When Akron plays UNC and Michigan faces Louisville this weekend in the NCAA Men's Soccer Final Four, three of the teams will share a common bond -- IMG Academy.
Akron features six players who have attended or trained at the IMG Academy soccer program (Anthony Ampaipitakwong, Enrique Paez, Zarek Valentin, Reinaldo Brenes, Kofi Sarkodie and Martin Ontiveros), while UNC features one IMG Academy soccer program alum (Alex Walters).
"I am proud of what these boys have been able to accomplish in their college careers," said Tom Durkin, Director, IMG Academy soccer program. "We wish them all luck, but admit we are slightly partial to Akron, feeling they are poised to win it all in their second consecutive Final Four appearance."
Michigan utilizes a different IMG connection. Trevor Moawad, Director of the Athletic & Personal Development program and renowned mental conditioning expert, has worked with the Michigan men's soccer team for the past four seasons.
"Trevor and IMG have truly helped us as a team face failure the prospect of failure head on with no fear," said Big Ten tournament MVP, Chris Blais. "Good or bad, we've won and lost as a team and accepted our roles in whatever the outcome. The mind is a powerful tool and we've stayed in the moment and focused on what it is we need to do sustain success."
Since a late season loss to Akron, the Wolverines have made an unprecedented run through the field, culminating with the program's first-ever trip to the Final Four, including an Elite Eight win over perennial powerhouse Maryland.
"They knew they were playing a team, not a reputation," said Moawad about Michigan's thrilling win over Maryland. "The Michigan coaching staff continues to help these players think about the right things at the right times. As simple as it sounds -- it's truly the slight edge in tournament environments.
Moawad, who also serves as a consultant for Alabama and Florida State football, chatted with Blais after the victory, while Moawad was in Charlotte with the FSU football team.
"It was truly a milestone moment for the program, but I know they are continuing to maintain high expectations going into the Final Four. I think they've earned the right to have them."