In an up-and-down season for the University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team, they played true to form Thursday. The Badgers dominated much of the game on the offensive end, but were unable to get the key goal and were upset by the Michigan Wolverines 1-0 Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament at the McClimon Track and Soccer complex. The loss ended UW’s season at 10-8-1.
More than anything, the weather was the key factor in the game for both teams.
It was a cold and windy day, and the wind itself predicated the strategy for each team. Wisconsin started the first half with the wind at their backs, which was a huge advantage.
“Our goal was to go in at halftime tied at 0-0,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “We did not expect too much.”
The Wolverines surprisingly jumped ahead though in the 16th minute as freshman midfielder Knox Cameron drove through a pack of defenders and scored on a 20-yard shot past Wisconsin goalkeeper Phil Ayoub to make it 1-0.
Little did anyone realize that goal would be the final score of the game.
Wisconsin fought back and had numerous opportunities to score. Just four minutes after Michigan’s score, the Badgers had three golden chances to score within a minute, but were foiled by the play of Michigan goalkeeper Bryan Lau, a freshman walk-on starting just his third game of the season.
UW’s best chance to score was with about four minutes left in the first half, when Wisconsin’s two-headed monster of senior forwards Dominic DaPra and Aaron Lauber led a breakaway. DaPra gave Lauber a nice pass, but Lauber was stuffed and the ball was booted away.
“I thought I had more time on the shot,” Lauber said. “In hindsight, I should have hit it right away.”
At halftime, the Badgers had dominated the offensive side of the ball, outshooting Michigan 10-5. They also had six corner kicks to Michigan’s two. Despite the dominance, Wisconsin knew they were in for an uphill battle in the second half.
After a relatively quiet early part of the second half, the Badgers’ offense picked up the pace, even against the wind.
Part of the reason was Michigan’s defense playing almost a ‘prevent’ style, wasting time and being cautious. As the final minutes ticked down, the Badgers mustered up a few opportunities, but to no avail.
With 25 seconds left, Badger sophomore midfielder Erol Goknur had the last big chance for Wisconsin, but his shot went right into the arms of Lau, ending the game and the season for Wisconsin.
“It was a perfect spot for me, but the goalkeeper had great hands all day,” Goknur said. “I guess it just wasn’t our day today.”
The Badgers outshot the Wolverines’ 16-11 and led in corner kicks 9-5, but just couldn’t get the big goal to tie the game.
“We had a lot of chances, but we didn’t put them away,” Wisconsin coach Kalekeni Banda said, who is now 0-5 in Big Ten tournament games. “Normally they go in, but for some reason they didn’t today.”
UW played the game without their best defensive player in senior Scott Repa, who had to sit because he accumulated too many yellow cards, as well as starting goalkeeper Moriba Baker, who had a hamstring injury. However, coach Banda was quick to praise Michigan and not make excuses.
“Michigan just got it done today,” Banda said. “Even with [Repa and Baker out], we still had to play. No excuses.”
Michigan (10-6-1 overall) moves on to the semifinals today at 2:30 p.m. to face the No. 1 seed Indiana Hoosiers, who had an opening round bye. As for Wisconsin, the familiar tune of “wait ’til next year” rings true once again.