The second day of the MASC regional tournament took place on a sunny Sunday and Michigan’s first challenge was against long-time regional rival, the University of Illinois, in a quarter-final match between two of the top ranked teams in the Midwest.
From the kick-off both teams demonstrated why each club deserved to be regarded so highly; and Michigan appeared to be shining particularly bright in the first half. After 38 minutes of great, competitive soccer, the Wolverines pulled ahead when senior, David Farber, hit a driven ball across the Illini goal face and Lawrence Mullen punched the ball into the back of the goal for his 8th of the season. The remainder of the match saw great action at both ends of the pitch. In the end, it was Michigan that lived up to their reputation and emerged as the victors of this well-fought battle.
With a victory in the quarter-finals, Michigan faced another great challenge just two hours later when they were to play the University of Cincinnati Bearcats in the semi-finals and for the title of 2015 MASC Regional Tournament co-champions.
As expected, both teams showed great heart and effort in the early stages of the game. Michigan; however, looked just a step behind the Bearcats. Only moments before the first half came to a close, Cincinnati capitalized on a Michigan defensive breakdown to take a 1-0. Despite this, the Wolverines rallied during the half time and looked to their incredibly deep and talented bench to provide the needed extra effort to close the deficit. Finally, in the 66th minute, a Michigan striker was taken down in the Bearcat’s box and Michigan was awarded a penalty kick. The Wolverines looked to veteran midfielder, Jeff Woolstrum, to even the sides, which he did with a beautifully placed shot into the bottom left corner. The officials; however, called for a re-kick, purportedly witnessing a Michigan player enter the box before Jeff had taken the kick. Again, despite all of the pressure and the previous questionable call, Jeff stepped up to the ball and, this time, blasted the ball into the very top right corner of the goal to level the sides at 1-1. The remainder of regulation time saw both teams create quality chances on frame, but full-time came to a close with the sides tied at 1-1 and headed for a golden-goal overtime.
The Wolverines were fired up. Suddenly legs felt lighter, soreness was ignored, and every member of the team rallied around one goal: win. With that mentality and their commitment to preserving their unbeaten record, the Wolverines barely allowed Cincinnati to settle into the first overtime period. It was only in the 2nd minute of overtime that senior striker, Reid Davison, picked up a loose ball, broke through the Bearcat defense, fired a shot into the Cincinnati goal, and sent the Michigan bench on a 60 yard sprint across the field to celebrate their new title as 2015 MASC Co-champions.
This represents only the second time that Michigan has won the regional tournament in the tenure of head coach, David Hebestreit, and the first time for head coach, Steven Bodei. The tournament win also solidifies Michigan’s spot as the number one seed at the NIRSA National Club Soccer Tournament, which will be played November 19-21 in Phoenix, AZ.