2004 Oakland Men’s Soccer Season Wrap-up

It was a season of highs and lows for the 2004 Oakland University men’s soccer team. No matter what the outcome, though, one of the many accomplishments the Golden Grizzlies can be proud of is posting the program’s 25th straight winning season. (The OU men’s soccer program has only finished .500 one time – 1979 – and has never had a losing season in its 32-year history.) Highlighted by a trio of All-Great Lakes Region selections in Chris Edwards (Glasgow, Scotland), Bret McNabb (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) and Jeff Wiese (Omaha, Neb.), the talented squad gave everything it had this year on the pitch.

Junior Chris Edwards led the team and was second in the league in scoring in 2004 with 13 goals and 28 points.

To start the season, Oakland scored in the 81st minute versus #2 UCLA to send the game into overtime. It came down to the wire for the Golden Grizzlies, but it was the Bruins who capitalized on the extra time, scoring the game-winner in a double overtime thriller. Jim Denk (Park Ridge, Ill.) scored late in the second game of the SoccerTown Classic to give OU a 2-1 win over home-standing Cal State-Fullerton for a share of second place in the tournament.

The Golden Grizzlies used that victory over the Titans to spur an eight-match unbeaten streak, allowing just one goal during the span. Also during the run, Wiese was named the Mid-Continent Conference Defensive Player of the Week after recording two shutouts versus Marquette and #22 Akron. Oakland capped off the impressive run with a 3-0 shutout of Mid-Con foe Western Illinois on Oct. 2. Wiese had a brilliant game in goal for OU, fending off six shots, including shutting down eventual conference tournament MVP Nowaf Jaman.

After suffering a 1-0 loss at Oral Roberts on Oct. 9, the Golden Grizzlies returned home for an exciting 3-0 shutout of in-state rival Michigan State. It did not take long for Oakland to score in the game as Shahar Ktovim (Holon, Israel) netted the winning goal at 3:41. OU then played to a grueling 0-0 double overtime tie at IUPUI and could not immediately recover, falling by a score of 2-1 in the team’s next game versus Ohio State at home on Oct. 20.

Team co-captain and senior Ryan Rzepka received top academic honors when he was named to the ESPN Academic All-America first team after being a second-teammer in 2003.

Back on the winning track, Oakland picked up “W”s over UMKC (1-0) and Wright State (4-1) at the OU Soccer Field in back-to-back contests to close the home portion of the schedule before squaring off against cross-town rival, Detroit. Despite an evenly played first half by both teams, the Titans produced four goals in the second period on their home turf, while the regionally ranked Golden Grizzlies managed just one goal by Ryan Rzepka (Novi, Mich.) in the final three minutes of the match.

In the final stretch of the season, Oakland stayed in state to face Michigan in Ann Arbor on Nov. 3. Although OU produced a commanding offensive effort against the regionally ranked Wolverines, outshooting U-M 22-15, defense was the name of the game as the teams battled their way to a 0-0 tie after four periods of play. Oakland did close out the regular-season with a 4-0 win at Valparaiso to secure the second seed in the 2004 Mid-Con Tournament. Rzepka had a shot to tie things up in the final moments of the semifinal match against Western Illinois, but the 2004 tournament champion Leathernecks held on for the 1-0 win to end the Golden Grizzlies’ season at 11-5-3.

Finishing second overall in the league at 4-1-1, Oakland led the Mid-Con in points (92), assists (28), assists per game (1.47), fewest goals allowed (13), GAA (0.66) and shutouts (11). The team additionally finished second in shots (239), goals (32), goals per game (1.68) and fifth in saves (82).

McNabb and Wiese earned all-tournament honors for the performance versus WIU, while Edwards and Rzepka joined the aforementioned duo on the first team all-conference list. Wiese additionally was voted the league’s Defensive Player of the Year after finishing the season as the Mid-Con leader, and ninth in the NCAA, in goals against average (0.71), sixth in saves (69) and second in shutouts with seven. He now ranks second all-time in the league in GAA (0.91), tied for 13th in saves (258) and fifth in shutouts (18). Wiese is also fourth all-time in Mid-Con tournament saves with 22 and tied for third in tournament shutouts with two. This marked the second straight year the goalie has received all-region honors.

Junior net minder Jeff Wiese won Mid-Con Defensive Player of the Year honors as the league's leader, and ninth in the NCAA, in GAA (0.71).

Adding to the list of superlatives for the Golden Grizzlies this year was Edwards, who was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week on Nov. 10 after scoring two of Oakland’s four goals, including the game-winner, in the shutout of Valparaiso. The game proved to be a season-best performance for him with highs of two goals, four points, 10 shots and seven shots on goal. Prior to that, Edwards scored the final two goals versus Michigan State to notch Player of the Week honors on Oct. 19. He also scored goals against Ohio State and UMKC to earn the title for a second consecutive week on Oct. 25. The junior finished the season second in the Mid-Con in shots (65) and goals (13), and was tied for second in points (28) and tied for third in game-winning goals with four.

Oakland’s defense came up big in 2004 as the Golden Grizzlies finished fifth nationally in shutout percentage (0.58) and eighth in GAA (0.66). The backfield was led by Rzepka, who was named to the 2004 ESPN Academic All-America first team. It was the second consecutive year the senior received the honor. He, along with fellow defenseman Matt Connor (East Lansing, Mich.), was named to the all-district first team earlier in the season.

With seven seniors closing their careers at OU, the face of the Golden Grizzly men’s soccer program will be much different in 2005. However, with seasoned veterans such as Edwards and Wiese returning, along with young talent such as Nick Nelson (Vicksburg, Mich.) and Adam Brent (Rochester, Mich.), the future is bright for Oakland.

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