two unanswered goals in the second half for the 2-1 win and a first place tie in the conference standings.
Oakland traveled to Dayton, Ohio to face Wright State before wrapping things up at home against Oral Roberts. Josh Slaughter (Troy, Mich.) made the most of his first start in goal, leading the Golden Grizzlies to a 1-0 win against the Raiders. A 5-1 win over the Golden Eagles followed the game against Wright State, giving Oakland a share of the regular season title and its fourth straight.
Oakland drew the first seed in the 2003 Mid-Con Men’s Soccer Tournament and second straight matchup against Oral Roberts. The Golden Grizzlies took a seven game unbeaten streak with them into the postseason. Oakland was held to just one goal but the result would be the same with a 1-0 win and a second straight appearance in the tournament final to face UMKC. The Kangaroos avenged their regular season loss to Oakland with a 1-0 win that prevented the Golden Grizzlies from becoming just the third team ever to repeat as Mid-Con Champions. Anders Vollen (Oslo, Norway), Rzepka, and Wiese were selected to the 2003 Mid-Con All-Tournament Team.
Despite the loss Oakland made it’s second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid against Tulsa. Holding on to a narrow 2-1 lead with just over a minute to play, the Golden Hurricane tied the game to force overtime. The two team’s battled through one overtime before Tulsa came out on top with the 3-2 win in the third minute of the second overtime to end Oakland’s season.
Several players received postseason honors for an Oakland team that finished at 12-5-5. Perry was garnered with the league’s first-ever Defensive Player of the Year award along with a repeat selection on the all-conference first team. Oakland put seven players on the all-conference squad, including a league-high six on the first team. Perry was joined by Doug Rice (Brighton, Mich.), Braathen, Rzepka, Vollen, and Wiese. Forward Chris Edwards (Glasgow, Scotland) was selected to the second team for the second straight year.
Co-captains Perry and Rzepka, along with Wiese continued to receive kudos as the anchors of an Oakland defense that finished 26th in the nation with a 0.80 team goals against average. Perry was named as an NSCAA/adidas Men’s NCAA Division I Third Team All-American and Rzepka was selected to CoSIDA Academic All-America second team. Wiese, who finished 30th in the nation with a 0.789 goals against average, was named to Collegiate Men’s Soccer Scholar All-America first team.
With the 2003 season in the books and the awards handed out this Oakland men’s soccer has set a precedent that will not be easy to duplicate in 2004. The loss of Perry and Vollen will most certainly make it a difficult task, but with the majority of players returning you can bet Oakland will once again be right in the thick of it when postseason play rolls around.
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