Games can change in a matter of minutes.
That’s what happened on Friday night in the Michigan men’s soccer team’s (3-6-3 overall, 1-3-1 Big Ten) bout with Wisconsin (4-5-1, 1-3-0), where it fell, 2-1.
Beginning the first half, the Badgers applied consistent pressure to the Wolverines. With eight shots to Michigan’s zero, Wisconsin quickly took the upper hand. But sophomore goalkeeper Hayden Evans kept the Wolverines in the game with five incredible saves, ending the game with eight saves — the most he’s had in a game this season.
“We kind of weathered the storm in the whole first half,” Michigan coach Chaka Daley said. “We weren’t on it, but Hayden made a couple of good saves to keep us zero-zero at halftime.”
When the half ended in a scoreless draw, it remained to be seen what changes each team would make. Coming back onto the field, it was clear the Wolverines had made the necessary adjustments. Right away they maintained possession, played quicker on the ball and took more shots on goal.
“We made some adjustments at halftime that gave us…that shot in the arm,” Daley said. “That shot in the arm changed the momentum of the game. We were on it and created chances and kind of were on the front foot.”
This led to a corner kick for Michigan, which it successfully capitalized on.
Senior forward Inaki Rodriguez, kicking the corner, placed the ball into the box where senior defender Brennan Callow took a header shot. Though Badgers midfielder Tim Bielic blocked it, freshman defender Nolan Miller was quick to rebound with a header, scoring the first goal of the game in the 66th minute.
Soon after, tides shifted.
The Badgers quickly regained momentum and in the 72nd minute scored their first goal. With a cross in from the left by a Wisconsin defender, Badgers forward Jack Finnegan one touched the ball into the top of the net.
“Once they got the equalizer, that’s when the games get hard,” Daley said. “We just lost our focus for a minute.”
After Wisconsin scored the equalizer, Michigan was unable to regain focus, giving the Badgers the upper hand once again.
Within minutes of their first goal Wisconsin scored another, taking the lead, 2-1. With a pass from the midfield, Wisconsin defender Max Keenan was able to take a shot from the right, evading the Wolverine’s defensive line.
“I think we just relaxed maybe a little bit thinking we were on top of it,” Daley said.
Michigan earned three more corner kick opportunities in the second half, but could not finish them. The Badgers continued to take more shots, doubling the Wolverines. These fewer and missed scoring opportunities were crucial, and they ultimately led to Wisconsin taking home its first Big Ten win.