Junior forward Peri Marosevic’s goal with five seconds left against Penn State was reflective of the season.
The 12th-ranked Wolverines had the game sealed when Marosevic got the ball and could have just run out the clock. But when Marosevic finally had the ball at his feet, he only had one thought on his mind: score.
“As a forward you always want to score,” Marosevic said. “Whether there’s five seconds left, even a second left, you always want to put the game away.”
He wasn’t willing to settle for a 1-0 victory over Penn State, especially when he could make it 2-0.
The Michigan men’s soccer team has had a mentality all season of never settling. And that mentality that has produced the best soccer team Michigan (4-1-1 Big Ten, 12-4-2 Overall) has had in its eight year history.
“Statistically, we’re the best Michigan team that has played because we are the team and it’s all about the team,” senior forward Steve Bonnell said.
Coming into Saturday’s game against Penn State (2-4-0, 5-10-3), the Wolverines’ goal was to finish out the regular season with a win and head into the postseason with a surge of confidence.
And with their 2-0 win over the Nittany Lions, Michigan did just that.
The Wolverines’ first goal came 28 minutes in, when redshirt sophomore Matt Schmitt launched a quick shot from the left side of the field. Penn State’s goalie dove, deflecting it back into play, but Marosevic fired the rebound into the back of the net.
The game became more aggressive on both ends as the Nittany Lions tried to fight their way back into the game. Less than a minute after Marosevic’s first goal, Michigan senior Nader Jarun drew a yellow card.
The second half looked much like the first. Penn State had its best chance to score with two minutes remaining in the game, when a Penn State player took a hard shot from 10 yards out. A Wolverine defender blocked the shot, which was redirected at the goal once again, forcing redshirt junior goalie Patrick Sperry to make a diving save.
With less than a minute left in the game, senior captain Alex Morisset found himself at midfield with the ball.
Marosevic raced down the field with the ball as the announcer counted down the last 10 seconds. Penn State goalie Warren Gross, Marosevic’s former teammate on the Under-20 U.S. National team, came out of the net. Marosevic made a quick move to the right and tapped the ball into the goal.
Penn State had many opportunities to score, with both teams putting six shots on goal, but Sperry’s superb play blanked the Nittany Lion offense, giving him his sixth conference shutout of the season and his 18th career shutout, one shy of the school record.
With the completion of the regular season, Michigan found itself leading the conference in fewest goals allowed (.5 goals per game). Michigan coach Steve Burns attributes this success not only to Sperry, but also to the team’s defense, led by junior Julian Robles and senior captain Mike Holody.
The Wolverines extended their winning streak to three games as they head into the Big Ten Tournament, starting this Thursday in Madison, against host Wisconsin.
“We’re going to the conference tournament with the intent of winning our first championship,” Burns said.
And with the mentality the Wolverines have, they know they can play with anyone as long as they bring their best.
“Certainly we knew we had the potential to do it,” Burns said. “It was a matter of whether the players could really pull together and unlock that potential. I think that the best is still yet to come for this team.”