Oakland Rallies for Solid Finish in 2011|
Dec. 18, 2011
ROCHESTER, Mich. --The 2011 Oakland men's soccer team was a hard-working group that never quit. This group of Golden Grizzlies performed best with their backs against the wall and rallied for back-to-back wins to end the season, clinching a 12th Summit League Championship appearance in the last 13 seasons.
The Golden Grizzlies once again played one of the toughest schedules in America, against teams from the Big Ten, Conference USA and the BIG EAST.
Even before the start of the regular season, Oakland saw success on the soccer pitch. The OU Soccer Field was renovated during the offseason, with lights being one of the major additions to Oakland's home ground. In the inaguaral night match at OU, the Golden Grizzlies defeated No. 19 Michigan State 1-0 in a preseason exhibition on a goal by Gavin Hoy.
Oakland was a team that consistently showed a never-quit attitude. Perhaps no game showed their fighting spirit more than the double-overtime win against Cincinnati. Trailing 1-0, Jeff Cheslik scored with just 20 seconds remaining in the match to force overtime. Konner McNamara then netted the match-winning goal for OU in the second overtime.
Even in qualifying for The Summit League Championship OU showed its fighting spirit. With only one week left in the season, Oakland needed a pair of wins to guarantee a chance in the league tournament. The Golden Grizzlies went on the road to record a 2-0 win at Eastern Illinois, then returned home for a 2-0 win over IUPUI to clinch their spot.
The 2011 season ended for Oakland following a hard-fought 1-0 loss to top-seed Western Illinois at The Summit League Championship. Oakland outshot the Leathernecks, but ultimately failed to find the back of the net.
Cheslik led OU with four goals during the regular season and also added an assist. Josh Bennett also had a strong season with three goals and four assists to lead the team with 10 points. Jake Przybycien also finished the year with nine points netting three goals with three assists.
Normally a defensive minded unit, Oakland scored in each of its first eight matches to start the season. Other players like Andrew Barrett, Miche'le Lipari, Johnny Dreshaj, John Timm and McNamara each added two goals each as OU spread out the scoring load.
In the back, Oakland was led by all-league goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt. The senior netminder made 56 saves and had three shutouts during the year, despite missing significant time through injury. During his abscence, Scott Messer was deputized and posted a pair of wins and 26 saves with one shutout. The Oakland backline was also a factor, with Timm, Cheslik, McNamara, Lucas Diener, Nick Kristock and John DeLeon all playing important roles in the teams defensive effort.
The OU team featured six seniors: Winston Henderson, Evans, Przybycien, Bennett, McNamara and Hildebrandt.
Oakland finished the 2011 season 6-12-1 and finished fourth in the league with a 3-3 Summit League record.
A perenial favorite in The Summit League, Oakland will be battle-tested heading into the 2012 season. The team will look to reload and continue to build on its winning ways as one of the most successful teams in The Summit League.