Michigan’s season ends in penalty kicks
At some point, your luck runs out.
For the Michigan men’s soccer team (12-5-4), it was Sunday night. After escaping last Thursday with an 11-10 penalty shootout victory over Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Wolverines lost 11-10 in a penalty shootout to No. 7 Notre Dame (10-6-3) after a 0-0 draw through 110 minutes.
The game itself wasn’t particularly interesting. There were a bunch of half chances — neither team could create dangerous opportnities. Michigan’s biggest chance came from a first-half shot by senior forward Robbie Mertz. He launched a rocket toward the upper corner, only to have Fighting Irish goalkeeper Duncan Turnbull palm it down with both hands.
The Wolverines dominated the last 65 minutes of the game. Possessing the ball, they continually found space out wide to cross the ball in. The Notre Dame defense, though, would clear it before any chances were created.
Yet for all their possession and half chances, the Fighting Irish had their best chance with 15 seconds left in the first overtime. Aiden McFadden was ten yards beyond any Michigan defender by the time he got the ball and drove toward the goal. Cutting back out of sophomore defender Jackson Ragen’s slide tackle, McFadden shot low and hard to the near post only to have sophomore goalkeeper Henry Mashburn make a diving save with two hands to push the ball out wide.
Other than those two chances, there was no reason to get excited about what was happening on the field. For Michigan, perhaps it was understandable given their situation. They had played three games since the Irish had played their last, including the 110-minute slugfest on Thursday.
A slugfest that had its consequences: both of the Wolverine’s starting fullbacks were hurt, leading to sophomore defensemen Joel Harrison and freshman Declan Gaffney getting their first career starts.
Unnoticeable, the newcomers did their jobs and filled in defensively without a hitch.
“They’ve been training hard, they’ve been prepping and were anxious for a moment,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “Maybe they thought the moment would be in the second round of the NCAA tournament against the No. 7 seed Notre Dame, maybe not.”
Those weren’t the only injuries the Wolverines had to deal with on Sunday, though. Sophomore forward Mohammed Zakyi, tied for fourth on the team in points, played 60 minutes with an injury. Senior midfielder Ivo Cerda fought through 40 minutes, winning tackles and making plays for the team.
Cerda is part of a senior class that encompasses six impact players for the team: captains Cerda and Mertz, starting defensemen Marcelo Borges and Daniel Mukuna, striker Noah Kleedtke and defender Peter Brown, who was 4 for 4 in penalty kicks over the last two games.
“They’ve helped create a culture of professionalism,” said Daley. “They’ve shown how to be successful not only athletically but in the classroom.”
Michigan, while being eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row, had its highlights. In the shutout draw, the Wolverines actually made a new school record with the fewest number of goals allowed in a season at 18, the previous record being 20.
A large part of that is because of sophomore goalkeeper Henry Mashburn and his .727 save percentage. He was the goalkeeper that had saved Michigan so many times.
So as he stepped into goal for the 12th round of penalties Sunday, there was still hope.
Sophomore midfielder Marc Ybarra just had his penalty kick saved, and if Mashburn didn’t save the kick from Felicien Dumas the season was over.
This was the second time Mashburn had to save the team on the day. He did it three times on Thursday.
Instead, the ball ricocheted off his hand and ended up in the back of the net.
Notre Dame swarmed the field, and with no luck left, the Wolverines’ season was over.