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Rutgers' season comes to end with loss to Michigan in Big Ten Tournament play-in game

<p>Junior forward Dante Perez scored a goal in the 55th minute to tie the game at 1, but Michigan responded with a late goal to win the match and end Rutgers' season.</p>

Junior forward Dante Perez scored a goal in the 55th minute to tie the game at 1, but Michigan responded with a late goal to win the match and end Rutgers' season.

The Rutgers men’s soccer team failed to garner any luck this season. The last game of the season proved to be no different on Saturday, as the Scarlet Knights' (1-13-2) fell to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament play-in-game by a score of 2-1.

“I think that a lot of times it comes down to the luck,” said junior forward Dante Perez. “We played well. I think we had momentum the whole game. We definitely were the top team. We just didn’t get the result in the end but it’s been the story of our season.”

In the early part of the first half, both the Knights and the Wolverines were successful in spreading the field with fluent passes connecting. But the harmony of their plays fell short due to both teams' equally as effective defensive efforts.

Though both teams kept each other scoreless for the first 30 minutes, Rutgers allowed the first goal of the game due to an impressive pass to an even more impressive player.

In the 31st minute, senior midfielder Brett Nason fed sophomore striker Francis Atuahene a pass through two Knights defenders. Atuahene finished with his right foot from 6 yards out, giving Michigan a 1-0 lead.

Junior defender Niel Guzman explained after the game that he believes the whole squad prepared well for the game and his back four did as much as they could to defend against Atuahene, one of the nation's top scorers. 

“I believe that our back four did as much as they could against one of the best offensive players in the game,” Guzman said. “We had the whole week of preparation and I trusted our back four to get the job done.”

The first half ended in a 1-0 Wolverines lead, but the box score showed an almost dead even game, as both teams recorded seven shots a piece while Michigan had a 2-1 save differential on Rutgers.

Ten minutes into the second half, the Knights saw some life, as a free kick by junior forward Jason Wright turned into a goal for teammate Dante Perez. In the 55th minute, a header deflection off of a free kick by Wright would pass the Wolverine goal line as Michigan keeper Evan Louro watched the ball sail into his net putting the game at a stalemate.

But Perez's goal was the last goal any Rutgers player would have this season. The three shots on goal for the Knights compared to the Wolverines' seven would not only be insufficient, but it also left head coach Dan Donigan flabbergasted.

“I think they didn’t do enough offensively. For me, I’m a very offensive-minded guy, I like to attack,” Donigan said. “I just don’t think we took the opportunities and don’t think we had enough guys that were really willing to run and make it difficult for the other team. We never really forced them into making tough decisions as opposed to ourselves being put under pressure and the opponent making us some mistakes.”

The season ended on a sour note, with the Knights only earning one win. Rutgers just could not manage its tough schedule and hard-fought games. Making the right decisions and not making crucial plays throughout the season are a few of the reasons why Donigan thinks his team was unable to be successful this season. 

“For us I think we just made some mistakes again within the game that cost us like we've been doing all year,” Donigan said. “It’s just unfortunate. You never want your season to end so it’s just unfortunate for everybody, but it’s just been a very tough season. But at the same time, you have this type of season because you don’t make the proper decisions and don’t make the plays all the time and that’s what these guys have had to endure all year long. We only have ourselves to blame.”

For updates on the Rutgers men's soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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