Unable to maintain focus towards the end of the game, the Michigan men's soccer team fell to Ohio State, 3-1, in a competitive rivalry game. Sydney Hastings-Wilkins/Daily. Buy this photo.

Ohio State was greeted with a clamoring student section in Ann Arbor, equipped with cowbells and drums — creating an atmosphere fit for a rivalry game.

But the stakes of the game proved too much for the Michigan men’s soccer team. The inability to maintain focus got the best of Michigan, as the Wolverines (3-7-3 Overall, 1-4-1 Big Ten) lost 3-1 to No. 15 Ohio State (7-1-4, 3-1-1) in heartbreaking fashion Tuesday night.

“For every sport, I think Michigan (versus) Ohio State is a very passionate meaningful game,” Michigan coach Chaka Daley said. “And today was no exception.”

The Buckeyes highlighted that passionate play and were dominant early, controlling possession in the attacking third, but were unable to find quality shots. As it continued to assert pressure on the Michigan defense, Ohio State midfielder Joakim Jahnsen eventually put one on target and found the back of the net, breaking the stalemate in the 18th minute.

The Big Ten rivals struggled to capture any offensive success thereafter, and things got chippy. In the 28th minute, Buckeye defender Owen Sullivan received the first yellow card of the match, followed by junior midfielder Bryce Blevins receiving one just three minutes later for the Wolverines, in a display of the escalating frustration and physicality of the matchup.

Coming out of the half with only a single shot on goal, Michigan knew any potential comeback would be reliant on creating pressure and controlling the ball in the attacking third. 

The Wolverines came out of the half strong, creating quick opportunities. Early on, a header from freshman forward Nicholas Kaloukian — on a cross from Blevins — was grabbed out of the air by Ohio State goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin. Although the momentum shifted heavily towards Michigan, the Buckeyes were right on its heels.

It wasn’t long before the Wolverines found the equalizer, as Blevins’s corner found Kaloukian for the finish three minutes after their last chance. While this was the freshman’s first career goal, it was clear the offense was feeding off of him, and he became the team’s best chance to upset the Buckeyes. 

“He’s offered great passion and spirit for the group,” Daley said. “As you can see when he gets off the field, there’s no grass blade he hasn’t run over.”

Immediately following his goal, Kaloukian created a fast-break opportunity before being brought down on a foul committed by Ohio State midfielder Laurence Wootton, resulting in yet another yellow card.

After being held without a shot in the first half, Kaloukian put four on target in the second. But his best opportunity to give Michigan the lead came in the 72nd minute. Kaloukian had the opportunity to pass to senior forward Derick Broche, who was left alone in the box. Instead, he took a shot that was easily saved by McLaughlin.

After struggling for much of the half, Buckeyes midfielder Luciano Pechota found midfielder Laurence Wootton on the far post, allowing Wootton to slot it behind sophomore goalkeeper Hayden Evans in the 76th minute. The Wolverines’ momentum had been erased.

Just over a minute later Ohio State midfielder Parker Grinstead delivered another goal, fully establishing control of the match. The Wolverines were without a response, unable to even muster a shot on goal in the remaining time.

“We lost our focus there,” Daley said. “We lost our belief slightly.”

Michigan showed the ability to compete against top competition. But the Wolverines’ skilled play on the pitch won’t translate to wins if it continues to lose focus late in matches.