EAST LANSING — In two key conference home games over the weekend, the No. 21 Michigan women’s soccer team failed to score a goal. But just 14 minutes into Thursday’s matchup against Michigan State, the Wolverines had already found the back of the net twice en route to a 2-1 victory.
“I was really proud of how we came out, and how hard we played right from the beginning,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “Hopefully this gives our players more confidence.”
The issue entering Thursday’s game wasn’t getting shots off, it was capitalizing on the opportunities and finishing around the net.
In games against Wisconsin and Minnesota earlier in the season, Michigan (2-1-1 Big Ten, 8-2-1 overall) had a total of 31 shots, eight of which were on goal. Despite the impressive totals, the Wolverines squandered every chance.
This trend had to change, and it did Thursday.
Michigan needed a spark and found it in the form of good fortune. Just nine minutes into play at DeMartin Stadium, junior Christina Murillo put the ball just over the outstretched arm of the Spartan goalkeeper and into the net from 25 yards out.
“I wish I could say it was intended as a shot, but honestly I was trying to chip it to somebody, and I think the wind carried it and it went in,” Murillo said.
Five minutes later, senior captain Meghan Toohey got in front of a rebound off a blocked shot and blasted the ball by Michigan State’s bewildered goalkeeper for the team’s second goal.
There was never a doubt about Toohey’s intentions.
“Yesterday our team went over focusing on staying over (the ball) and shooting when you get the opportunity,” she said. “So I just shot it, and it went in.”
For Ryan, the team’s offensive turnaround began in practice.
“We played five-on-five in a tight area between two goals, and it was all about ‘don’t wait, just take it, take it,’ and then everybody else look for the loose ball,” he said.
The drill paid off as Toohey’s goal was the result of heads-up play in a tight area.
Michigan took 20 total shots, putting five on goal and two in the net. By comparison, Michigan State took just nine shots, scoring on its only one on goal.
Despite the noticeable offensive improvement from the weekend, the team is still not where it wants to be.
“We got to keep working on our finishing,” Ryan said. “That’s for sure.”
The Wolverines missed plenty of open shots, and perhaps the story would be different if the team hadn’t caught a break for its first goal. Nonetheless, Michigan did enough on offense to secure a win Thursday, but going forward it’ll need to do more to compete against the best.