With hands on their heads and faces frozen in utter disbelief, the Michigan men’s soccer team’s body language told the whole story.
Its 2-0 lead had slipped away, as No. 1 Maryland scored three unanswered goals and handed the Wolverines a 3-2 loss in double overtime. Michigan was on the brink of one of college soccer’s biggest upsets of 2016, but had its opportunity firmly taken away.
The Wolverines’ state of shock is all too familiar. It was reminiscent of their recent 1-0 defeat to Ohio State in another double-overtime thriller, and several other contests in which they squandered leads.
“I don’t know if anyone in the country has played more heartbreaking games than we have,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley.
Though the game meant virtually nothing for the Big Ten standings, Michigan (1-6-1 Big Ten, 3-10-4 overall) can take away many positives after its intense battle against the Terrapins (7-0-1, 15-0-2).
Its offensive attack — spearheaded by sophomore forward Francis Atuahene, sophomore midfielder Robbie Mertz and freshman forward Jack Hallahan — has finally found sparks. The Wolverines’ major scoring drought has subsided with seven of their 18 goals scored over the past two contests. Hallahan and Mertz both tallied one goal each against Maryland and Atuahene added two assists to complement his team-leading six goals.
Evan Louro put forth a valiant effort as well. The junior goaltender logged 11 saves — just one short of the program record — while facing 14 shots on goal. Louro believes the Wolverines showed a large TV audience on the Big Ten Network their tournament potential.
Sunday’s matchup showcased Michigan’s many pieces slowly coming together, its ability to play competitively against the Maryland powerhouse and a possible spoiler role with something to prove in next week’s Big Ten Tournament that starts Saturday in a play-in game against Rutgers.
“I think a lot people saw what we can do against the number one team in the country,” Louro said. “And the Big Ten Tournament is a whole new season. Records don’t matter at that point, so I think we gained a little respect from everybody. Maybe things didn’t go our way, whether it was in our control or whether it was out of our control, but I think we got a lot of confidence from this and we can move on.”
Added redshirt junior midfielder Tyler Anderson: “(The game) shows that even given our record that we can play with the best. Hopefully right off the bat, we can get a win against Rutgers and go back against Maryland and show them that we can beat them. I think that’s going to be best for the team moving forward.”
Even with players lying on the turf, heads tucked into their jerseys, Daley says the Wolverines should possess a different mindset coming away from the heartbreaker.
“To have that type of spirit, fight and character in the last game of the season, when it’s not gone your way, against the best team in the country, is absolutely fantastic and absolutely superb,” Daley said. “I could not ask anything more from that locker room. They should not hang their heads.”