Their contributions to the University of Akron men’s soccer program during the past four years are undeniable.
Seniors David Meves, Chad Barson, Scott Caldwell and Tommy Schmitt have already won one national championship.
They want a second.
The quest for a second national title begins for No. 1 ranked UA (17-1-2) when it hosts Michigan (11-9-1) in an NCAA Tournament second-round match at 4:30 p.m. today at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The unseeded Wolverines defeated visiting Niagara 3-1 on Thursday to advance to play the fifth-seeded Zips.
UA is five wins from earning another NCAA title under seventh-year coach Caleb Porter.
“The biggest thing we always talk about is winning the national championship,” said Schmitt, a forward. “We had the talent in 2009, but we came up short [and finished national runner-up to Virginia]. The feeling of 2010 was amazing. We were so close the year before and it hurt. The last few minutes were so hectic in 2010.”
Caldwell, a midfielder, etched his spot in Zips soccer history when he scored the goal in UA’s 1-0 win over Louisville in the 2010 College Cup final in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“I don’t really remember a whole lot,” Caldwell said. “It was kind of like something that just happened. I kind of blacked out. When I saw the ball going in I was in the moment. I wasn’t thinking about a whole lot. I just ran and celebrated with my teammates.”
Meves posted a shutout as the goalkeeper against the Cardinals, but Barson’s clearing of the line to preserve a 1-0 victory remains in the memory of Zips fans.
“That moment in the game it was kind of just a cluster,” said Barson, a defender. “They were dumping balls forward and the ball dropped to their forward. David came out and punched the ball away. It was basically him versus me. It was Aaron Horton. I grew up with him, went to the same high school [Olentangy], played on the U.S. U-17 residency together and played on the same club teams since [we were] 8 years old. It was crazy that it came down to him and me. He shot it and I was able to stop it. It is a great memory.
“Hopefully we can create more memories by winning another national championship.”
Meves, Barson, Caldwell and Schmitt were sophomores on the 2010 team. Last year, they guided the Zips to a round of 16 appearance.
“Our coaches approach training every day in such a professional manner,” Barson said. “They coach us like a professional soccer player. I knew that the talent we had was certainly capable of succeeding and winning a national championship. We realistically can compete for a national championship every year.”
All four players have stepped into leadership roles as their careers have progressed at UA.
“I will definitely take away the mental part that I have learned and knowing how important it is to have that will to win,” Caldwell said.
The seniors each have pro aspirations, but remain focused on the task at end, which is winning this year’s College Cup on Dec. 9 in Hoover, Ala.
“Each season is a different team and we have different memories,” Barson said. “You definitely cherish every chance you get to play. I think about how things will be different once I leave. This really is some of the best years of your life.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.