Heading into overtime against No. 9 Northwestern on Saturday, the Michigan men’s soccer team wasn’t apprehensive.
It was raring to go.
“I reminded them that everything they’ve done, all the work they’ve put in, all the sacrifices they’ve made, is for moments like this,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “When you get in overtime, there’s a lot of luck involved. As long as you’re putting the work in, maybe it comes your way. The more you work, the more luck you have.”
Junior goalkeeper Patrick Sperry – who had his seventh shutout of the season on the line – was confident in the defense that had worked seamlessly with him all night.
“I felt pretty clicked into the match, and I wasn’t worried about giving up a goal,” Sperry said. “I was excited because I thought we were going to get the win. I thought we were going to find a goal.”
The Wolverines didn’t find that elusive game-winning goal, but neither did the Wildcats. In a game where Michigan was outshot and outcornered, it still fought its way to a satisfactory result.
Besides the lack of offense, the game marked a return to better times for the Wolverines (0-2-2 Big Ten, 9-4-2 overall) made especially meaningful because of the tough Big Ten opponent.
Sophomore forward Mauro Fuzetti returned to the pitch and played more than half the match. Fuzetti, along with fellow catalysts sophomore Peri Marosevic, junior Steve Bonnell and redshirt freshman Cam Cameron, created many of the Wolverines’ scoring chances.
And Michigan’s discipline paid dividends for the second game in a row – only Wildcats received cautions on Saturday.
The Wolverine defense overly compensated for its counterpart. The offense didn’t record its first shot on goal until well into the second half. Sperry made six saves and at one point smothered the ball in a crowd of players like a football player pouncing on a fumble. Michigan also enjoyed a fair bit of luck, as a number of Northwestern (2-2-1, 9-2-2) shots went just wide of the goal.
“This certainly was a game that Northwestern could have won, but we bottled them up and got into a position where we could win the game,” Burns said.
Despite a still-winless record in the Big Ten, Michigan took a step in the right direction for an improving Michigan squad. The Wolverines hung tough with a top-10 team and proved that they’re more like the team they were in the early part of the season than the one of recent that lost four games in a row.
“There’s this sting when you lose a game, and (the players feel the) sting because these guys all love each other,” Burns said. “These guys fought well for each other tonight.”
The Wolverines will have another chance to earn a Big Ten win next Saturday. After a midweek clash with No. 19 Akron, they head to the hostile Columbus atmosphere to take on archrival No. 23 Ohio State.