Los Angeles Soccer: Camilo Rojas
SANTA BARBARA -- This wasn't quite the senior season Jeff Quijano envisioned, but he was going to deal with the circumstances the best way he could: by being a leader.
Quijano's response to losing his starting job turned out to be one of critical elements that prodded the University of Michigan to its first NCAA College Cup, but the Wolverines' path to this weekend's men's soccer final four at UC Santa Barbara would require greater contributions from the former Canoga Park High School standout -- when it mattered most.
Michigan (17-4-3), the No. 10 seed, takes on second-ranked Akron (20-1-2) in Friday night's second semifinal at UCSB's Harder Stadium (ESPN2/ESPNU, 8 p.m. PT) and Quijano figures to make an impact. Just like last week.
The veteran right back, at his best when attacking up the flank, gave perhaps his finest collegiate performance in the Wolverines' quarterfinal shocker over second-seeded Maryland, surging forward to score the first goal and sending in the cross for the second in a 3-2 overtime triumph.
“The performances of Jeff Quijano are one of the main reasons we are in the College Cup,” said Michigan coach Steve Burns, who started the program 11 seasons ago. “That's a huge statement, but he deserves that kind of praise for how well he's played. … [Against Maryland] there were times when he just took over the game and was clearly our Man of the Match. Now he gets to lead us once more, and it's fantastic for Jeff that he's back home in California for his final games as a Wolverine.”