The Wisconsin men’s soccer team plays its home games on the banks of Lake Mendota, where a biting wind sweeps off the water. So the wind that whipped through the University of Michigan Soccer Stadium Wednesday night was nothing new.

The Badgers had just watched a major upset when Penn State defeated No. 2 seed Ohio State earlier in the day. They knew that in the Big Ten Tournament, everyone was vulnerable.

Wisconsin also remembered the Wolverines’ remarkable run through the 2010 Big Ten and NCAA Tournament that ended in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in the semifinals to Akron. So it knew that Michigan coach Steve Burns coaches his teams to thrive in do-or-die situations.

The Badgers finally broke through in their 2-0 victory. The first goal was a rocket from near the top of the box that redshirt freshman goalkeeper Adam Grinwis couldn’t keep from finding nylon. It was clear Wisconsin knew what it was getting from the scrappy Wolverines, and when push came to shove — with about six minutes remaining in the match — the Badgers made sure there would be no fanfare, no magical run, no last-minute goals as they defeated Michigan, 2-0.

In fact, it seemed that Wisconsin was prepared for anything that came its way in Wednesday’s Big Ten Tournament first-round match — weather, an upset bid or a hot goalie.

For 84 minutes, Grinwis played like an All-American goalkeeper.

“He definitely is a kid that is hyper driven,” Burns said. “He’s a quick learner. You said it — for 84 minutes he managed the game really well.”

Then, he gave up the go-ahead tally, followed quickly by a whiff as he was preparing to boot a ball away. An eager Badger easily finished on the empty net to put the match out of reach.

Several times in the first half, Grinwis needed to fully extend to prevent Badger shots from scoring. Wisconsin came into the game with a more aggressive style than in the previous meeting and it showed. But Michigan held on for as long as it could, waiting for a counterattack strike that never came.

“They know what we’re all about,” Burns said. “The game played out the way both teams probably thought it was going to go. One team was going to pounce on the other team’s mistake.”

And though the southerly wind was stalwart for the full 90 minutes, that’s hardly to say the momentum followed suit. Both teams found real estate in the other’s box multiple times in the first half. But just like in Wisconsin’s 2-1 victory over the Wolverines on Oct. 9, possession favored the Badgers.

“I think they tried to play in our half a lot more than last time,” said teary-eyed fifth-year senior midfielder Adam Shaw after the loss. “We could’ve done a better job of pressing them, which would’ve kept them in their half.

“Our strategy was to try and compete physically with them — they were going to be the bigger team.”

But Wisconsin’s combination of size and speed proved lethal, even after added time seemed imminent.

And because the first Wolverine letdown took so long, when it finally happened, it was crippling. The wind picked up even stronger and Shaw and the rest of the seniors realized their Michigan careers were ending.

The Badgers’ preparation overwhelmed the Wolverines down the stretch. But Burns was quick to point out the team’s bright future, saying his young guys are “starting to come around.”

At the end of last season, Soony Saad left Michigan after his freshman year to pursue professional soccer. With dedicated youngsters like freshman forward Tyler Arnone, a disappointing season full of one-goal losses may soon be forgotten.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.