Wisconsin 0
Michigan 1

Sept. 17 is a day that Chase Tennant of the Michigan men’s soccer team would probably like to forget.

Michigan dropped its Big Ten season opener against Wisconsin in overtime as a result of an own goal caused by Tennant.

But against the Badgers in yesterday’s first-round Big Ten Tournament game in Columbus, the sophomore earned his chance to erase that bitter memory.

And with the Wolverines fighting for an NCAA bid they can only receive if they win the tournament, the timing couldn’t have been better.

After a scoreless first half, Michigan led the attack in the second frame. Crossing the half line, sophomore Steve Bonnell struck a 60-yard ball diagonally through traffic to freshman Mauro Fuzetti. Faced with a one-on-one matchup, Fuzetti took his Wisconsin defender on the dribble and hit a cross to Tennant standing on the back side of the goal.

In the 67th minute, Tennant nailed a header into the left side of Wisconsin’s net, giving the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.

“Chase went up like a salmon spawning upstream (and scored the goal),” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “To get the game-winner, I’m sure it was a lot of redemption for him.”

The one-goal advantage proved enough for the No. 6 seed Michigan to upset No. 3 seed Wisconsin. Coming off a recent nine-game winless streak and four-game scoreless skid, Tennant’s goal – his first of the season – shouted a loud-and-clear message to the rest of the Big Ten teams in Columbus: The Wolverines are back and foaming at the mouth for a miracle post-season run.

“After our game against Wisconsin (on Sept. 17), we really felt like we were the better team but just ran out of time in that game,” Burns said. “We were just hoping that we would (face) Wisconsin in the tournament. We had 90 minutes to show up and prove that we are the better team, and we did. . Right now, we have that belief and the momentum.”

Michigan (1-2-3 Big Ten, 7-9-4 overall) came out aggressively against Wisconsin. The Wolverines created several scoring opportunities in the first half, but failed to convert.

Less than two minutes into game, Wisconsin goalkeeper Jake Settle made a diving save to prevent Michigan sophomore Alex Morisset from hitting net from six yards out. In the 15th minute of play, senior tri-captain Kevin Hall struck a ball 17 yards out toward the upper right corner of the Badgers’ net. But Settle just got a hand on the ball, causing it to hit the upper crossbar – preventing Michigan from getting on the scoreboard.

By the game’s end, Michigan outshot Wisconsin 22 to nine.

On the defensive end, the Wolverines silenced the Badgers’ attack with goalkeeper Patrick Sperry – who was named Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday – notching two saves. Six minutes into the second half, Sperry made a diving save on a Wisconsin shot from 19 yards out.

Burns said most of the credit for containing Wisconsin (3-2-1, 9-8-2) goes to Michigan’s back four – sophomore Michael Holody, senior Michael O’Reilly, senior Kevin Savitske and Tennant.

“We felt that our central midfield was better than Wisconsin’s, so we forced them to play a direct and predictable game,” Burns said. “Our defenders won a lot of balls coming at them in the air. More importantly, we picked up those second balls . It was a good defensive effort from the team.”

Michigan’s upset earned it the right to play host Ohio State – the No. 2 seed – in the semifinals tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. When the Wolverines last faced the Buckeyes on Oct. 22, the game ended in a 0-0 draw after double overtime.

Michigan is certainly the underdog, but Burns sticks by his mantra of “belief.”

“More than anything, we’re talking to the team about our focus, taking it one game at a time,” Burns said. “We do have a bit of momentum. We had the jump in our warmup and that look in our eyes (yesterday). I want to believe that we are in form and peaking right now. It took long enough to get there, and hopefully it pays off.”

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