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Wolverines maintain control with speed and aggression

By Steven Braid, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 14, 2012

The days of single-digit shot attempts and sparse scoring opportunities are long gone for the Michigan women’s soccer team.

These days, the Wolverines are in constant attack mode, a team full of offensive threats capable of creating scoring chances left and right. And in their 2-0 victory against Purdue at home on Sunday, they maintained complete control of the contest with their speed and an aggressive attack, outshooting the Boilermakers 24-2.

“We’re just playing to our strength,” said fifth-year senior midfielder Clare Stachel. “That’s just common soccer — we’re going to use what we have.”

It was clear from the beginning of the match that the Boilermakers were going to have trouble containing Michigan’s offense for the entire game.

Just two minutes into the game, Stachel sped through Purdue’s defense and rifled a shot that sailed just high. Minutes later, she had another opportunity, only to be stifled by the Boilermakers goalie Clara Kridler, who made a diving save. And moments after that, she missed wide right from just inside the box.

“One of our goals is to get the first score every game,” Stachel said.

It wouldn’t take long for the Wolverines to get on the scoreboard.

In the 20th minute, junior forward Nkem Ezurike dashed down the right sideline and fired a cross into the box, which was deflected. Junior midfielder Meghan Toohey corralled the loose ball at the top of the box and launched a shot into the top-right corner of net, tallying her third goal of the season.

Michigan continued to apply pressure the rest of the half and finished the stanza with a 10-1 shot advantage.

If it was at all possible, the Wolverines were even more aggressive in the second half. They registered five shots within the first four minutes following intermission.

"I was very pleased that our kids were stepping up and taking that many shots," said Michigan coach Greg Ryan.

The Wolverines’ attack forced the Boilermakers to play a more defensive-minded formation. In what appeared to be a tactical decision, Purdue seemed content to sit back in their half of the field defending, going on the offensive only when it had the opportunity for a quick counterattack.

But even when the Boilermakers were able to push the ball up the field, the Wolverines used their speed to get back on defense and breakup any chance of a scoring opportunity.

And with waves of offensive threats attacking, the Wolverines slowly wore down Purdue’s defense.

In the 70th minute, Ezurike raced past Purdue’s defense only to have Kridler make another diving save. Michigan had another chance when the ball ricocheted off of Kridler’s hands and found its way to senior midfielder Emily Jaffe, who had her shot blocked.

Less than a minute later, Toohey launched a ball toward junior midfielder Tori McCombs, who had her shot deflected by Kridler. Minutes later, freshman midfielder Christina Ordonez challenged Kridler again.

But in the 77th minute, Michigan finally struck again. Jaffe netted her second header goal in as many games when she found the back of the net off of a corner kick from junior defenseman Shelina Zadorsky.

“What does happen is that because of our depth, you saw the last 10 minutes, Purdue hardly touched the ball,” Greg Ryan said. “They were just dead at that point and that’s because we could bring in so many players and keep running at them.”

The Wolverines realize they won’t get that many opportunities in every match, but they also understand that their offensive aggression is one of the main reasons they’re riding a 10-match unbeaten streak.

“We know that we’re a fast team and an aggressive team and that’s how we’re going to come out and play,” Toohey said. “That’s how we’re going to win.”