That was the sound of two streaks ending last night under the bright lights of the U-M Varsity Field.
The Michigan men’s soccer team (7-5-1) finally ended its four-game skid by defeating the No. 25 Wisconsin-Milwaukee (8-3-4) last night in double-overtime with a score of 2-1. Consequently, the contest marked the end of the Panthers’ impressive five-game winning streak.
“Sometimes opportunity presents itself in the form of temporary defeats,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “And that was certainly the position we were in coming into this game.”
Michigan took the field like a team fresh from training camp. The Wolverines altered their lineup and implemented a two-forward formation instead of their normal three-man front.
“I thought Trai (Blanks) and Steve (Bonnell) did a good job in the two-point forward position,” Burns said. “They had a lot of support from our midfield players.”
For the first time in the past few weeks, the Wolverines were able to mount offensive attacks and create more open chances at the goal. However, it wasn’t enough to stop the Panther from creeping up on them.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee went up on the Wolverines, 1-0, in the 53rd minute when sophomore Martin Castro caught a cross from the left side of the field and centered it to freshman Adam Skalecki, who high-kicked the ball above senior goalkeeper Peter Dzubay’s head.
The Wolverines were able to tie the game in the 82nd minute when freshman defender Chase Tennant booted the ball above the head of the Panthers’ freshman goalkeeper Grant Fernstrum and into the net.
“As soon as you saw it leave his foot, you knew it was going in,” Burns said. “He scores those kinds of goals in practice all the time, so it was great to see him finally do that in a game.”
The Panthers came close to ending the game after a corner kick in the 106th minute during sudden-death second overtime. Junior Panther Steve Sperl received a corner kick at the left side of the goal and attempted to head the ball into the Wolverines’ net. The ball went just over the crossbar.
“When (the Panthers) had the corner kick, I felt my heart jump,” Burns said. “I thought, ‘no way they can’t do it,’ this is our game.”
The attempt on their goal sent the Wolverines into an emergency-attack mode and, in the 109th minute, Blanks tore down the right side of the field with the ball. Senior Adam Bruh quickly turned and sent the ball flying back to Blanks who was then at the right flank of the goal. Blanks converted the shot with a header.
“I was wide open and the ball just hit off my face and went in,” Blanks said. “It was an awesome feeling. It always is when you score for Michigan.”
After Blanks’ shot was securely lodged in Milwaukee’s net, the entire Wolverines bench rushed the field and embraced Blanks and the rest of the players.
“It felt great,” senior captain Ryan Sterba said. “We’ve been feeling so empty after the past few games so this was really sweet for us to get the win.”