When a program has eight division titles in 10 years, there is a pretty good chance it’s going to get the attention of its league opponents.
That’s the situation Fraser girls soccer coach Thaier Mukhtar and his Ramblers find themselves in this season in the Macomb Area Conference White Division.
And that is exactly how he prefers it.
Last season, the Ramblers once again proved to be the team to beat in the MAC White, going 12-0 in league play (17-4 overall). Mukhtar is hoping for more of the same this year.
“I’m expecting to be MAC White champs,” he said. “To win your division, win districts, make some noise in the state. That’s always the goals of every team I coach. That never changes. Our goal is to find a way to win. We’re going to be competitive.”
The success Fraser has enjoyed in recent years does not mean that Mukhtar is taking anything for granted. He said he understands that other teams in the division will be vying for the same thing the Ramblers are, and he expects the race for the MAC White’s top spot to be competitive.
“Anchor Bay is loaded,” he said. “L’Anse Creuse North is greatly improved. I think the MAC White is just as good as the MAC Red. You’ll see throughout the year some of the teams in the MAC White beating the MAC Red teams. I think we’re in a very tough, tough, division. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Every game could go either way. How we went undefeated last year in the division, I’m not really sure.”
Although repeating as league champs isn’t likely to be an easy task, Mukhtar thinks he has some players in place to help allow the Ramblers to do just that.
One of those players is Rachel DeLuca, whom Mukhtar considers to be one of the 10 best in the state. DeLuca has already committed to play for Oakland University next fall, following in the footsteps of her sister, Nicole.
At press time, Mukhtar said DeLuca had 71 career goals, which he thinks is the most in program history. Mukhtar, who is in his 11th season as Fraser’s coach, understands what DeLuca has meant to Fraser’s program.
“She’s the best player I’ve ever coached, from a girl’s standpoint,” he said. “She’s a three-time All-Stater. I think every coach in Macomb County’s going to breathe a sigh of relief when she’s gone.”
Aside from having success in league play, Fraser has also won a district championship two out of the last three seasons. And while Mukhtar is pleased with the success the Ramblers have enjoyed in league and district play, he is aiming for even bigger goals.
“We talk about setting up individual goals, setting up team goals,” he said. “One thing we talked about over and over is, I think our program is respected in Macomb County. Now, the next step is to be feared in the state. Get to the level where we’re one of the top 10 teams in the state. If you’re one of the top 10 teams in the state, you got a chance to win it all.”
Above all, Mukhtar hopes that his players’ time at Fraser has an impact on their lives that goes deeper than sports.
“It goes way beyond soccer,” he said. “Have anyone believe they can accomplish whatever they want in their life, if they really work hard enough for it. It’s really (a) lot more than just kicking the ball. Sometimes, you don’t realize until you’re done playing and you have a chance to reflect.
“You come back and say, ‘The life skills I learned playing sports helped me become successful.’ As much hard work as you go through right now, it’s just a preparation for life.”