The Michigan men’s soccer team came into Wednesday night’s matchup looking to avenge last year’s season-ending loss to Ohio State.
But the 15th-ranked Buckeyes scored off two Wolverine miscues in the first half, and Michigan was unable to respond, falling 3-1. The regular-season finale leaves the Wolverines (3-3-2 Big Ten, 8-5-4 overall) without home-field advantage in the conference tournament.
“It’s a difficult one,” said senior forward James Murphy. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t catch a few breaks tonight.”
Michigan had a chance to earn a share of the regular-season conference title, but it was Ohio State (5-2-1, 11-5-2) that was celebrating its championship-clinching win at the end of the game.
Both teams had chances to score early on, with possession fairly even between the two rivals. However, the Buckeyes started to control the ball on the Wolverines’ side of the field, and their efforts soon paid off.
Ohio State was able to capitalize off a key Michigan mistake to score its first goal. Junior defender Andre Morris misplayed a ball, and Buckeye midfielder Kyle Culbertson pounced on it and launched it past sophomore goalkeeper Evan Louro.
Less than 10 minutes later, another crucial mistake allowed Ohio State to extend its lead.
Louro blocked a corner from Ohio State’s Liam Doyle, but the deflection bounced off the backside of Buckeye midfielder Zach Mason into the goal.
“There weren’t any defensive breakdowns,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “There were just mistakes. They were very fortunate. We made mistakes, and they didn’t.”
Following Mason’s goal, Michigan headed into the second half down two goals despite its good start. The deficit proved to be insurmountable.
However, the Wolverines began to up their play in a game that became increasingly chippy — the second half alone included five yellow cards.
“I think there was a little bit of frustration,” Murphy said. “We were desperate to win the game.”
In the 54th minute, Ohio State scored to extend its lead when Culbertson received a pass from forward Yaw Amankwa and slipped the ball past Louro once again for his second goal of the night.
Michigan’s star freshman midfielder and leading goal-scorer Francis Atuahene was unable to get open for much of the night, which left it up to the rest of the team to carry the offensive burden.
The Wolverines finally got on the scoreboard in the 84th minute when Murphy scored his second goal in two games off an assist from freshman defender Peter Brown.
But it was too little, too late. Michigan simply watched as the Buckeyes donned white conference champion T-shirts in celebration after the game ended.
With the loss, and other conference-wide results from other games Wednesday factored in, the Wolverines will enter this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament as the No. 6 seed in a road game at Maryland.
“We said afterwards that we’ve got some more soccer to play, and we’re going to go into this Big Ten Tournament and continue to battle,” Murphy said.
Added Daley: “We won’t change anything from the motivational standpoint. Certainly, there could be finality to our season, but there could be finality to the team we play, as well.”