BY GLEN ROSALES / FOR THE JOURNAL
Michael Graczyk and Jeff Rowland have been friends since attending La Cueva together some 20 years ago.
They were among the leaders on the New Mexico men’s soccer team to reach the NCAA title game in 2005, coming perhaps within a missed penalty kick of winning a national championship.
And now they are among a contingent of locals making a mark on the College Cup that kicks off Friday in Cary, North Carolina.
“We were best friends in high school,” Graczyk said. “We pretty much lived at each other’s houses in high school. We roomed together at UNM. He was the best man at my wedding. I was the best man at his wedding.”
The two buddies and ex-Lobos are assistant coaches with Notre Dame, which on Friday will face Clemson, just like that UNM team did years ago. “We’re even staying in the same hotel,” Rowland said.
In the other semifinal, Washington, led by former New Mexico assistant coach Jamie Clark, faces Georgetown, led by Albuquerque native Brian Wiese, brother of Albuquerque Academy girls soccer coach Andrew Wiese.
“It’s pretty great, right?” Wiese said from North Carolina. “We’ve got native New Mexicans, we’ve got surrogate New Mexicans like Jamie. It’s pretty cool, because (New Mexico is) not a hugely populated state.”
Seldom-used players Jayson Baca of Washington and Aaron Hill of Notre Dame – former Albuquerque Academy teammates – also are on the rosters. Clark said if the Huskies reach Sunday’s final, Baca has a significant chance to provide some depth to spell teammates.