It was only a matter of time before the Michigan men’s soccer team broke through.
That moment came in the dying embers of the first half, as junior attacker Jack Hallahan made a marauding run into the penalty box. After gliding past a number of last-ditch tackles, an Oakland defender chopped Hallahan down in the box, and the Wolverines were awarded the penalty kick.
Sophomore midfielder Marc Ybarra stepped up to the spot and coolly slotted it past Golden Grizzlies’ goalkeeper Sullivan Lauderdale to open the scoring right before halftime.
The goal was a sign of things to come, as Michigan (8-1-1) would dispatch Oakland (5-4-2), 2-1.
Problematic field conditions translated into a sloppy opening 15 minutes from both sides. Once the Wolverines were able to gain a foothold, though, the Grizzlies couldn’t keep up.
“We still tried to play,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “As the stats suggest, we dominated possession and dominated the quality chances. Sometimes having a lot of scoring opportunities doesn’t always mean getting the goals, but fortunately for us tonight it did.”
If the stats favored the Wolverines at the end of the first half, they definitely did in the second. From the whistle, Michigan played almost exclusively in Oakland’s half. Shot on goal after shot on goal, corner kick after corner kick, the Wolverines gradually wore their opponent down.
In the 58th minute, one of their 13 second-half shots was parried by Lauderdale right to the feet of senior striker Noah Kleedtke. Kleedtke, who has been filling in for injured sophomore goalscorer Mohammed Zakyi, one-timed the rebound into the net for what would be the game-winning goal.
“Noah’s contribution this season has been tremendous,” Daley said. “He’s been committed and has stepped right in. I thought he deserved a goal from two, three, four games ago from all the hard work he’s been doing for the team.”
The Golden Grizzlies would pull a goal back late in the match, which made for a testy final five minutes. The Wolverines refused to allow all their hard work to go to waste, though, and took control of possession once again to close out the game with the ball at their feet.
This game marked Michigan’s final tune-up game before Big Ten juggernaut, No. 2 Indiana, comes to Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon. The Wolverines, having won seven of their last eight, seem unfazed by the impending challenge.
“Indiana is a perennial powerhouse,” Daley said. “So we’ll have great perspective going into the game, but our guys are ready. We tied them down at Indiana, 1-1, last year, and I believe our group will be ready on Sunday. I certainly believe our guys are going to put their best foot forward and we’re gonna go for it.”