TRAVERSE CITY — Add another accolade to the Traverse City West soccer team’s historic season.
The Michigan Interscholastic High School Soccer Coaches Association selected Titans head coach Matt Griesinger as its Big School Coach of the Year.
Griesinger received the award just two days before his 29th birthday and four days after he led the Titans to a second straight Division 1 state finals appearance at Comstock Park.
“I’ve heard from a lot of my guys since last night and my explanation has been that these kind of awards happen when the group succeeds,” Griesinger said. “Sometimes they seem like individual awards but no one is getting coach of the year if their team doesn’t do well.
“It’s indicative of a great group of guys around me and a great group of assistant coaches. It’s another thing that kind of helps us look back and recognize the positives of the year.”
The Titans fell in overtime in both appearances in the finals. They suffered a 4-1 defeat to Troy Athens in 2019 and a 2-1 loss to undefeated Detroit Catholic Central last Saturday. TC West set a school record for wins in a season with 22 and Griesinger posted his 100th career win in only six seasons on Oct. 29 when they captured the regional crown.
“He is everything that we hoped he would be when we brought him on staff,“ Titans athletic director and former head soccer coach Jason Carmien said. ”His qualities lend him to be a great a coach. Whatever expectations we had, he has far surpassed them.”
Camien led the Titans program from its inception until 2014 when he became athletic director. He met the then 22-year-old Griesinger at a coaching clinic and was immediately saw potential in the young coach. Griesinger led the Titans to six straight Big North Conference titles, four district crowns, two regional titles and two finals appearances while racking up a 101-24-13 career record.
“Junior year as a team we had no idea we could do what we did, but he knew,” Titans senior defender Finn Durbin said. “Coming in first thing, he said was we could get to the Final Four and he set that in motion and led us to that state final last year.
“Without him believing in us and saying that kind of stuff to us we could have done what we did the last two years.”
Griesinger said the Titans made it a point to instill toughness in the program and based themselves with the thought of being tougher than any situation. TC West permeated this culture since its time under Carmien and Durbin said he felt that in his time as a Titan.
“It’s definitely building on what Carmien started and I think we have something really good going on here at West,” Durbin said. “I think everyone really respects him and think he set this program up so incoming kids know that this is serious stuff at West and there are big expectations.”
Griesinger said the Titans focused on bringing exceptional competition north for tournaments and the ability to host games earlier than the rest of the state this season gave more exposure to northern Michigan’s best. Elk Rapids reached the Final Four in D3 and Leland made another semifinal appearance in D4.
“One of the best things we were able to do is bring those downstate coaches up here and show off northern Michigan a little bit,” Griesinger said. “What we’re really trying to do is make sure people know that there is no dividing line across the state of where good soccer starts and stops.“
Griseinger said it’s nice the coaches’ association is taking notice of the teams up north and has no plans on leaving the Titans anytime soon.
“I got super lucky that I found a place that I can grow that allowed me to grow into it, but also has provided me with some of the best experiences as a coach, as well as as a teacher in the building,” he said. “I firmly believe that West Senior High is the best place to work.”