Less than a minute into double overtime, junior Jake Stacy provided the Michigan men’s soccer team with something it had been sorely lacking – a big win against a top opponent.

Seconds earlier, Stacy passed the ball to sophomore forward Matt Schmitt. Schmitt made a nearly impossible turn at the goal line to keep control, then sent the ball back to Stacy.

Stacy caught both Akron goalie Evan Bush and his defender unprepared.

“I beat my defender and the goalie was out of position, so I just put it in the goal,” Stacy said. “It felt awesome.”

And just like that, Michigan recorded an impressive 1-0 victory over No. 17 Akron (10-3-2).

It was junior goalkeeper Patrick Sperry’s eighth shutout of the season, setting another new single-season shutout record. Sperry broke his old record of six with his shutout against Northwestern Saturday.

Stacy’s goal marked the first time Michigan had scored since last Wednesday’s 5-2 win against Bowling Green.

“This had all the makings of an NCAA Tournament game, and that’s how we billed it to our guys,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said.

Last night’s game was on track to becoming a repeat of the Northwestern game, which ended in a scoreless draw. Neither team could mount an extended attack, even with Sperry at his best. His finest moment came at the end of regulation.

With most of the crowd already heading to the concession stand and just seconds left on the clock, Akron drove on the goal. Zip forward Steve Zakuani dribbled the ball toward Sperry’s left, then suddenly passed to a teammate at the far post. Sperry dove all the way to the other side of the goal to keep the game scoreless and send it to overtime.

“It really helps to get the shutouts against two top-ranked opponents,” Sperry said. “It looks good for us, and we’re going to carry that into a big win, hopefully, against a good Ohio State team on Saturday.”

Though at times Michigan’s play was rough, the team made up for any deficiencies with effort, gutting out more than 100 minutes of scoreless play.

Burns chose junior midfielder Danny Gray as his man of the match, reflecting the Wolverines’ fighting spirit.

“He did a great job, a tremendous job,” Burns said. “He was tough, he gave us the steal in the middle of the midfield that we needed, his distribution was great and he really just was a force to be reckoned with in that spot on the field.”

As soon as Stacy’s shot found the back of the net, all the tension among the Michigan players and fans evaporated. The Wolverines (10-4-2) poured gleefully onto the field to celebrate the victory over a ranked opponent.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Michigan needs all the confidence and momentum it can get going into Saturday’s game. The Wolverines travel to Columbus to take on their archrival, No. 25 Ohio State.

“Ohio State is a team that has a lot of confidence and a lot of weapons, both offensively and . defensively,” Burns said. “We’re really taking this same atmosphere that we had tonight (to) Columbus, Ohio, and it’s going to be a great one.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *