Pair of Ike grads finding success at Detroit Mercy

By: Timothy Pontzer | Shelby - Utica News | Published October 2, 2017

 Detroit Mercy junior outside back Grant Harrison lines up a kick during a match with Western Michigan University earlier this season. A 2014 graduate of Utica Eisenhower, Harrison spent three years on the Ike varsity team before starting with the Titans.

Detroit Mercy junior outside back Grant Harrison lines up a kick during a match with Western Michigan University earlier this season. A 2014 graduate of Utica Eisenhower, Harrison spent three years on the Ike varsity team before starting with the Titans.

Photo provided by Detroit Mercy athletics

DETROIT — Three years after starring together at Utica Eisenhower, Grant Harrison and Justin Schueneman are starting alongside one another at the next level.

The duo have continued their soccer careers roughly 45 minutes down the road from their alma mater, serving on the back line at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Harrison is a junior center back and Schueneman, a sophomore, is slotted at outside back. Both are helping to lead a Titans defense that has recorded three shutouts so far this season.

“It’s great to have a teammate at Ike and a teammate here,” said Harrison, who graduated from Ike in 2014. “I was excited when (Schueneman) joined me here.”

Both former Eagles attributed the Ike program and former coach Josh VanHouten as a valuable start to their success.

“Coach VanHouten expects you to do your best every game, and that leads to results,” said Schueneman, who graduated from Ike in 2016. “On the soccer field, Ike is pretty competitive, always a top school in the area. It definitely prepared me well.”

Harrison agreed, citing the depth seen on Eisenhower’s rosters every year.

“We weren’t always the highest-rated team early in the season, but we worked hard and had great chemistry,” Harrison explained. “We had a strong bond off the field as well. There was a lot of competition, because there was so much talent at Eisenhower. We’ve had many kids go D-I many years in a row, and that pushes you to be better.”

Harrison recalled one of VanHouten’s annual offseason workouts as a valuable precursor to his time with the Titans.

“I definitely remember the six-minute mile that VanHouten had us do,” Harrison remembered. “That’s something we do here in our first preseason test. Ike was the first time I was introduced to that. Conditioning has always been a part of soccer, but having that test specifically translated to the college game.”

VanHouten said he is thrilled for both of his former standouts, fondly remembering their time in Ike uniforms.

“(Harrison) was a solid defender who I could rely on, and if needed, he had the ability to score goals. He was one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached,” VaHouten remarked. “(Schueneman) was a natural athlete who could play all over the field. He led by example.”

While they now focus on competing in the Horizon League, both still look back on their time at Eisenhower, especially Harrison’s last prep game.

“We lost in the district final to Rochester Adams my senior year. It went to penalty kicks,” Harrison recalled. “We had our lineup of five set, and I made mine. Justin stepped in and missed it, and I still give him a hard time for that. That ended our season!”

Despite being a defender, Harrison led the Eagles in goals and assists during that senior campaign. He garnered an All-State honorable mention honor for his efforts that year, also finishing as the runner-up for Macomb Area Conference Red Division Player of the Year.

“The Eisenhower community is one of the best for soccer, and really the entire metro Detroit area is great for support,” Harrison said. “It is great to still play locally, because my parents and family can make it out to all of the games.”

Schueneman also enjoys the local connection. He routinely frequents Total Soccer Fraser to play in a league he has been in for several years and returns to Ike to watch games. He believes play in the MAC’s top flight helped prepare him for now.

“There’s plenty of guys here and at other colleges who played in the MAC Red,” said Schueneman, who was named first-team All-State his senior year. “Growing up playing with and against that good talent definitely helps.”

Nicholas Deren has served as the coach for Detroit Mercy since 2009. He said he likes recruiting from the MAC Red, believing it to be one of the top leagues in the entire state.

“These east-side kids I get I really, really like,” Deren said. “They add a different element; they have a grit and a fight. They’re battle tested and have an edge. Those games in the MAC Red are competitive every day, and they know how to get results.”

Deren called both Harrison and Schueneman big-time players, saying they bring that extra element to his back line.

“(Harrison) is playing in our center back role and is very comfortable in it. He’s not very vocal, but he leads by example,” Deren said. “(Schueneman) is a lockdown defender. I never have to worry about him. His long throw-ins are also a real weapon for us. We’ve scored several goals off it.”

Both Harrison and Schueneman said they hope they can lead Detroit Mercy to the program’s first Horizon League title since 2012. They also have a local trip circled on the calendar, eyeing an important matchup against Oakland University Oct. 14 in Rochester Hills.

“That’s a huge game for us, and we have to get it if we want to win the league,” Schueneman said. “We’re big rivals, and there’s been a lot of trash talk on both sides. All of our friends from home go to Oakland.”

Harrison agreed with the sentiment. He’s looking forward to facng a former teammate of his at Ike, Travis Harrington, who is a redshirt sophomore forward for the Golden Grizzlies.

“We grew up playing against these kids for years and years,” Harrison said. “A lot of the kids from both sides come from local schools. There’s definitely a friendship off the field, but a heated rivalry on it.”