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Penn State men lose to Michigan in Big Ten

Published: November 15, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – For the second consecutive year, the Penn State men’s soccer team fell short in its bid to claim the program’s fourth Big Ten Tournament title, suffering a 4-1 setback to Michigan (14-4-3) in the conference championship game on Sunday afternoon at Jeffrey Field.
The Nittany Lions, which were positioned at No. 13 in the RPI rankings heading into the tournament, will now await their postseason fate, which will be revealed on Monday when the NCAA Championship field is announced live on ESPNU at 4:30 p.m.
Senior midfielder Drew Cost (West Chester, Pa.) accounted for Penn State’s goal, netting his third of the season to tie his career high. Junior midfielder Justin Lee (Derwood, Md.), who scored the game winner on Friday versus Indiana, and sophomore forward Daniel Burnham (Boise, Idaho) assisted on the play.
A Penn State mistake early on proved costly and saddled the Nittany Lions with a 1-0 deficit in the fifth minute. A miscommunication between redshirt freshman goalkeeper Brendan Birmingham (West Chester, Pa.) and his back line resulted in a turnover and freshman forward Soony Saad was in the right place at the right time. Taking possession of the uncontrolled ball and heading wide, Saad caught Birmingham off his line and fired a shot from 12 yards out into net.
Penn State (13-7-1) tried to get back into the game but struggled to find its offensive rhythm and timing and put together solid runs. Meanwhile, the Michigan attack was firing on all cylinders. Senior forward Justin Meram put the Wolverines up 2-0 in the 14th minute, slicing through the Penn State defense after receiving a pass from Hamoody Saad, and blasting in his 11th goal of the season. The two-goal deficit was the Nittany Lions’ first of the season.
Senor midfielder Matheus Braga (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) nearly cut the Michigan lead in half a few minutes later, when Mackenzie Arment (Manheim, Pa.) crossed a pass to him from wing to wing, but his bullet shot went wide into the outside side netting.
Another Penn State miscue in the 31st minute lead to Michigan’s third goal. A misplay on a corner kick turned the ball over to the Wolverines, resulting in a breakaway. Meram again navigated through the Lion defense and found net for the second time in the game.
Penn State was able to chip away at the Michigan lead before halftime, scoring its lone goal in the 44th minute. Daniel Burnham made a run up the near wing and passed it to the middle to Justin Lee. Immediately turning to his left, Lee sent the ball wide to Drew Cost. Taking a touch to move inside and get the ball on his dominant right foot, Cost’s streaking shot beat Michigan goalkeeper Chris Blais to the far post.
Despite trailing by two goals at the half, Penn State outshot Michigan through the game first 45 minutes, 14-9.
The Nittany Lions came out aggressive in the second half but a turnover at midfield gave Michigan another excellent scoring opportunity in the 53rd minute. A shot from Meram near the top of the box got past Brendan Birmingham and appeared to be on target for a goal. Sophomore defender Brian Forgue (Glenmoore, Pa.), who was positioned behind Birmingham in support, attempted to clear the line but the ball hit his arm and he was issued a red card. Hamoody Saad converted on the resulting penalty kick and, with the three-goal deficit and being forced to play down a man for the remainder of the game, Penn State’s chances of making a comeback were effectively ended.
Showing no quit, Penn State persisted on the attack but could not cut into the Michigan advantage. The Nittany Lions’ looked to have a goal with less than 13 minutes remaining but, after receiving a beautiful through ball from sophomore defender John Gallagher (Pine Bush, N.Y.), Daniel Burnham’s chipped-in goal was disallowed by an offsides call.
Penn State outshot Michigan for the game 23-16 and had a 10-7 advantage in shots on goal.
Corey Hertzog (Reading, Pa.) and Matheus Braga were named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team for their standout performances this weekend. Hertzog, who was selected as the Big Ten Tournament Offensive Most Valuable Player in 2009, scored three goals and notched one assist in three games. Braga totaled three assists, including two versus Northwestern to set the Penn State record for assists in a season.
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