That’s the only word to embody the final two games for the Michigan men’s soccer team.
A season filled with promise and accomplishment ended in dismay. That feeling began with the team’s lopsided loss in the Big Ten Tournament at the hands of Wisconsin. That feeling only worsened as the 13th-seeded Wolverines surrendered a two-goal lead to Colgate and felt a sudden stop to its season with a 3-2 loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament
Despite the gut-wrenching final result, The Wolverines (6-1-1 Big Ten, 12-6-2 Overall) started out strong.
Only one minute into the match, Michigan found itself ahead of the Raiders (4-4-1 Patriot League, 12-10-1 Overall) after a beautiful through ball from junior midfielder Robbie Mertz found junior forward Francis Atuahene. Atuahene took a shot from the left side of the box, which was saved by the goalkeeper. But the rebound fell right into the path of sophomore forward Jack Hallahan, who made no mistake in finishing the easy tap in to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.
Eight minutes later Hallahan earned his brace. A pass played in by Atuahene deflected into the path of Hallahan, who calmly took a touch and curled it past the goalkeeper to double Michigan’s lead.
But Colgate responded well after its slow start. Fifteen minutes into the half the Raiders earned a corner kick. The ensuing header was tipped off the bar by freshman goalie Henry Mashburn, but the ball was then tapped in on the rebound by midfielder Ryan Bellavance, cutting Michigan’s lead to one.
The game wore on with each team getting its fair share of chances, but toward the latter stages of the first half, Colgate began to take control. Despite being outshot, 9-6, Colgate pressed the Wolverines and suffocated them in midfield. The pressure paid off for the Raiders as a throw-in led to a dangerous ball across the box. Forward Uyiosa Omorogbe finished back across Mashburn, giving him no chance and tying the game at two with five minutes left in the half.
“I think they scored some very opportunistic goals,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “And that’s what you’re supposed to do away from home. I think they did what they set out to do and all credit to them.”
The start to the second half was more balanced, and the Wolverines found themselves back in the game and back on the attack. But the Raiders’ pressure stifled Michigan and the game remained on a knife’s edge with 30 minutes left.
Colgate dominated the rest of the half. The Raiders controlled possession and the Wolverines did not have a good chance to score for the remainder of the game. Although Colgate only mustered two shots in the second half, the field was clearly titled in its favor.
Then with three minutes left in regulation, disappointment.
Michigan surrendered a corner and Colgate capitalized. Defender Aram Ouligian skied above everyone else in the box, sending a bullet header past the outstretched arms of Mashburn.
The Wolverines had surrendered their early two-goal lead and saw their NCAA Tournament berth turn into a nightmare.
“We made a few mistakes on set pieces, and as a result, we got burned,” Daley said. “I thought we carried the first part of the second half, and they kind of carried the second part of the half. Again, another dead-ball situation did us in at the end.”
Despite the loss, Daley took away positives from the team’s season.
“We’re very proud of team 18,” Daley said. “We have immense pride in that locker room. Maybe we let the emotions get the best of this time, but if we earn the right to be back in the NCAA Tournament, hopefully we can continue to move forward.”
And with all but two players returning, the future is promising for the program. But right now, the promise of the future does not diminish the pain of the present.