AFC Ann Arbor are proud to welcome back Spencer Ward to The Mighty Oak’s squad for the 2019 season. Ward will be extremely comfortable in The Mighty Oak’s new digs as he is coming off his second season with Concordia as the starting goalkeeper. Having spent the 2017 season with The Mighty Oak, Ward is extremely familiar with the set-up, the ground, and the location. A native of Rochester, Michigan, Ward will be returning for yet another exciting season and is joining an already strong stable of keepers with yet another outstanding netminder.
With Concordia, Ward was vital in net for the Cardinals. Eric Rudland distributed high praise to the keeper saying, “He is coming off an impressive season with Concordia. He single-handedly kept them in games and was a standout player.” Ward made an incredible 97 saves for the NAIA side last season, leading the WHAC in the category, and finished with a save-percentage of 78.2% and a GAA of 1.54. These stats and his play earned him a spot on the WHAC First Team All-Conference as a result. During last season, Ward helped Concordia to a five-game winning streak in which the Cardinals kept four clean sheets and only allowed a single goal. Ward, during this stretch, made 21 saves while only letting in the singular goal.
Upon his return, Ward answered the question of why was now the right time to return by saying, “The culture and expectations of AFCAA is what brought me back. At AFCAA, you are surrounded by an extremely qualified and passionate staff, pushing you to be your absolute best. There is nothing more a player could ask for from their club.” Not only does the set-up of the club help, but the move to Ward’s collegiate home is also a massive bonus. “As a member of the Concordia men's program, I'm stoked to call Concordia's field home this summer,” Ward told AFCAA. “The facilities are amazing, and I'll feel right at home for AFCAA matches.” A long-term home for The Mighty Oak brings joy not just for the fans, but certainly for the players as well.
On his return, Rudland said, “It is great to have Spencer return to be with us after the impact he made in 2017. He is coming off an impressive season with Concordia…I think he has grown greatly in confidence since his time with us [two] seasons ago and he has all of the tools to be [an] impact GK in our league.” Ward spoke of his impact attributes that he has in his arsenal as he said, “My experience in high level programs and ability as a well-rounded goalkeeper are my strengths. Since an academy player I've been in high-demand positions requiring sound ability as a shot-stopper who can also use both feet to play out of pressure situations.” Indeed, the player spent time with both DePaul and Coastal Carolina, a pair of Division I programs, before coming back a bit closer to home.
These play-based factors are all key, but perhaps the most important ones for the upcoming season are those that can only be built up with time. “The relationships and trust I have with other returning AFCAA players such as Jake Rosen, Jake Rufe, and James Vaughan, give me that much more confidence in goal,” Ward stated. He provided an additional personal goal to bring the success from his outstanding collegiate season into the club season. With the knowledge he has of players coming into the season, that goal certainly should not be far off from reality at all.
A starter over three games in 2017, including holding a clean sheet to make sure The Mighty Oak secured an undefeated record at home, Ward looks back fondly on that season and is excited to get back. “The professional environment created by the owners, staff, and fans, helped my game grow tremendously that summer,” he stated about how the year bettered him. He also added that “being pushed everyday in training” made him a better player as he learned from his fellow keeper that season, TJ Tomasso. As a sort of message for the fans of the club, Ward said, “I'm extremely excited to be back with the club, and looking forward to the awesome environment the fans bring to all of our matches.” Those surrounding the club are just as excited to welcome him back for another season with the squad.
About AFC Ann Arbor
Founded in 2014, Association Football Club Ann Arbor launched it’s men’s semi-pro team in 2015 and has competed in the NPSL since 2016. Led by Head Coach & Sporting Director, Eric Rudland, the team has found great success winning back to back Great Lakes Championships (‘17 & ‘18) and earning US Open Cup bids three straight years (2017-2019). In October 2018, the club announced the launch of the women’s side, who will be skippered by Andy “Pritch” Pritchard in their inaugural season of the United Women’s Soccer national league. Owned and operated by a group of local soccer fans and entrepreneurs, AFC Ann Arbor has become a fixture in the greater Ann Arbor community.