Ani Sarkisian summed it up perfectly with an assist from emotion.
“Senior Night is certainly not something you look forward to when you first get here,” said the senior captain after her Wolverines knocked off visiting Illinois 3-0 on Saturday night in the final regular-season home game of the season.
Yeah, but it arrives eventually for everyone.
And Saturday it arrived for Sarkisian, Megan Hinz, Sarah Jackson, Emma Groffsky, Rubina Veerakone, Alyssa Herwatt and Alyssa Dillon. And it ended with a victory, thanks in part to Sarkisian, who delivered a penalty kick in the second half to kick the Wolverines to a 2-0 lead at the time.
“This is a moment I will remember and cherish,” Sarkisian said of celebrating her final game at Michigan. “It’s been so great to play on such a beautiful field with amazing teammates and an amazing staff. It’s so great to have my family here and it’s kind of like full circle kind of thing. You visit a school when you are getting recruited and your family is there and then it comes full circle and you reflect a little bit about who you were four years ago. It’s incredible to see how much you’ve grown.”
Having her parents in the stands for Senior Night was special but they’ve been with her and supporting her throughout her career – whether from the stands or from in front of the TV back home in New Jersey or from behind the wheel driving her around to practice as a kid.
“It’s awesome to have them in town,” she says. “It brings a little bit of home here that you miss. It’s a nice comfort and obviously a little energizer. You want to get the job done for them. They have been driving me around to soccer for as long as I can remember. I owe everything on them.”
With Thanksgiving less than a month away, Sarkisian is thankful for the sacrifices her parents have made for her soccer career. She was a little emotional when talking about them during Senior Night on Saturday.
“My success is all because of them,” she says. “They put in the time for me to be a great player. Giving them a goal tonight was a way of paying them back.
The fifth-year senior has started all 70 games in her Michigan career, including every game this season in which she has been healthy. The midfielder/forward scored the game-winning goal in the 83rd minute against Toledo (Aug. 27) and assisted on game-winning goal against Indiana (Sept. 17).
Sarkisian was All-Big Ten second team last season is a two-time Big Ten Preseason Honors list (2016-17) player. She ranks fifth all-time in career assists at Michigan and was All-Big Ten first team in 2015. Her first year at U-M she made the Big Ten All-Freshman Team (2014) after leading the conference with 12 assists.
She attended Florida State University (2013-14) but did not play her first year because of an injury. She then decided to pack her bags and head to Ann Arbor.
Michigan coach Greg Ryan says Sarkisian has been a leader ever since she showed up on the UM campus. She was a captain last season as a junior and this year as a senior.
“She came in as a redshirt freshman coming from Florida State and she came in during the 2014 season after we had a great team in 2013 and we had nine new players in the starting lineup her first year here. She just led our attack from day one.”
Sarkisian was a two-time First Team All-State (New Jersey) selection and four-time All-County and All-League selection at Cresskill High School, where she holds the school records for career goals (109) and career assists (31).
She certainly was on Michigan’s radar before she decided to play at Florida State.
“Oh yeah, we knew all about her,” Ryan said. “But by the time we decided that we needed to go after her she was already gone. We’re so fortunate to have her. And you could see tonight she is on the top of her game.”
And if Michigan can get into the NCAA Tournament with finally a healthy roster playing at the top of its game, the Wolverines could be a very dangerous team. Sarkisian and company would love nothing more than to get that chance.