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Kopmeyer salvages weekend for Wolverines

BY STEVEN BRAID
Daily Sports Writer
Published September 11, 2011

After a weekend filled with rain, the sun shined bright for the Michigan women’s soccer team as it took an early lead against Central Michigan. But late in the game, shadows took hold of the field and so did the Chippewas.

After an early goal from sophomore forward Tori McCombs, the Wolverines (5-3) failed to close out the win, relinquishing a late goal to Central Michigan and settling for a 1-1 draw.

“You’re always disappointed when you don’t win, but I think tonight, in terms of the chances, a draw was probably a fair result,” Michigan coach Greg Ryan said.

With an energetic attack early on, Michigan created multiple opportunities to score. In the ninth minute, freshman midfielder Christina Murillo crossed midfield and sent a lob towards sophomore forward Nkem Ezurike in the box. Ezurike faked the header, momentarily freezing goalkeeper Stefanie Turner. Turner’s brief hesitation allowed McCombs to easily receive the pass, make a nifty move, and put the ball in the back of the net.

“I ran a cross and I was barely onside,” McCombs said. “Christina played me a great ball. It got past the goalie and I just put it in. Right place, right time.”

But after the early goal, the Wolverines were hard pressed to find many openings in the Central Michigan defense. Instead, they found themselves playing a defense orientated style against the dynamic Chippewas offense.

The Chippewas' aggressive attack kept Michigan on its heels for the entire game and forced redshirt junior goalie Haley Kopmeyer to make eight saves. With 10 shots on goal and an abundance of time spent in the Wolverines box, it was only a matter of time before Central Michigan converted.

In the 77th minute, midfielder Claire Horton sent a free kick from just past midfield towards the box. Forward Samantha Brenz corralled the pass and scored, barely squeezing the ball between Kopmeyer and the right post.

“The girl played a nice ball in and one of their girls got in behind us,” Kopmeyer said. “She got a head on it, and I tried to make a dive for it and it hit the post and it ricocheted off the backside of me. It was really, really unlucky and unfortunate that it happened.”

Despite the goal, Kopmeyer played superbly in net for the second straight game. She recorded 11 saves in the rain against Western Michigan on Friday for a 1-0 win in her third shutout of the season.

“Haley saved us both games,” Ryan said. “We’re very fortunate that Haley played so well and we’re very fortunate that they missed a few chances.”

While the Broncos were the more assertive team throughout most of the game, Michigan finally broke through in the second half. In the 59th minute, redshirt junior forward Clare Stachel put the Wolverines ahead when she punched home a cross from Ezurike.

The Broncos, though, put fear into the Wolverine defense more than a few times as they continued to attack relentlessly. In the 75th minute, Western Michigan sent a long cross into the box from roughly 30 yards out. The ball was headed in, but the goal was waved off after it was ruled that the Broncos were offside.

Michigan received another scare with only two minutes remaining when a shot slipped through Kopmeyer’s hands and appeared on its way into the net. But McCombs was there to back up Kopmeyer and to save the goal as well as the game.

“On the set pieces and on corner kicks, you always have girls on the post and its their job, as the ball gets funneled up the center, to make the goal smaller for me,” Kopmeyer said. “They’re obviously doing their job because they were in the right spot at all the right times.”

The Wolverines return to the field next weekend against Indiana as they commence the Big Ten season.