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Michigan overcomes sluggish start to top Bowling Green

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By Jake Lourim, Daily Sports Writer
Published August 24, 2014

For a team still looking for a strong early-season victory to build upon, Sunday’s 2-0 win over Bowling Green — which hasn’t won since Aug. 26, 2012 — didn’t exactly qualify for the Michigan women's soccer team.

But it was a win, albeit a sloppy one.

The Wolverines (2-0) managed only one goal on 13 corner kicks and 10 shots in the first half, but ultimately bested the Falcons (0-2) with strong defense.

“To be honest, we’ve got to be a lot better in the front three if we hope to have any chance this year,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan.

Redshirt freshman midfielder Ani Sarkisian fired two shots on goal in the first 17 minutes for the Wolverines, but other than those, most of Michigan’s shots were just above the net. The Wolverines were still getting acclimated in a 4-3-3 with sophomore Madisson Lewis, sophomore Nicky Waldeck and junior Lulu Haidar at forward.

“We’re definitely getting used to each other,” Sarkisian said. “We have a lot of new players up there, and it takes a little more than a week or two to mesh together. But I think we’re really pulling through, especially this weekend. We didn’t have the best practices before this, but we definitely stepped up our game when game time came around.”

Sarkisian was the most active in the midfield, getting a touch on several shots at the goal and before scoring Michigan’s first goal in the 24th minute.

After she took a corner kick, Sarkisian ended up with possession in the right corner and served a ball into the box. Junior defender Christina Ordonez headed it just over a Bowling Green defender into the goal. For the second straight game, the defense compensated for the offense with another shutout.

Despite more corner kicks and attempts at the goal, that was the last shot on goal the Wolverines had in the first half.

“None of (our chances) were any good today,” Ryan said. “We didn’t create any good chances in the run of play until late in the game when (freshman outside back Taylor Timko) went up. Just the decisions and the choices that the attacking players are making, they’re simple decisions. They could go straight to goal, and they’re not even recognizing they’re in.”

Michigan still played shorthanded as senior midfielder Jen Pace nursed an ankle injury she suffered Friday. Senior defender Chloe Sosenko stepped in for a brief cameo in the first half and finished the game at midfield, totaling 30 minutes. She missed the team’s exhibition game and the season opener Friday with what Ryan described Sunday as “personal issues.”

Ryan brought eight players off the bench, including four freshmen, trying to solidify his attack going forward.

“I’ve also got to look at, do we have to change players, or can these players get better?” Ryan said. “Defense is only going to last for so long. We’re not ready for next weekend, so we’ve got to find a solution in training before we go to San Diego.”

Meanwhile, the defense continues to be the team’s strong suit with a faster back line than last year. Michigan’s outside backs, Ordonez and Timko, are more aggressive. Freshman Alyssa Dillon could also provide a boost when she comes back from a foot injury. Ryan said the team is looking at Big Ten season as a possible return.

Freshman goalkeeper Megan Hinz replaced sophomore Taylor Bucklin, the returning starter, on Sunday. Hinz was more vocal in guiding the back line and made three saves, though she was rarely tested. The Wolverines had a clear advantage in the midfield and kept the ball in Bowling Green’s half most of the game. Until the front line’s scoring picks up, that might have to be enough.