Senior Night is generally a special evening for a coach and his soon-to-be-departing players to celebrate and remember the good times.
Saturday night, Caleb Porter will take part in his final Senior Night as the University of Akron men’s soccer coach with four players who have helped the Zips compile a 74-7-9 record during the past four years.
Defender Chad Barson, midfielder Scott Caldwell, goalkeeper David Meves and forward Tommy Schmitt are on the tail end of their collegiate careers and all four already have many memories from their time at UA.
“I think it is fitting that these four guys will conclude their senior year in my last year because in a lot of ways they embody what I want and instill in our players,” said Porter, who will become the Portland Timbers coach in Major League Soccer after the NCAA season ends in December.
“They are part of the tradition of excellence in this program that will hopefully continue. You look at the stats and accomplishments; you have four MAC championships, a national runner-up finish [in 2009], a national championship [in 2010] and a round of 16 appearance [in 2011]. The records speak for themselves. I don’t know this for a fact, but this is a senior class that has accomplished arguably more than any senior class in college soccer history in terms of wins and impact on a program.”
UA (14-1-2) is currently ranked No. 2 in the national coaches poll and will host Western Michigan at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“I have loved my experience here in Akron,” said Barson, 21, who has played in 88 matches as a key defender and has five goals and two assists.
“I think back to when I was getting recruited, and to the moment that I felt I knew that this was the place I wanted to come to. I felt comfortable with the guys that were here and with the guys that were coming in.”
Barson will also be remembered for clearing the line against Louisville to preserve a 1-0 win in the 2010 national title match. Caldwell scored the goal and Meves got the shutout.
Schmitt was the first of the quartet on campus when he came to UA in 2008. He redshirted that year and began playing for the Zips in 2009.
“I arrived in 2008 and it was still the early stages of what the program was trying to do,” said Schmitt, 22, who has played in 58 matches and has seven goals and one assist.
“We didn’t have the nice locker room or the [renovated] stadium that we have now. We were in the basketball arena [for locker space] and we were not getting the respect that we are getting now — 2009 was when our team started to pick it up. We had a great group of players and a great recruiting class coming in. We finished national runner-up in 2009 and then obviously won the national championship in 2010. We made it back to the round of 16 in 2011 and hope to go all the way in 2012.”
UA entered this week tied with North Carolina for best shutout percentage in the country (76.4 percent), second in goals-allowed average (0.35) and seventh in scoring offense (39 goals).
Meves, Caldwell and Barson enrolled at UA in 2009.
Meves, 22, has played in 89 matches and has 206 saves. He is the school’s all-time leader in shutouts (51), wins (73) and minutes played (8,138).
“I don’t think there was any situation that could have been better for me,” Meves said. “The players I have been able to play with have been great guys on and off the field. The coaches have helped me grow as a player and as a person. This was the best decision I could have made. The guys are probably what I will remember most. I’ve made some great friends here. They are my best friends. Being around them day in and day out is awesome.
“The fan support we have gotten here has been great, too. They have been behind us and have been a big part of our success. Being able to win a national championship is obviously my fondest memory and we want to win a second one.”
Porter is also proud that the four seniors will graduate in December with their degrees.
Barson is a biology major with a 3.99 grade-point average. Caldwell is majoring in accounting with a human resource minor and maintains a 3.9 grade-point average.
Meves has a 3.7 grade-point average as a finance major. Schmitt has a 3.6 grade-point average as a sport management major.
“It was always a dream of mine to play for a top college program,” said Caldwell, 21, who has played in 83 matches and has 19 goals and 18 assists.
“I have always strived to get to that level of playing for championships, and hopefully this year we can get the second national championship.”
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.