The Michigan men’s soccer team has been repeatedly acquainted with the age-old adage of Murphy’s Law this season.
That was evident on Sunday afternoon — when the Wolverines’ 3-2 loss to Penn State and Northwestern’s first conference win of the season, fueled by an 85th minute penalty kick, combined to keep Michigan out of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in program history.
As everything that could possibly go wrong unfolded on the pitch in front of Michigan coach Chaka Daley, he struggled to find a way to articulate the scope of the implausible and devastating season-ending defeat.
“I am at a loss (for words),” Daley said. “I’m baffled. … I don’t have much more.”
But the connection is also clear when viewing the 2022 season as a complete picture — a campaign that resulted in a .188 conference winning percentage, tied for the worst of the decade-long Daley era.
“(Today was) a culmination of our season,” Daley said. “(Lack of) luck and number of chances … there’s so many moments in the season. … it’s something that’s happened too many times.”
It didn’t look so bleak for the Wolverines the entire afternoon. Michigan entered the game slated in eighth place, ahead of the Wildcats by two points, needing merely a tie or a Northwestern non-win to cement its spot in this weeks single elimination contest.
And early on, that proposition seemed attainable. When freshman defender Nolan Miller sent a diving header into the back of the net in the fourth minute, and the Wolverines carried that 1-0 lead at halftime, they looked on their way to securing the right to face Maryland in College Park on Friday. Michigan’s offense during the first 45 minutes was creative and cohesive, controlling the majority of possession and doubling the Nittany Lions’ shot count.
The possibility that is now a reality looked remote and increasingly pessimistic.
That positive perspective didn’t last long. The Wolverines’ defense crumbled in the latter half of the game, as Penn State exploded for three goals — tied for the most Michigan has allowed in a single half all season — and stormed back to capture the victory.
The Jekyll and Hyde nature of this game, serving as a microcosm for the season as a whole, was too much to overcome. The result was a fatal and irrevocable defeat.
Without a chance to play in the conference tournament, the Wolverines will miss the NCAA postseason for the third straight year, continuing a disappointing trend after three straight years of qualification from 2017-2019. They end the season ranked 145th out of the 203 eligible Division I teams for total points scored.
The 19 goals and 17 assists tallied throughout the schedule are both dead last in the Big Ten, and the program is flirting with rock bottom.
“It’s disappointing,” Daley said. “But in order to appreciate the highs … in life, you must have had a low.”
The 2022 season was full of plenty of those for Michigan — and now it will have an unusually long offseason to brainstorm ways to right the ship next fall.