After his team”s 4-2 loss to Michigan State on Oct. 14, Michigan men”s soccer coach Steve Burns said that while he hated to hope for losses, he wouldn”t mind if his team slipped back into sixth place in the Big Ten standings so it could get another crack at the Spartans in the Big Ten Tournament.
Consider the mission changed.
With a 2-1 win over Wisconsin yesterday at Varsity Field, the Wolverines guaranteed that they would finish no lower than fifth in the Big Ten. A win in the conference finale at Ohio State on Nov. 2 would put Michigan in position to tie Michigan State for third in the Big Ten, should the Spartans fall at Wisconsin next weekend.
“I would have loved to play Michigan State again, but any Big Ten win that our young program can get is great,” Burns said. “To beat a team that won the national championship six years ago on our home field is great for us now we”ve got two conference wins with one game left and we”ll just continue to plug away.”
Senior midfielder J.J. Kern agreed that the win was a big one for the Wolverines.
“You don”t want to be that fifth or sixth place team going into the Big Ten Tournament,” Kern said. “We realized that this was a pivotal game for us it gives us some momentum, a little more confidence and hopefully we can carry that into the end of the year.”
The Wolverines jumped on the board early, as Mike White scored with 28:50 remaining in the first half. Kern began the scoring play by floating a corner kick to Mychal Turpin in the box. Turpin”s header was saved by Wisconsin goalkeeper Moriba Atiba Baker, but White punched a header of his own into the net.
Michigan tallied an important insurance goal with 9:36 left in the first half. Midfielder Knox Cameron led a break by sending a pass down the right side of the field to Turpin. Cameron then found himself all alone when Turpin fired a return pass to him in front of the net. Cameron beat Baker to give Michigan a 2-0 lead.
Freshman goalkeeper Bryan Lau made the second goal stand up in his first career start. Lau recorded three saves in the game while filling in for Joe Zawacki, who was ineligible due to a red card he received in the Michigan State game.
The game was also the final home game of the year for Michigan, and marked senior day as the Wolverines honored their three graduating players Kern, Dave George and Brian Peters.
“Building up to this all week long it didn”t really register it was just another home game,” Kern said. “But when we got on the field, I realized this was it the last time I was going to be on this field. It was a little bigger deal than I thought it was going to be.”
The Badgers did manage to get on the board with 5:05 left in the game as David Martinez put a rebound behind Lau to pull Wisconsin within 2-1.
But the goal was one of the few chances that Wisconsin got in the game as Michigan”s defense stuffed the Badgers and their star forward Dominic Dapra all game thanks mainly to the stifling play of James Baez-Silva, who matched up with Dapra one-on-one most of the game.
“We felt that if we could stop Dapra and force the rest of the Wisconsin team to beat us then that was the way to handle them,” Burns said. “That”s what James is best at man-marking. I think he proved he is a major contributor with this team and he did a great job with Dapra.”