It wasn’t what anyone expected, but the Michigan men’s soccer team pounded Northwestern, 3-0, in Evanston on Friday to propel the Wolverines to the Big Ten Tournament final against Michigan State. The win wasn’t so surprising, but the manner in which the Wolverines dominated from the get-go was.

Northwestern (3-1-2 Big Ten, 11-5-4 overall) is the defending Big Ten Tournament champions and split this year’s regular-season title with Penn State. But the perennial power of the Big Ten was left stunned after 90 minutes, as they watched the Wolverines celebrate their fifth-straight win.

“This is amazing,” said junior midfielder Fabio Pereira following the victory. “I think our team has changed so much from the beginning (of the season) until now. The mentality going into matches is completely different and it was awesome today. I am kind of speechless right now.”

The Wolverines (3-2-1, 10-8-1) jumped on the Wildcats early, as sophomore midfielder Tyler Arnone struck a remarkable volley in the left corner to beat Northwestern’s sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Miller.

“The early goal was extremely important because we would often play great in the beginning of games this year but we wouldn’t score,” Pereira said. “It was a big stepping stone into the (tournament) final.”

Michigan kept the scoring opportunities coming for much of the initial frame, outshooting the Wildcats 8-3 and adding a tally in the 40th minute when T.J. Roehn outmuscled a Northwestern defender inside the 18-yard box to give the Wolverines a two-goal edge heading into halftime.

It was a busy day for Miller, and even more frustrating once senior forward Etienne Lussiez notched Michigan’s third goal of the match in the 52nd minute.

On the other end of the pitch, Michigan’s redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Adam Grinwis had a quite relaxing afternoon. Grinwis was only tested with three shots on goal, and was well on his way to his fourth shutout in five games after the Wildcats’ last shot on goal met his gloves in the 62nd minute.

“The defense has been solid,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “We’ve covered for each other. The defense makes a mistake and Grinwis makes the save, and vice versa. The back five is always a group effort.”

Grinwis has consistently credited the four men playing in front of him for his personal success, and rightly so. The Wolverines’ defense has been impenetrable lately, allowing only one goal during the team’s five-game winning streak.

“If we allow less than a goal per game, we’re a successful team,” Daley said. “For us, it’s what we’ve focused on all year.”

Michigan has shown evident strides since starting 3-5-1 in the first half of the season. Simply hoping for improvement throughout his inaugural season as head coach, Daley has the Wolverines on the brink of a Big Ten Tournament title, and more importantly, an NCAA Tournament berth.

“Winning becomes contagious,” Daley said. “These guys love the euphoria of doing something incredible. The guys never lost their faith and we pushed them to push each other all season. We’re finally hitting our stride at the right time.”

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