Written By: Billyle Alman
Michigan, Jack Hallahan, wasted no time in this NCAA tournament matchup as the sophomore forward buried two goals in the opening 9 minutes. The wolverines pressed the Colgate back line on and off the ball in the opening minutes of this contest and the visiting side looked as though the pressure would be too much.
The Michigan showcase became a two sided game in the 16th minute when an initial save by Henry Mashburn was not enough. A Colgate chance first saved by Mashburn, was poked in the back of the net (2-1).
The Colgate goal gave the Raiders much needed confidence they were lacking, but it was Michigan who seemed most affected by the score. Following the Raiders’ goal, Michigan sat in deeper looking to hold on and close the half up 1 goal, but with 28+ minutes remaining the Colgate resurgence was too much. Uyiosa Omorogbe found the back of the net in the 40th minute after tucking home a Colgate cross served from the left wing. Sides entered halftime tied 2-2.
The second half was a slugfest. Michigan came out in the first 15 minutes of the second period in the shape of a refocused side poised to find the go ahead goal. Though a majority of possession lead to chances in the final third, Colgate held strong defensively and sent away all dangerous opportunities.
After weathering the initial Wolverine storm, the Raiders turned up the heat in their own pursuit. The halftime talk for the Raiders was obvious: survive the first part of the second half, then go for this thing. The underdogs in Colgate, as many would say, had nothing to lose. And did they ever play like it. Collegiate overtime rules give teams like Colgate an incentive to go for a result in the first 90 minutes of play. Colgate was unwilling to leave their fate to an overtime chance, and sent numbers forward for the remaining minutes of the match.
To be fair to Michigan, they didn’t shell in the the latter minutes either. This Wolverine side, that only used 13 players in this match, fought and clawed for their own chances down the stretch. A late Michigan chance turned into a counter attack for Colgate. Playmaker Jared Stroud stepped up to take a earned Raiders corner, curled in a service from the left flank that met the head of Aram Ouligian. Ouligian’s chance stunned UMSS as he climbed the Michigan defender in front of him and bashed the service into the goal giving Colgate the 3-2 lead with just five minutes remaining.
The Wolverines quickly grabbed the ball and brought it forward in search for an equalizer. Late services in the box were properly defended by Colgate, and the visiting side was able to close out the come from behind stunner here in Ann Arbor.
We won’t call this result a collapse. Interesting tactical decisions for Michigan included minutes with Jackson Ragen sitting in front and sometimes within the Michigan backline (Abdou Samake on the bench). The most interesting, difficult, change to overcome came in the 61st minute when Robbie Mertz came out for a breather. He did not return until the 79th minute and it was in that stretch that Colgate looked the most dangerous. We are not to question the stamina of Mertz, or the decision by Daley. In a game that featured a slimmer bench, you look for the leaders to remain on the field, and Colgate saw the Mertz sub as a chance to send more bodies ahead.
It’s worth noting that this Colgate is appearing in its second consecutive NCAA tournament. After winning the Patriot League tournament, this Michigan win marks six wins in a row for this side that has to be one of the hottest teams in the entire nation. With their experience and current form, they will be a serious player in their 3rd round matchup at Louisville on Sunday.
Special thanks must go out to seniors Tristan Jacob, Grant Mattia and iron man Billy Stevens. What an unbelievable season these seniors lead us through. Tristan Jacob played some crucial minutes early on that helped build this NCAA resume, and Billy Stevens was a constant as always for this group. They leave this program in perhaps the best shape it's been in since becoming a varsity sport. This side will return 10 starters, should all those that are eligible return. This roster will be viewed as perhaps the most talented in the Big Ten and a factor nationally from the jump in 2018.