Soccer Report: What a weekend on the men's pitch

What a cracking weekend for Big Ten men’s soccer! We had three bruising encounters with plenty of quality and goals, and all three games went to overtime.

I predicted on BTN Soccer Report that Todd Yeagley’s Indiana team would slip up in overtime at Penn State, and I wasn’t far off. Last year, the Hoosiers had just one off-day and Wisconsin capitalized. But on Saturday, Harrison Petts made sure that vital ‘W’ was with him and his teammates en route back to Bloomington.

The Big Ten Soccer Report is a weekly online-only show that looks at the last action in Big Ten men’s and women’s soccer. Follow the show on Twitter @BTNSoccerReport and find previous shows here.

Northwestern also dug deep and came through with an OT classic in East Lansing against the Spartans. Damon Rensing’s troops took the lead through Fatai Alashe, but Jay Chapman’s dismissal for a hand ball on the line gifted the ‘Cats a passage back in to the game.

One would have to feel sorry for Chapman, and admittedly, I did the same thing in a match a few years ago. Sometimes your instincts take over, and you can’t fault a player for doing whatever is necessary to prevent the opposition from scoring.

Unfortunately for Chapman, and fortunately for Northwestern, the ‘Cats possess one of the coolest customers in the league, Chris Ritter. The midfield maestro was never going to miss from the resulting spot kick, and from that moment, for me, the result was always going to be a ‘Cats win.

Ann Arbor was the place to be on Sunday evening, where we were treated to a feast of excitement. There were five goals, including the crazy game-winner with 46 seconds left in double-overtime. Ohio State and Michigan clashes are always full-blooded matches, packed with intensity and pride, and Sunday was no different.

Ezekial Harris got the ball rolling in the 34th minute, powering home a header past Alex Ivanov in the Buckeye goal. However, the Wolverines’ joy was short-lived as Chris Hegngi equalized just six minutes later.

Big Ten Standings (as of Sept. 30)
Team Record Pct. Pts. Record Pct.
Northwestern 2-0-0 1.000 6 7-1-2 .800
Indiana 2-0-0 1.000 6 7-2-1 .750
Penn St. 1-1-0 .500 3 6-3-1 .650
Michigan 1-1-0 .500 3 3-5-0 .375
Wisconsin 0-1-0 .000 0 3-4-3 .450
Ohio State 0-2-0 .000 0 4-6-1 .409
Michigan St. 0-1-0 .000 0 3-6-1 .350

As a neutral, I was delighted for Hegngi. The big No. 9 is a striker that feeds off goals, and you could see the weight of expectation and frustration lifted from his shoulders as he tapped in Austin McAnena’s free kick.

Ohio State’s pressure from Adam Gorski’s long throw-ins paid off in the 61st minute, as Harris put through his own net. But remarkably, just 12 seconds later, Chaka Dailey’s men were level through Brazilian Fabio Pereira.

Two overtime periods followed, and with just 46 seconds left on the clock, a long Jack Brown free kick somehow eluded Ivanov and crept in. Cue incredible scenes as the crowd raided the pitch to celebrate with their new freshman sensation.

This past weekend outlined just how tight the Big Ten is. Yes, Indiana and Northwestern look like the most complete teams, but any team can win on any given day, and that’s why we have such an exciting conference. I expect many more OT thrillers, and I believe we’ll have at least one this weekend. There’s very little separating Penn State and Michigan, while Michigan State’s trip to Ohio State is bound to be a tight affair.

All-in-all, I was proud to be a Big Ten soccer fan last weekend. Keep it up, lads!

Big Ten Women’s Soccer: Gophers close to upset in Happy Valley

Two of the nations’ finest strikers were on show in Jeffrey Field on Sunday afternoon as Minnesota came close to upsetting Big Ten kingpin Penn State.

Gophers’ sophomore Taylor Uhl is the real deal. When I saw her play in the Big Ten Tournament against Wisconsin last year, I immediately thought she possessed all the ingredients to play with the very best. And I still believe it’s possible. Uhl was sensational as a freshman last season, and she’s continued to grow as a player this year.

On Sunday, in Happy Valley, Uhl notched her 13th goal of the season and her eighth assist. Her teammates did a great job of stifling the Nittany Lions on their home patch, but Hayes and co. did enough in the end to come from behind and win 4-3.

It’s wonderful to see Maya Hayes back in Big Ten action doing what she does best; scoring goals. She now has seven goals in five games and looks to be in cruise control!

The race for the Big Ten title may be slightly one-sided in Penn State’s favor, but I think the race for the Golden Boot award will be much tighter. Hayes has given Uhl a head start of six games due to World Cup duty, and now only trails by six goals. Expect that race to go right to the wire, and expect plenty of goals!

Kevin Egan is the host of the BTN Soccer Report, an online-only weekly show spotlighting Big Ten men’s and women’s soccer. Want to send a note to Egan about Big Ten soccer and the BTN Internet show? Use the form below and subscribe to the Big Ten Soccer Report RSS here.

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