- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Brad Whipple, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 20, 2013
When the game had ended Sunday, the No. 12 Michigan women’s soccer team gathered in front of the 900-person crowd to sing “The Victors.” Afterward, the Wolverines went to the other side of the stadium to the student section, where senior forward Nkem Ezurike searched for her mother.
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Her mother rarely can make it to games, but this weekend, all eyes were on Ezurike. Waiting for the three goals that would define her career, both fans and teammates watched as Ezurike attempted to etch her name in program history.
Two goals behind Kacy Beitel’s career record of 44, Ezurike was never distracted, only thinking about winning the two-game weekend homestand. She tied the record but became the new holder with 45 goals.
“It’s kind of surreal right now,” Ezurike said. “I’ll look back on it, and it will be a great accomplishment.”
On Sunday, one goal shy of tying the record, Ezurike tallied the first shot for the Wolverines, just high of the net, against Purdue (3-5 Big Ten, 8-7-1 overall). She took three more shots within the next 20 minutes but found no success. She maintained her composure and continued looking for the next chance.
The physicality that is evident in a Big Ten game continued and, 10 minutes later, defender Kim Love dragged Ezurike to the ground resulting in a penalty kick, the first of the season. Ezurike was slow to get up, but she ultimately took position at the top of the box.
The atmosphere of the stadium changed with fans quieting as Ezurike stood before goalie Clara Kridler, like two cowboys preparing for a shootout. Ezurike kicked with her right and found the left side. Kridler missed a diving save, and the game was tied at one.
“There was no chance of saving that shot,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “Nkem hits that as well as anybody.”
Ezurike had tied the record, but she continued the pressure on the Boilermakers’ defense, taking two more shots and connecting with the record breaker 61 minutes into the game.
Sophomore forward Corinne Harris kicked one at Kridler that rebounded to the left side of the net. Ezurike crept behind Purdue’s defenders and found herself in front of an open net. She easily knocked it in and threw her hands up in the air, showing her first smile of the game as she became the new Michigan record holder with 45 goals.
“She wasn’t content with two,” Ryan said. “She was looking for three, four and five out there. I’m so proud of her for becoming the all-time goal scorer at Michigan.
“I’m just a lucky guy who got a chance to be her coach for four years. She’s such an important player on our team.”
Added sophomore midfielder Christina Ordonez: “I think it’s unbelievable. She fights every game, and we all try and help her out. It’s awesome to be a part of her breaking that record.”
Nine minutes later, Ordonez secured the win with the third goal for Michigan (5-1-1, 11-2-1) within the 18-yard box.
The buildup to the record began Friday night at home against Indiana (4-4, 11-4-1). Ezurike accounted for more than half of the 15 shots taken against the Hoosiers. Right from the get-go, she came out firing with a breakaway 59 seconds into the game. Her next five shots were all wide of the net. Despite the team’s success at creating scoring chances, the finishing touches were just not there for Ezurike. The crowd groaned after each miss.
The Hoosiers’ defense seemed unbreakable. With each missed shot opportunity, frustration began to emerge, and Ezurike raised her hands in disappointment wondering what had gone wrong. After almost capitalizing in the 20th minute, she buried her head in her hands.
“I feel like she was frustrated a little bit,” Ryan said. “She had two great chances in the first half and just barely missed.”
Her moment finally came in the 75th minute, after Harris advanced downfield and passed to Ezurike, who had broken the back line, through an open lane. She corralled the ball and struck it with her left foot into the right side of the net, earning the game-winning goal of Michigan’s 1-0 shutout over Indiana.
All hands went in the air, including Ezurike’s who was soon embraced by all her teammates. But fans would have to wait a little longer for her to tie the scoring record.
Sunday, after the two goals to break the record, Ezurike stood before the 100 students at the game, Christie Ezurike emerged from the bleachers arms spread wide.