After winning the Big Ten title, Michigan earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and ended the regular season ranked 19th in the country in only its 11th season as a program.
[media-credit name=”Photo Courtesy of Michigan Athletics” align=”alignleft” width=”152″][/media-credit]The team beat #2 Maryland in the quarterfinals 3-2 in double overtime to make the Final Four, ending Maryland’s 15-game winning streak. The upset over the highest-scoring team in the nation was another milestone in a season full of record breaking and first-time achievements, including earning the most wins in program history.
“We’re very team oriented,” Michigan Head Coach Steve Burns said. “We’re explosive in the counter attack. We value possession. I think that’s what soccer purists want to see and enjoy.”
Michigan has already faced its Final Four opponent on Oct. 19, losing 7-1 in a match that Burns claims helped the team realize what it needed to do to win.
“Nothing cleanses the soul like getting the snot knocked out of you,” Burns said. “We were not good enough as a team defensively. From that game forward, we have absolutely focused on the fundamentals of defending. It’s allowed us to keep the ball and get more chances. They did us a favor really.”
The team earned a first-round bye and entered the tournament with the 10th seed, beating Central Florida 2-1 in overtime in the tournament’s second round after sophomore midfielder Latif Alashe scored his second career goal to bring the Wolverines ahead.
In the Sweet 16 against #7 South Carolina, UM scored three times in a 10-minute span to knock off the Gamecocks, 3-1.
Down at half by the score of 1-0, the Wolverines faced elimination with 45 minutes to go at Maryland
Senior defenseman Jeffrey Quijano and senior forward Justin Meram scored 10 minutes apart in the second half to go up 2-1 in the 60th minute. Meram has now scored in nine consecutive games for the Wolverines.
But Maryland fought back on their home turf and tied the match in the 79th minute. After a scoreless first overtime, sophomore midfielder Hamoody Saad made a run up the left side and fed a pass to freshman midfielder Fabio Pereira, who notched the game-winner into the bottom right of the cage in the fourth minute of the second overtime.
Freshman forward Soony Saad leads the team with 19 goals scored. Meram, who plays up front alongside Saad in Michigan’s 4-4-2 formation, has scored 16 goals and leads the team with eight assists.
“Meram is the hottest player in the nation right now,” Burns said. “He has a lot of MLS interest. Meram is one of those players that can splice and dice guys. He has a good mind for the game and knows how to include his teammates. [He’s] certainly a guy to watch.”