After back-to-back losses to No. 8 Indiana and St. Louis, the Michigan men’s soccer team (6-5-1) needed to find a way to get back in the saddle. But they weren’t able to tame the horse last night in Kalamazoo and fell 2-1 in double overtime to the Western Michigan Broncos (6-5-1).

“We were all over their team,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “It was an exciting game, but I just wish it could have swung our way. To cover them so well and not have any chances at the goal is tough.”

Michigan bolstered its backfield in preparation for the oncoming Broncos during the first overtime and into the better half of the second overtime. But, in the 107th minute of the game, Oatley made a counterattack on Michigan’s defense. Slipping through the Wolverines’ defenders, Oatley was able to make a cut to the net and slide the ball under senior goalkeeper Peter Dzubay. The goal was Oatley’s third overtime shot-winner this season.

After Western Michigan’s Chadd Caraballi scored in the 40th minute of the game, the game fell on the shoulders of Michigan’s midfield and backfield players. With attacks coming from the Broncos’ senior wide-midfielder Javier Arana and sophomore forward Tom Oatley, the Wolverines had their hands full and gave up 10 shots on goal.

Junior defender Kevin Savitskie responded to the Broncos’ first-half goal in the 77th minute of the game when he caught a crossed ball from senior captain Ryan Sterba and sent the ball into the Broncos’ net. Savitskie’s goal managed to keep the Wolverines in the game and send it into overtime. “Oatley kept the pace of the game throughout the entire game,” Burns said. “He pressured our defense and made them work.”

Burns said senior captain Kevin Hall was one of the crucial defenders in the game.

“When Kevin entered the game in the 55th minute, I thought things started to go our way,” Burns said. “He really stepped up and made a difference.”

Burns was also pleased with the leadership of Sterba.

“Sterba played with his heart on his sleeve,” Burns said. “He did his best to will the team to victory.”

While Burns was relatively pleased with the work of his backfield, he was disappointed with his three primary attacking players. He specifically pointed to the fact that they need to find their form and get more aggressive on goal. Otherwise, Burns said that his team will have to come up with a different way to win games.

“We need to find the difference makers on our team,” Burns said. “They need to step up because we need them now more than ever. The pressure is falling on their shoulders. Until we can find our form and those attacking players can win games, we need to play with the things we can certainly win games with – like grit and heart and tenacity.”

Burns felt his underclassmen were lacking those traits last night.

“I think the older players were the most disappointed in the loss, especially one like this.” Burns said.

With Michigan State on the horizon this Sunday, Burns has a lot of work to get his team prepared for its Big Ten rival. The Spartans were the 2004 conference champions and have beat the Wolverines four of the six times the two teams have played. Michigan will take on the Spartans in East Lansing at 1 p.m.

 

 

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