It took penalties to decide the winner of the Big Ten Tournament.
A high-intensity Big Ten championship match resulted in a battle between Michigan (11-4-5 overall, 4-1-3 Big Ten) and Indiana’s (14-2-4, 7-1-0) freshmen goalkeepers. The Wolverines ultimately fell to the eighth-ranked Hoosiers 4-3 during penalty kicks.
“I’m really, really proud of their effort, their commitment, their quality today, and certainly we’re disappointed,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “We thought that we could be champions. PKs is a harsh way to lose, but at some point you gotta decide the game.”
At the start of the game, Indiana had control of the midfield, using its physicality to block off Michigan players from the ball and aggressively maintain possession. The Wolverines’ midfielders’ attempts to push back were often thwarted. However, Michigan’s back line proved to be its reliable strength as the defense limited Indiana’s opportunities on goal. Freshman goalkeeper Owen Finnerty made an impressive save 14 minutes into the half to stop Indiana forward Victor Bezerra’s powerful shot from just outside of the box. Finnerty deflected the shot for a corner kick, showing that he has what it takes to fill the cleats of Big Ten goalkeeper of the year, Michigan senior Andrew Verdi, who has been out since October 25 after suffering an injury against Wisconsin.
The Wolverines’ front line was finally able to ramp up the pressure on the Indiana goal in the final two minutes of the first half, and they kept that aggressive mentality in the second half when they started to dominate possession.
The Wolverines earned their spot in Sunday’s championship after defeating Penn State 1-0 in the semifinals Friday afternoon, when senior forward Jack Hallahan scored a strong free kick shot up and over the wall of Penn State defenders and chipped off the post before connecting inside the net.
Sophomore forward Derick Broche continued to be involved in plays towards the box during Friday’s semifinal, being one of the main point-producers for the team overall this season with six goals and three assists. But in Sunday’s championship, Broche missed a golden opportunity in the second half for the Wolverines to secure a goal in the second half inside the six-yard box when his attempt to hit the far post missed over the net.
The Wolverines had other opportunities during the second half with six shots on goal, while the Hoosiers had zero — a surprise, considering Indiana had 22 shots during its semifinal matchup against Maryland.
Michigan’s final fate would have been different if it could have capitalized on one of its chances on goal during the second half.
In the penalty shootout, Finnerty was unable to make a second save to maintain the 3-3 tie and the Hoosiers celebrated their second straight Big Ten Tournament victory.
The Wolverines held the No. 8 team to just four shots during the match. Despite the loss, this championship game marked their 10th shut-out of the season, a program record.
Now, Michigan awaits the announcement of the NCAA DI men’s soccer bracket on Monday. The top-16 teams will host the opening rounds of the tournament.
“We’ll play another home game at Michigan in the near future, hopefully it’s Sunday so our guys can get a little bit of rest and we’ll go from there. But I think we’re definitely deserving of a top-16 seed,” Daley said. “It’s the first time in our program’s history we’ve gone for three NCAA Tournaments in a row, so it’s an exciting time for the growth of our program.”