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Men's soccer team loses in Big Ten Tournament opener

BY CHANTEL JENNINGS
Daily Sports Writer
Published November 12, 2009

No one had ever heard of Patrick Krispin.

He’s a reserve defender on the Penn State men’s soccer team, and he came in for an injured teammate in yesterday’s game against Michigan. The sophomore took just five shots all season, and only one went in.

And it just so happens that the one mark on his stat sheet was a game-winner that gave Penn State a 1-0 victory over Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, which all but eliminated the Wolverines' hopes of a postseason berth.

The Wolverines saw an early exit at Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington with Krispin’s shot from 24 yards out in double overtime, a game Michigan coach Steve Burns described as a must win for a team hoping to go to the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan had 10 shots compared to Penn State’s 25, and the Wolverines couldn't capitalize on any of them, a problem that has plagued them all season.

“Well, we didn’t get it,” Burns said. “We didn’t get it. We had chances to get it. So that was kind of a recurring theme — that in the big games we had the chances, but didn’t score the goals we needed to. And eventually, we weren’t able to hold and the opponent found a way to score.”

Even though Krispin’s lucky break — an open shot that came off a Wolverine clearance of a corner kick — ended the game, the Wolverines suffered a damaging loss in the second half when junior Justin Meram was given a red card on a very questionable call.

In the game’s 52nd minute, the Wolverines had an offensive opportunity when Meram corralled a Penn State free kick. Meram charged forward as the Wolverines held a four-on-three attacking advantage, but a Penn State defender came from behind and pulled on Meram’s uniform.

Trying to keep his momentum, Meram tried to wave off the defender and break free from the opposing player’s grip. Meram made contact with the defender’s shoulders and sent him to the ground.

Penn State sophomore Mark Fetrow proceeded to intentionally shove Meram. The referees issued red cards to Meram and Fetrow and held the yellow card out towards the original offender, but never actually gave him the card.

Thanks to the two red cards, both teams were forced to play a man down for the remaining 54 minutes. The change caused both teams to switch to a more conservative tempo, as both teams utilized the extra space on the field.

Krispin netted his goal with just four minutes to go in regulation play. The game would have then gone to a shootout and regardless of the outcome from that, the contest would have counted as a tie in the teams' records. That tie could have been the difference between an NCAA Tournament berth and the end of the season.

“Are we good enough? Sure,” Burns said. “And I think Penn State would say that. I think Ohio State would say that. I know Indiana is certainly saying that. … But when it comes down to it, you got to have enough wins on your season so you’re not on the bubble.”

The team’s difficulties in finishing shots dates back to part way through the season. Once the Wolverines entered the second half of the season and Big Ten play, they struggled to grind out wins and finished the latter part of the year with a 4-5-1 record.

“We had a lot of ups and downs this year,” senior Mauro Fuzetti said. “We started out well, we just didn’t really catch any breaks. We got unlucky a few times. We knew we should have won games that we lost.”

Now, the Wolverines have to wait until Monday when ESPNews will announce the field of 34 for the NCAA Tournament. Until then, they will have to wonder if the games they should have won will end up being the games that ruined their post season chances.

But Burns remains hopeful and is planning a practice session for this weekend.

“Tears are salty, and sweat is salty,” Burns said. “But one gives you consolation and the other gives you results.”