- Patrick Barron/Daily
By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 2, 2012
Junior forward Nkem Ezurike has scored plenty of goals for the Michigan women’s soccer team this season. But on Friday afternoon, an own goal off of Ezurike’s back helped No. 24 Ohio State eliminate the Wolverines from the Big Ten Tournament in Bloomington by a score of 2-1.
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Ezurike’s mishap came just 12 minutes into the contest. When defender Megan Fuller crossed a Buckeye corner kick toward the far post, Ezurike was turned away ball going up for a challenge and couldn’t see it drop towards her body. The cross was headed by Lauren Granberg and then deflected off of Ezurike’s back past senior goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer. The tally gave Ohio State an early two-goal lead.
“It was unlucky,” Ezurike said.
The Buckeyes (10-2-1 Big Ten, 15-4-1 overall) had already gotten on the board in the third minute on a penalty kick. The referee awarded the shot when sophomore defender Chloe Sosenko stumbled and tripped an attacker. Ashley Gruenbaum cooly buried the penalty kick to give Ohio State the early advantage.
Michigan coach Greg Ryan disagreed with the call, arguing that Sosenko had been fouled before committing an infraction of her own. Replays showed plenty of contact between Sosenko and Granberg before both fell to the ground.
“We saw it completely differently,” Ryan said. “(Sosenko) was in good defending position and she got knocked from behind.”
After Ezurike’s own-goal less than 10 minutes after the penalty kick, the Wolverines (8-3-2, 14-5-2) trailed by their largest deficit of the season.
In the second half, Michigan began sending defenders forward to create more offensive opportunities. It almost paid off seconds into the complementary period when a short cross by freshman midfielder Corinne Harris nearly reached a wide-open Ezurike in front of the net.
As the Wolverines shifted to a more offensive formation, they opened up space for Buckeye attackers to make long runs through Michigan’s back line. In the 61st minute, forward Tiffany Cameron — Ohio State’s most dangerous player — received a pass at the top of the 18-yard box. Completely unmarked, she took a touch before ripping a shot that ricocheted off the post.
Cameron’s opportunity seemed to rouse the Wolverine offense. In the 67th minute, Ezurike fired a swerving shot that was headed towards the top corner, but goalkeeper Jillian McVicker managed to tap it over the crossbar. McVicker had two saves in the game, and the 5-foot-9 netminder limited the Wolverines’ aerial attacks.
The Michigan offense finally got a shot past McVicker in the 72nd minute. Taking control of a loose ball, Ezurike powered through one defender and got around another before beating the freshman goalkeeper with a rising shot. But the Wolverines never threatened again, and Ohio State held on to advance to the Big Ten Tournament final.
The Buckeyes will face Illinois, which upset No. 3 Penn State on Friday morning.
Despite the loss, Michigan will likely earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines last participated in the 64-team competition in 2010. This year, the higher-seeded team will host the first round of the tournament, which begins on Nov. 9.
“I will be shocked if Michigan isn’t in the NCAA Tournament,” Ryan said.
Michigan hasn’t hosted an NCAA Tournament game since 2002. It will learn its fate on Monday.