It’s just a game: MTU soccer club enjoying being on field together

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech sophomore material science and engineering major Anders Palarz is the president of the men’s soccer team. The club is prideful of their competitiveness as a team, while also being laid back and having fun as a group.

“We like our club because it’s competitive,” he said “We have a lot of great talent (and) great players, but as a club we’re very relaxed. It’s not the high intensity that you get with the varsity team. We travel (and) play all the time, but it’s not as competitive.

“(It’s) for college students who are not looking to overload their schedules with crazy traveling and playing all the time. It’s a low-intensity, fun environment.”

Much like other club teams of this nature, the Huskies club soccer team is composed of two different groups. The club has roughly 100 members along with a team that competes in tournaments at Northern Michigan and around Wisconsin.

“We have our main club that has (about) 100 members, but then we also have our traveling team,” said Palarz. “We have tryouts in the fall (to) be on this competitive team. We play a lot of Wisconsin schools and we’ll play Northern, so we still get to play in actual games (and are in) an actual league. Or, we can play in tournaments here at Tech, which is just for fun, that we host.”

The club has risen to the challenge when competing against other programs from bigger schools. Last season, the team had some highs and lows, but always walked off the field in good spirits.

“Michigan Tech (has) always kind of been a small club coming up, so when we play other schools, it’s been challenging because they’ve got these big programs and we’re pretty small,” said Palarz. “It was nice (last season) because we played pretty well. We had a little bit of a losing streak going, but we managed to keep our heads in every game that we played until the very end, which I love to see.”

“We had a couple of comeback wins (where) we kept going and kept our heads up, even though we went down,” said Palarz. “When we go down, it’s not like everyone gets down on themselves and gets upset. It’s a low-stakes kind of thing. We’d still keep our heads up and keep trying until the last whistle. I love to see that (last) year.”

An advantage of being a club team rather than a varsity team means lower stress for players and adaptable playing time. The club is also run by students and requires student leadership instead of a coaching staff.

“I played a lot of pretty high competitive soccer growing up and (that’s) just a lot of extra stress when you’re trying to meet the demands of having a coaches,” Palarz said. “We don’t have coaches, so we just practice and we’ll have fun. It’s a good way to have a low pressure environment. We’ll play and get better but not have to worry about meeting demands of being on a competitive team.

“The only thing that’s different is that we’re all student-run, so our schedules, and what we ask out of players on our team, (is minimal). We know what it’s like to be a college student. We’re all busy, so we we tend to be a little more relaxed with our times. We also do a lot of stuff outside of soccer.”

Palarz is fairly new to Michigan Tech’s squad being in his second season with the club, but he has enjoyed seeing the dedication and determination from his teammates so far.

“I’m only a second year, so I haven’t seen players (cycle) all the way through from start to finish,” he said. “It’s nice and keeps (players) in shape and gives them something to look forward to each day (as) something to keep (us) busy. There’s a little bit of maturity that comes with it since we are student run.

“(We) see people show up to practice, not because they have to but because they want to. You see (players) drive change throughout the season as things get tougher and (more) intense. We also have a lot of executive board members, people who stepped up to the plate when I didn’t expect them to want run for position, and that’s cool.”

Though the club may take a unique shape that varies greatly from that of a varsity team, an element of sportsmanship and team bonding is crucial for the Michigan Tech club team.

“We’ll (play) a lot of pick up soccer before the season even starts, so we get pretty close as a team,” said Palarz. “We’ll do a lot of team dinners. It’s nice to see on the field because there’s just a lot of sportsmanship on and off the field for both the men’s and women’s club teams at Michigan Tech.

“We know each other super well at this point, so things don’t get super tense. If things do get pretty heavy, we do navigate out of it and help each other up and laugh afterwards. I think it’s a cool demonstration of good sportsmanship on and off the field.”

“We have a really nice relationship with the women’s club soccer team as well, so between the two student organizations were able to reserve enough time in the SDC in the winter,” said Palarz. “We have a couple of nights a week where we host indoor tournaments, so we’re able to play there (a few) nights a week.”

The team will be hosting an outdoor tournament in the coming weeks. Palarz is getting things in order before the first outdoor match of the season.

“In a couple of weeks, we’re hosting a tournament here at Michigan Tech, an outdoor tournament in the cold, so it’ll be fun,” he said. “We’re probably going to try to get one outdoor practice, but just went to Duluth last weekend and we’ve got indoor practices rolling.

“I’m trying to get the rosters rolling and get people pumped up and excited because it’s our first time playing outdoors in awhile. There’s no way to get ready for it. The first outdoor game is always the hardest one.”