Brandon's Blog: A Weekend of NCAA Competition, Excitement
Nkem Ezurike

Nov. 20, 2013

University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page,, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.

Visiting preseason training camps here at Michigan is like taking a pilgrimage of optimism. Young men, women and a knowledgeable coaching staff gather to train and set their goals for the upcoming season. The teams are undefeated, and the season is high with hope. It is an exciting time for anyone in sports.

When these goals are on the verge of being attainable, the excitement rises to a new level.

This coming weekend our women's soccer, men's cross country and women's cross country team will continue their NCAA championship runs, and the goals they have worked so hard to achieve are within their grasp.

The women's soccer team will host the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament at U-M Soccer Stadium on Friday (Nov. 22) and Sunday (Nov. 24) while the cross country teams will close out their seasons at the NCAA Championships on Saturday (Nov. 23) in Terre Haute, Ind.

It doesn't mean these teams will win NCAA championships. Rather, what it means is these student-athletes have done everything in their power to achieve their goals during this portion of their lifelong journey.

The women's soccer team is in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season, the first time that has happened since the 2002-03 seasons. Senior Nkem Ezurike has proven to be one of the best players in the team's history. She is the program's career leader in goals and needs only two points to become U-M's career leader in that category, too. But to illustrate just how highly functional this team has become, consider this: 14 different players have scored at least one goal and 16 different players -- more than half the roster -- have recorded at least one point. And on defense, they rank fourth in fewest goals allowed out of 323 NCAA teams, not having allowed more than one goal in a game all season!

For the Maize and Blue cross country teams, getting the automatic berth to the NCAA Championships was a compelling feat, but for the first time in the history of the University of Michigan both cross country teams won the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in the same season.

The women's cross country program continued its dominance at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, capturing its third consecutive title and the 10th NCAA Great Lakes Region title in program history (1982, 1993, '94, '95, 2004, '05, '08, '11, '12, '13).

Freshman Erin Finn has been the top runner for the women's cross country team. Finn became only the second U-M freshman in the program to win the individual Big Ten crown two weeks ago. At the Great Lakes, last Friday (Nov. 15), she placed second, with all five of U-M's top runners -- Shannon Osika, Brook Handler, Taylor Manett and Megan Weschler -- earning All-Great Lakes Regional honors to lead the team regional crown.

The Michigan men's cross country team won the outright title at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional for the first time since 1997 and ended Wisconsin's unbeaten streak at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. The Badgers had won the last 11 straight regional titles dating back to 2002. (Michigan and Wisconsin shared the title in 2007.) Mason Ferlic has been U-M's top runner this season and led the Wolverines again last Friday. Three other runners -- Mark Beams, Morsi Rayyan and August Pappas -- were also named All-Great Lakes Regional, with freshman Cory Glines just one position from the honor roll.

It was also a big day for our cross country coaches. Women's coach Mike McGuire won his eighth NCAA Regional Coach of the Year award, and men's coach Alex Gibby won his first NCAA Regional Coach of the Year at U-M.

The titles, honors and accolades are great, but one thread throughout this weekend of Michigan in NCAA action is easy to see. Each of those teams understood the importance of planning, training and playing together as one unit, and it was something that was developed every single day.

The optimism every team feels at the beginning of the season is tested time and again throughout the season. They find out quickly hope is not a plan.

Everything that took place during this journey was because of the quality decisions made throughout the year.

Now, these Michigan varsity teams are ranked among the best in the country, but when their seasons come to a close, there will be only one NCAA champion in each sport.

The lifelong champions will be individuals who understand passion, commitment and the process of winning championships. These attributes will serve as a template for their life after athletics.

Good luck to all our teams this weekend!

Go Blue!


Women's Soccer
NCAA Tournament - Second Round

Friday, Nov. 22 -- vs. Illinois State (U-M Soccer Stadium), 7 p.m.
Buy Tickets | Live Stats| Live Blog | Twitter Updates | NCAA Tournament Bracket | Event Preview

Men's Cross Country
Saturday, Nov. 23 -- at NCAA Championships (Terre Haute, Ind.), Noon
Live Results | Live Video | Event Preview

Women's Cross Country
Saturday, Nov. 23 -- at NCAA Championships (Terre Haute, Ind.), 1:15 p.m.
Live Results
| Live Video | Event Preview

Complete Michigan Athletics Schedule