One year ago yesterday, the Michigan men’s soccer team suffered a 2-1 overtime loss in Bloomington. The Wolverines were hoping to rewrite the game script this season when they faced the Hoosiers on their own turf.
But new screenwriters must have been unavailable, as Michigan lost 2-1 in overtime for the second year in a row.
“When you have such an emotional game, I think everybody’s really shattered,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “In four years, we’ve played three overtime games with this team. We’ve got to figure out how to beat them in overtime.”
From the minute the Hoosiers took the field, the Wolverines knew this team was going to be tough. Indiana plays with a man-marking system, and veteran Indiana coach Jerry Yeagley made sure to target Michigan’s top scorers: senior Mike White and juniors Mychal Turpin and Knox Cameron.
But what Yeagley wasn’t counting on were the skills of junior Matt Niemeyer and freshman Kevin Savitskie.
After receiving a pass from Savitskie, Niemeyer put the Wolverines on the scoreboard in the 19th minute of play. The goal was the midfielder’s first career score at Michigan. Niemeyer redshirted last season with a torn ACL and netted this goal with his recovered right leg.
“Matt Niemeyer played an absolutely incredible game – his best yet in a Michigan uniform,” Burns said.
Niemeyer’s goal only spurred on the Hoosiers’ energy, and they became more dangerous in the attack at end of the first half. But at the half, the Wolverines still had the edge on the scoreboard.
Four minutes into the second half, Michigan’s luck began to turn. After a controversial call from a referee, Indiana got an easy penalty kick to tie up the game.
“I thought that was a bad call,” sophomore goalkeeper Peter Dzubay said. “They said the guy got fouled in the box, but I don’t think you call a PK there because he’s not going to goal – he didn’t have the ball.”
Michigan’s defense ran itself rugged for the remainder of the half, shutting down the Hoosiers.
The Wolverines even came close to breaking the tie with nine minutes remaining. Cameron managed to break away from his defender long enough to take a shot on goal. But the ball hit the crossbar.
“That would have been a great finish,” Burns said. “Five minutes left in the game, the big man gets it on the right foot, gets a defender off balance in space, and that’s his shot right there. Unfortunately, the crossbar was in the way.”
That was Michigan’s last chance to score in the game. In overtime, Indiana’s Jacob Peterson scored, deciding the game just two minutes in.
Although Michigan has yet to beat Indiana, the team remains optimistic.
“I think we’ve started gelling as a team,” Niemeyer said. “It’s tough to swallow a game like this, but you’ve got to pick your head up and move to the next game.”
Friday, Michigan will play that next game, perhaps acting out a better script against Western Michigan.