The Maryland student section jeered at freshman goalie Owen Finnerty, as his back stood in front of them the entire game. As the clock wound down he drove them to silence as Michigan men’s soccer team (9-4-4 overall, 4-1-3 Big Ten) defeated Maryland (9-6-2 overall, 3-3-2 Big Ten), 4-2, in its last regular season game Sunday.
The Wolverines sit behind Indiana and Penn State in the Big Ten, earning a home match for the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday and boosting their résumé heading into the NCAA Tournament.
The first half was back and forth between the two sides. The Terrapins went up early with a fourth-minute goal. After some skillful play from Maryland junior forward Eric Matzelevich, he found an unmarked man in the box to give the Terrapins the 1-0 lead.
The Wolverines responded quickly with a controversial goal four minutes later. Senior forward Jack Hallahan sent a cross into the far end of box, where junior defender Joel Harrison redirected it towards goal. Junior defender Jackson Ragen and the Terrapins’ goalkeeper both went for the ball, colliding and falling to the floor, allowing junior forward Mohammed Zakyi to head the rebound home.
That scoreline didn’t last long as the Terrapins responded with a header goal in the 12th minute, making it 2-1 going into halftime.
“I thought we were prepared for the rigors of that environment,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “We knew it was going to be tough. We know they have a good team. We know they are highly regarded. We know they have a great fan base. We got all of that tonight.”
In the second half, the Wolverines, came out swinging. Hallahan sent a curling cross to the back post, where sophomore forward Derick Broche found the ball and headed it out of the goalie’s reach. Now on level terms, Broche returned the favor, sending a cross high into the box where Hallahan towered over a Maryland defender and headed home off the crossbar. With the Wolverines up, their game plan was not to sit back and defend, but keep gnawing on the Terrapins’ backline.
“Our style is not to sit in,” Daley said. “We toyed with that a little bit throughout the course of the year. Our best form of defending is to press them and not allow them to play. We want to get the ball and I think we did a great job with that.”
Though Michigan outshot Maryland, 16-9, the opposition still had its chances to tie the match. With starting senior goalkeeper Andrew Verdi out with a lower leg injury, it was up to Finnerty to prevent that from happening. He accomplished that with 45 seconds left in the game. A Terrapin forward sent a knuckling shot from outside the box. Finnerty read the dip of the ball and made full contact, sending the taunting crowd behind him into silence.
“Owen stepped up big tonight to make two really key saves in the second half,” Daley said. “It was a big confidence booster for him and certainly he grows in confidence with the team.”
With 20 seconds left in the game and Maryland’s goalkeeper up in Michigan’s box for a corner kick, the ball was headed out of the box and found Hallahan’s feet. Dribbling past a defender and the Terrapins goalie running for his life, Hallahan passed the ball into an empty, goal sealing the Wolverine’s victory.
Michigan ended its regular season on a high note. Pulling their socks over their scabs and taping their blistered toes, the Wolverines are set for an exciting postseason.
“Definitely a highlight under the spotlight,” Daley said. “Our guys were ready for the challenge and excited for the opportunity.”