Freshman, senior receive all-region awards

Senior Michael Sass and freshman Eric Ramirez both see the same future for the men’s soccer team – possibility.

The team reached the NCAA Division II Tournament this year for the first time since 1982. In the second round, Rockhurst University beat the team, knocking them out of the running for the title.

Ramirez said he is pretty sure the Eagles have that title in their future.

“We have a really young team, maybe people didn’t see us going as far as we did,” the forward said. “The whole process…that’s just going to help us next year improve on some stuff.”

This was his first year as an active roster member following his redshirting in 2015.

He said this season was full of excitement after spending time on the sidelines last year.

“It was killing me watching the games and not being able to help all of my teammates,” he said.  “(This year) we had high goals and I think we reached some of them.”

He said the team hit the goals of trusting each other, reaching the NCAA tournament and keeping a ranking among the conference, but there is still farther to go.

This year Ramirez earned several individual honors including Great Lakes Valley Conference Freshman of the Year. He said any individual awards from this year should also be considered team success.

Most recently, both Ramirez and Sass received National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division II All-Midwest Region honors.

“It was not just an excitement for me, but my coaches and teammates,” Ramirez said. “It’s under my name, but it’s everyone’s award.”

Sass, who spent two years playing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis before transferring to USI, said the individual honors on top of having a good team season mean a lot more.

“Individual honors only mean so much,” he said. “It’s better to have success with your teammates.”

Sass said this season was easily the best of his college career. As a senior, it was also his last.

He said the season was bittersweet, but wouldn’t trade making it to the NCAA Tournament for an additional three seasons.

It was hard to come to terms with it being the end, but Sass sees success in the team’s future.

“I had a lot of lows and it was nice to get a few highs in my career as well,” he said. “It was just really exciting.”