While the entire world deals with the challenges of the Coronovirus and the importance of staying informed with the latest news and information, we here at WeloveAnnArbor.com will present a series of feature stories highlighting the successes, accomplishments and dreams of our neighbors right here in Ann Arbor. We hope these stories are not only a pleasant diversion, but also entertaining, informative and even inspiring.
Keren Maze loves to draw – but she never thought she would be doing so much of it this time of year. She had planned on drawing up assists, goals and victories for the Skyline girls’ soccer team in April, May and even possibly June, but as the world is cruelly finding out, plans change.
“This all feels so surreal,” says Maze, a two-year captain and four-year letter-winner for Coach Chris Morgan’s always talented Skyline varsity soccer team. “I would do anything to be able to go back to school and have my spring soccer season.”
Maze, like all student-athletes in Michigan and around the country, is waiting it out and still holding out hope that at least some portion of the season will be played.
“I have been trying to keep busy,” she says. “I met up with some of my high school teammates a couple days after school was cancelled to play soccer, but that’s not a viable option anymore. Now I play a lot with my sister, Adira, who is developing into a pretty good player.”
She says the social-distancing has allowed her to spend more time with family who she is going to miss next year. And she’s keeping in touch with current and former classmates. “It’s nice to have the internet and places like Zoom where we can connect and have class virtually,” she says.
And then, click a perfect cross, Maze delivers a pass for hope.
“I am still optimistic that our soccer season is not completely cancelled,” she said. “I am holding onto the hope that we might have District playoffs and a graduation ceremony. I have spent a lot of time drawing which is something that I really enjoy but haven’t found much time for before the past few weeks.”
A senior, Maze was excited about her final year on the pitch at Skyline. The Eagles fly into every season with talent, experience and high expectations and this coming season is/was no different.
“Our goal was to win Districts, then move on to Regionals,” Maze says. “We won our league the last two years, but had not been able to capitalize in the District finals. As a sophomore we lost a heart-breaking match to Saline on PKs after overtime. Last year we lost to Huron on the last play of the game.
“As difficult as those losses were to us, they also motivated us going into this season. The returning players are all extremely committed and the incoming freshmen were eager to compete at tryouts. We had a very talented group of players, most of them competing in the top regional leagues (in the Midwest) with their club teams. No doubt in my mind we were in the mix for a State championship.”
Maze paid her dues along the way at Skyline and had earned everything she had accomplished leading up to this season. While she was used to playing the entire game for her club team, she had a hard time even getting on the pitch as a freshman on Skyline’s loaded varsity team.
“Coming into freshman year there were already many talented players at my primary positions,” she says. “At the beginning of the season I played some but towards the end, I found myself watching from the sidelines for most games. I didn’t play one minute in the postseason.”
She turned that experience into a positive.
“Looking back, spending the first year on the bench was a great growth experience giving me perspective,” she says. “I learned not to take any playing time for granted.”
Maze spent her entire sophomore season on the pitch and was nominated Team MVP, Most Improved, and Unsung Hero. She also was named a team captain her junior season.
And there have been some great highlights along the way at Skyline.
“Spring break of my sophomore year, the Skyline varsity women’s soccer team went to Florida which gave me appreciation for the value of team-building,” she says. “Last year our team had two victories which will always stick with me. The first was against Grand Blanc, a top-ranked team, in which we scored a goal to win the game with a few minutes remaining. My second fondest memory was beating our heated rival Saline on the road, something we had NEVER done.”
While everyone’s short-term plans are on hold, Maze’s long-term road will take her to Swarthmore, a private liberal arts college near Philadelphia.
“Last winter I visited several liberal arts colleges and immediately fell in love with Swarthmore,” says Keren, the daughter of Jessica Lieberman and Bradley Maze. “This past winter, when I went on my recruitment visit, I loved it even more. I value the intimate setting, the accessibility of the professors, and the close-knit community.
“While there, I attended a bioethics class which was amazing. The way the students engaged with each other and with the professor made me want to join their class right then and there. I am not quite sure what I want to major in but probably something related to political science or the biological sciences. And the soccer program is awesome.”
The Garnet have reached the Division III NCAA Tournament in six straight seasons and advanced to NCAA National Quarterfinal in 2015 and Sweet Sixteen in 2018 and 2019.
Over the past 15 seasons, the program has won 192 matches, has qualified for post-season play in 13 of those years and has produced a Rhodes Scholar, six Scholar/Academic All-Americans, eight All-Americans (USC, D3Soccer.com), four Fulbright winners, 36 all-region athletes and 65 all-conference award recipients.
So you can see why Maze is excited to head to Philly.
“If everything goes back to normal, I will be heading to campus in mid-August for the start of preseason,” she says. “I have been in regular contact with my recruiting class and I am extremely excited to meet them all in person. I am using the social distancing time to train and stay in shape.”
Maze started playing soccer at a young age and played rec and ed soccer for her dad until she was 10. She played for Ann Arbor United for three seasons before switching to Canton Celtic, now called DCFC West where she has been playing ever since.
“The U-16 year, we made it to the State Cup finals, and this past year we made it to the State semifinals,” she says. “My DCFC team has been a great
experience. Many of my teammates are going on to play soccer in college.”
Maze, who has a 3.99 GPA at Skyline, says she has plenty to be proud of regardless of what happens in the coming weeks and months.
“I am proud of how I bounced back after a personally disappointing end to my freshman year,” she says. “I really have used that experience to keep up my work ethic, energy in soccer and academics.”
For now, it’s back to drawing and hanging out with her family. But soon she will return to what she does best – kicking, running, and not only scoring, but accomplishing her goals.
Action photos by Joe Tworek