The challenging road to a the national tournament began on a rainy afternoon in Westfield, IN for the University of Michigan. With strong winds and unrelenting rain, the Wolverines were set to face off against two formidable opponents in Group D.
First up was Northwestern University. From the kick-off the Wolverines looked incredibly well-organized and proceeded to introduce the rest of the MASC to their brand of soccer. With an overwhelming majority of ball possession, it was only a matter of time until Michigan's build eventually broke down the Wildcat defence and frequent goal-scorer, Lawrence Mullen, rifled a loose ball in the Northwestern box into the back of the opponent's goal, giving Michigan the early lead. With their post-season dreams on the line, the Wildcats played with great intensity, but it was the Wolverines that were destined to be the victors in this match. That fate was solidified in the 70th minute when, from 35 yards out, sophomore midfielder, Hunter Mejaly, scored what could be the goal of the season, with an absolute rocket of a shot into the bottom left side of the Northwestern goal.
With their victory over Northwestern, and a previous tie for Northwestern to other Group D foe, UW-Madison, Michigan had already secured a place in the knock-out stage of the tournament. Their next match against UW-Madison; however, would determine their position coming out of the group.
With their spot secured, the Wolverines faced a talented team in UW-Madison, whose fate was still in jeopardy. Unfortunately for Michigan, several early mistakes made for a steep uphill battle against the Badgers, including conceding the first goal of the game in only the 5th minute off of a Michigan defensive mistake. Fortunately, senior goalkeeper, Drew Rickelmann, played one of the best games of his career, turning away several point-blank and break-away shots in order to keep the Wolverines within one goal. With a quick change in personnel and challenge of character at halftime, the Wolverines came out in the second half looking much more lively and determined to protect their undefeated record on the season and advance as Group D's winners. Eventually, Michigan did find the back of the goal when UW-Madison's goalkeeper misplayed a ball that landed at the feet of, Reid Davison, who calmly slotted it past the Wisconsin keeper to tie the game 1-1. A few more chances for each team ensued in the final moments of the game, although neither team was able to find the go-ahead goal and for the second time in a row, Michigan and UW-Madison tied.
Their group round record of 1-0-1 is good enough to advance Michigan to Sunday's knock-out round as the top seed from Group D where they will meet the University of Illinois at 11:00 am. With a national tournament berth on the line for both clubs and a long history of great and competitive games between the two sides, this is a match-up that the entire region will be watching.
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