Nov. 7, 2013
Perhaps the best player in program history, Abby (Crumpton) Minihan terrorized opposing defenses from 1999-2002. For her career, she recorded 44 goals (third-best in program history) and 30 assists (second-best in program history). During her senior season in 2002, Minihan helped lead Michigan to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament -- the highest finish ever by a Michigan team in the postseason -- while being named an NSCAA All-American and finalist for the Missouri Athletic Club/NSCAA Hermann Trophy, given annually the best player in collegiate soccer. She is in her second season as head coach at USC-Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C.
Q: How did you get involved in coaching?
A: I got involved when I was a sophomore at Michigan. A coach that coached against me when I was in high school had contacted me and asked if I was interested in coaching at Brighton for their freshman team. I was like, 'Yeah, why not?' It was the spring season, so I did it and fell in love with it. I've been coaching on and off ever since.
Q: You are one of only four players at Michigan to have surpassed 100 career points and you played with two of them: Kacy Beitel (1999-00) and Amber Berendowsky (1999). Having only played a short while with those two players, what did you learn from them?
A: Amber, unfortunately, blew out her ankle in the preseason my freshman year and didn't really make it back, so I didn't get to play with her all that much. She fought with that the whole season. But Kacy, I played with her a lot. She was an absolutely fierce competitor. Hated to lose. Every day in training, she had a great mentality and attitude. She never took a day off and always was looking to get better. I think I was really able to learn that from her. She set the standard for the freshmen because that's what you do. You show up and train with that mentality and attitude.
Q: The other is Nkem Ezurike, who recently became the school's all-time leading goal scorer and could potentially break your all-time points record. From one forward to another, just how difficult is it to score goals when you know the other team's defense is going to smother you? Is it a mindset that you just have to adapt and accept?
A: It's a challenge. Sometimes you're getting man-marked or have two players on you. If you're good, that's the nature of the beast. It's definitely a tough thing to deal with but it ultimately makes you better. You have to be effective and you have to find a way because you know your team is counting on you to put the ball in the back of the net. That's part of your job responsibility as an attacking player. Ultimately, you find a way to rise to the occasion and make it happen.
Q: When you first arrived in 1999, the program was still relatively new, having only been a varsity team for five years. Did it feel like the team was more established or was it still trying to find its footing?
A: The team definitely had some history at that point. I know they had done well in the Big Ten, but when our class arrived, it was a fun time because we were trying to get to that next echelon, that next level. We were able to do that in our time there which was really neat, to leave that legacy and the mark.
Q: That 2002 season, your senior season, is arguably the best season in program history, making it all the way to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament after getting bounced in the second round in each of your first three years. What do you remember most about that season?
A: Honestly, we just wanted to win so badly. We felt like we were a good team. The years prior, we had been eliminated so early. I just remember -- and it was collective -- that we had this desire to win. We just wanted to win and go far. I think we were really disappointed we didn't win the Big Ten title that year. It came down to one game that we ended up losing -- to Minnesota -- and Penn State edged us out yet again. We were determined to make our mark another way and that was going to be in the NCAA Tournament.
Q: It's interesting you bring that up because there's a parallel to this year's team. The one loss we had this year was to Minnesota and that ultimately kept this team short of winning the Big Ten championship.
A: It stinks. Breaking that stigma, that barrier ... It can happen and it will one day. If anything, that was what we were able to prove to ourselves. We may not have won the season, but we were determined to make our mark. Hopefully for the team that is currently there, maybe it's all for a reason. Maybe they'll make a deep run in the tournament this year like we did.
Q: Even to this day, you were one of the best players to have ever worn the Maize and Blue, if not the best. Looking back on your Michigan career, what were some of the reasons you were so successful?
A: I just wanted to get better. I wanted to be good. I never wanted to let myself down. Admittedly, I was my own worst critic. If we lost games, I felt like it was always my fault, but it drove me. I would go out on my own and run and do skill work on my own. I was constantly trying to get better and to work on the things I needed to work on. I made a lot of sacrifice. I never went on a spring break, but was something that I chose because I wanted to be good and soccer was very important to me. And excelling as an athlete at Michigan was very important to me.
Q: These last two years of women's soccer at Michigan have been two of the best ever -- certainly since your heyday -- and the seniors are a big part of that. They've set so many records and accomplished so much. With the postseason approaching and if you had the chance, what would you say to the seniors who have not only led that movement, but have set the foundation for future Wolverines?
A: Goodness. I think for those seniors, you get to Michigan your freshman year and you think you have so much time ... time to make it better, do better, 'Hey, there's always next year,' and then you come to the end and there is no next year for you. I think for them, they just have to dig their heels in and go. Keep driving forward. This is their last chance to make an impact. They've already made one, obviously, but when you look back as an alum, you want people to break your records because that means the team is excelling. You want people to surpass what has already happened. This is their opportunity to do that. You get to make a mark and take a stand that will be remembered. And, if by anything, it'll be remembered by them for what they were able to do together. My message to them is to keep driving and make your stand. Don't take no for an answer. Keep going.
Q: How did being a student-athlete at the University of Michigan prepare you for what came after college?
A: It was such a blessing to have the opportunity to play at that level. The pressure of being an athlete at that level in general is high, so the preparation -- the early morning runs, the time spent in the weight room -- is important. Even though those things only seem like something you do for that period of time, it really bleeds into your life. You know that if you can do that in soccer, if you work hard and press, that you can do the same thing in life. Michigan absolutely prepared me. I felt like I was able to excel and had the resources available to do so. It was one of the best experiences that I was able to have in soccer and it absolutely impacted me.
Q: Finally, what does the University of Michigan mean to you personally?
A: I think Michigan stands for excellence. That is what expected of you when you arrive and that's the standard people have set before you. It instills that value inside of you. 'Leaders and Best' aren't just words -- it's truth. It's almost like you have this pride to uphold. It's the value that is at the core of Michigan, from the academics to the athletics. If I take anything away from my time, it's that constant drive for excellence.
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