This past weekend Michigan began their 5-game final stretch of the MASC Central regular season with two matches against very tough opponents.
First up was a trip to Kalamazoo, MI for an evening meeting against the Western Michigan Broncos. Having scored in the first 14 minutes of every previous game, Michigan sought to open an early lead against the Broncos and did just that when senior midfielder and team captain, PJ DiNardo, finished an opportunity in the WMU box to put the Wolverines up 1-0 in just the 11th minute. The game that then ensued can only be described as a shoot-out. Just three minutes after Michigan had taken the lead, the Broncos equalized with a set-piece. Four minutes after that, Jack Eisentrout redirected a perfectly executed free kick to put the Wolverines back ahead. The Wolverines and Broncos went blow-for-blow for the rest of the game, with one more goal being scored for Michigan by senior forward, David Farber, and Western Michigan equalizing shortly after every time Michigan took the lead. The game ended in a very tough-fought 3-3 tie.
36 hours after a tough battle in Kalamazoo, the Wolverines hit the road for a long drive to West Lafayette, IN to face the only other unbeaten team in the MASC Central, Purdue University. On a pitch that favored the direct style of the Boilermakers, Michigan had another difficult match-up ahead of them. With an undefeated season on the line for one team, Michigan looked to hand the Boilermakers their first loss and continue their all-time unbeaten streak against Purdue. For the first time this season, Michigan was unable to find the back of the opponent's goal in the first 15 minutes of play. After a physical and well-fought first half by both clubs, it was not until the 68th minute when Andrew Smutek finished a brilliant tic-tac-toe play from the feet of Austin Harms and Ty Gilhuly. Shortly after, Michigan conceded a very questionable and unlucky call in their own box, which Purdue capitalized on to tie the game. But only one minute later it was Andrew Smutek again, who drew a penalty kick of his own, which Danny Kim fired into the bottom right corner to put the Wolverines back ahead. On a day where anything seemed to be possible, Purdue was awarded yet another questionable penalty kick with only moments left in the match. But as he has done so many times before, senior goalkeeper, Graham Keep, made an incredible save on the initial shot and a second save on the attempt made on the rebound. The final moments seemed to take hours and both teams fought to maintain their unblemished records. Ultimately; however, the Michigan defence (David Mintz, Ryan McDougald, Connor Pollock, Brett Wietecha, and Jack Eisentrout) stood strong and denied multiple last-minute attempts on the Michigan keeper. Not to be left out, the Michigan midfield (Hunter Mejaly, Cina Vazir, and PJ DiNardo) seemed to find another gear against the Boilermakers, covering more ground than any other game this season in their attempts to support both the defence and attack. In summary, Sunday's match was a complete team effort and a great win for the Wolverines, improving their record to 5-0-2 and making them the only unbeaten team left in the MASC Central division.
Next up, Michigan continues their away campaign against the Butler University Bulldogs in Indianapolis, IN on Sunday, October 9.