WMU Men’s Soccer tops off historical season with a trip to Portland to play in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen

Cavan Helms, Sports Team

WMU team celebrates win over Akron, crowning them MAC champions. Forward Mike Melaragni holding trophy in the middle. (Credit: Mid American Conference )

Western Michigan Men’s Soccer just had one of their most successful seasons in the program’s history. With their defense ranked number one in the nation, they ended up with a 16-2-2 winning record.

Sixteen wins means they had the second most wins in a single season. They won over the Mid-American Conference (MAC) for the second time ever and had a nine game winning streak, which was the longest streak in program history.

Striker and senior Jordan Walker has been with the team for four years now. With a very successful high school career, he was recruited by head coach Chad Wiseman to WMU in 2018. Wiseman hasn’t had a losing record since he joined in 2013 and has helped turn the program around.

“He promotes a very competitive atmosphere, and he wants players that will take what he gives them because he tells you straight up, and he respects players that can follow that,” said Walker. “I think that mentality was a big factor during the season. He’s the type of coach that will do whatever it takes to win, and this year we won quite a few.”

WMU had to face many struggles this season, and proved lots of doubters wrong. They were not expected to go this far, but the team knew their potential and the challenges they could overcome. 

“A lot of people thought of us as the underdogs the whole season, but if you ask anyone on the team, they’ll tell you that we fully believed, going into this year, we were going to win,” said Walker. “A big obstacle was getting out of our heads, saying that we don’t deserve to be in the spot that we are.”

Western defeated some big teams like Michigan State, Akron and Winsconsin. Later they made it to the NCAA tournament and beat Louisville 2-1 with goals from forwards Dylan Sing and Charlie Sharp. Then they faced Lipscomb which was tied 0-0 until a late goal in the 70th minute by defender Daniel Nimick. Both of these wins pushed them even farther into the Sweet Sixteen. 

WMU ended their season at Merlo Field in Portland, Oregon. The Pilots from the University of Portland have a historically good soccer program and that didn’t stop this year with a 15-3-3 record. 

It was a close game with a huge first-half save by WMU’s goalkeeper, Hunter Morse. However, in the 58th minute, the Pilots took the lead with a header by defender Delentz Pierre, and no more goals were scored after that. 

Unfortunately, in collegiate level soccer, there is no added stoppage time. Portland knew this and ended up faking injuries, burning off the last minutes of the game. This destroyed the momentum and time the Broncos needed for a comeback.

“Every great athlete will tell you that they will do whatever it takes to win games. Yeah it’s frustrating, yeah they took that to the extreme, but we’re all competitors here,” said Walker. “In the last ten [minutes] there were certainly a lot of times that we could have just shut down, and there was obviously some arguing going on with the refs, but at the end of the day we kept playing, and we kept fighting.”

“That’s sports for you, sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. You can be frustrated about your opponents, but you just gotta keep pushing.” said Walker.