Michigan’s Jack Hallahan charged down the Ludwig Field pitch, making a beeline for goal. Maryland’s Matt Di Rosa desperately scampered after him. Niklas Neumann took off too, caught behind the ball with his goal wide open. Hallahan looked up and simply passed the ball into the gaping net. He turned over to jubilant teammates, mobbed after nabbing Michigan’s fourth goal of the day.
It wasn’t the only footrace on Sunday afternoon. After going up early, Maryland was thrust onto the back foot, fighting to keep up. But it couldn’t. Needing a win to guarantee home field advantage for the Big Ten tournament, the Terps were left chasing an elusive opponent, falling 4-2 on senior day
“That’s a tough one to take,” Sasho Cirovski said. “A tough pill to swallow.”
After five minutes and a 1-0 lead, it looked as if Sunday might be a day of jubilation. Yet for the second consecutive game, Maryland scarified an early lead and struggled for the remainder of the contest. Michigan dominated the first 15 minutes of the second half, time enough to gain a lead Maryland couldn’t negate.
Despite the senior day festivities, it was the juniors who created first. Ben Di Rosa played provider to Eric Matzelevich, as the two combined for the first goal, just six minutes into the game. And it was the kind of finish that Cirovski preaches. Di Rosa stripped his opposing full back inside Michigan’s box, drove to the byline, and cut the ball across the box for a wide open Matzelevich, who was soon wheeling away in delight.
“I saw the defense was kind of off balance so I was able to take it end line,” Ben Di Rosa said. “[Matzelevich] was in a good spot.”
But the lead wouldn’t last for long. Michigan grabbed an equalizer in controversial fashion through Mohammed Zakyi. The forward finished an easy tap in despite a clash between Maryland goalie Niklas Neumann and Michigan defender Jack Ragen in the mouth of the goal. With no foul called, the goal was deemed legal — much to Maryland’s frustration.
After conceding, Maryland pushed up. Eli Crognale constantly distributed from an advanced No. 10 position, facilitating the attack. And the results came, with the Terps adding a second. Di Rosa was the primary provider again, scampering down the right wing and floating a ball perfectly onto the head of Crognale. The senior couldn’t miss for a 2-1 lead after 18 minutes,
“That’s exactly how we wanted to play,” Cirovski said. “We moved the ball well, we got in good positions.”
Maryland became a more conservative team after going up. In response, Michigan piled pressured on the Terps’ backline, looking to use the dangerous Hallahan on the right wing. A MAC Hermann trophy semifinalist last year, Hallahan proved to be a handful. He had two good chances, but couldn’t convert on either.
“Every time they would just take it at you and get a cross off,” Ben Di Rosa said. “It’s tough, puts a lot of pressure on us.”
Thus, the game settled into a familiar pattern. The Terps spent most of it playing out of their own half, with Michigan pushing up. But they were compact in the defensive third, and cut off most outlets to Michigan’s high-octane front line. Maryland had chance or two of its own towards the end of the half, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Indeed, the home side would have to settle for a precarious 2-1 lead at the half.
And precarious it would prove to be. Michigan came into the second half the more assertive of the two sides, creating overloads on either wing. The right wing yielded the immediate result, as Hallahan floated a hanging ball into the box. Derick Broche met his teasing ball with aplomb, finding the bottom corner on a glanced header. Just a minute into the second half, the teams were tied at two.
“We knew Michigan was going to come out,” Cirovski said. “But we didn’t expect to give up a goal in the first two minutes of the half.”
The left wing was next. As was the same combination, albeit in a different order. Broche floated an equally appetizing ball for Hallahan just eight minutes later. And he connected on the header with similar accuracy, finding the top corner for a 3-2 Michigan lead.
Maryland retreated further into its own box. Center backs Johannes Bergmann and Brett St. Martin faced a constant bombardment of crosses from either side. On numerous occasions, Michigan looked certain to add a fourth. But a combination of poor finishing and solid goalkeeping kept the Wolverines off the board.
“In the second half we were just defending,” Bergmann said. “We couldn’t keep the ball… It was tough.”
Trailing with 15 minutes remaining, Cirovski switched formations to a more attacking 3-5-2. Maryland dominated the ball as a result, with the duo of Eric Matzelevich and Luke Brown looking dangerous around the Michigan box.
At the death, Matzelevich had one last chance for the Terps, a flying strike that Owen Finnerty diverted around the post. Off the resulting corner, Hallahan’s charge down the pitch sealed it for the Wolverines.
Ultimately, the Terps were a step too slow for the Wolverines, falling 4-2 and forfeiting home field advantage for the Big Ten Tournament.
“We just have to remind ourselves what it takes to keep the sheet clean,” Bergmann said. “We need a good week of practice now and then we move on.”