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Wolverines drop two weekend games, hurt chances of making the Big Ten Tournament

Theresa Mathews/Daily
Redshirt junior midfielder Clare Stachel reacts to a 4-0 loss sunday against Penn State on Senior Day. Buy this photo

By Carly Boddy, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 23, 2011

On Sunday, seniors Kristen Goncalves, Courtney Mercier and Kim Siebert played their last home soccer game for Michigan. The Michigan women's soccer team looked to beat a No. 14 Penn State team it hadn't been able to beat in the last three seasons. In fact, the Nittany Lions are a team Michigan hadn't beat since 2002.

Michigan was shut out, 4-0, by Penn State. It was coming off a similar 1-0 loss to Ohio State just two days before.

The scoring began 22 minutes in with the first of four goals against junior goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer. The second goal came in the final minute of the half.

Penn State scored two more times and the Wolverines were still unable to turn any chances into goals.

The seniors finished their careers without ever pulling off a win against the Nittany Lions.

“We learned the hard way out there on the field.” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “The main takeaway is experience.”

But for the seniors, being honored on the field and playing their last home game wasn’t really so much about experience. Senior defender Kristen Goncalves has been with Michigan for four years, and has started since she was a freshman — she has plenty of experience.

“The most important thing is how hard our team fights for each other,” Goncalves said. “I don’t think at any point in these two games we ever gave up.”

And they’re still not giving up. While these two losses may be detrimental for the team as far as getting into the Big Ten Tournament, the players are determined.

“Everyday we talk about what we are going to need to do.” Goncalves said. “We are going to be prepared to play Illinois next week.”

But losing to Penn State (9-1-0 Big Ten, 16-3-0 overall) wasn’t much of a surprise for Michigan (4-5-1 Big Ten, 9-7-2 overall). The Nittany Lions have lost just one game in Big Ten play this season. It was the loss to rival Ohio State on Friday that was much more detrimental.

“Soccer is the kind of game where, if you don’t put away your chances, it comes back to haunt you,” Ryan said.

And being shut out by a rival Ohio State team (4-4-1 Big Ten, 8-8-1 overall) on Friday won’t be easily forgotten.

The Wolverines had two close scoring opportunities. The first was an apparent goal scored by freshman midfielder Christina Murillo off a header. It was crossed from sophomore forward Nkem Ezurike but was called off-sides.

The second was a penalty kick — and another chance that wasn’t put away. Redshirt junior forward Clare Stachel took the kick, which bounced off the crossbar. Murillo attempted again and took the rebound shot, which was saved.

In the second half, play got physical between the rivals, and the Wolverines consistently continued to miss their chances. Fouled by an Ohio State defender, Murillo took a kick that soared straight over the net.

Finally, with 12 minutes left in the second half, Ohio State scored and Michigan was unable to get the equalizer.

“That was the first time I’ve felt like we’ve outplayed Ohio State since I’ve been here,” Ryan said.

Yet unable to get a goal, the Wolverines fell 1-0 to the Buckeyes.

For the seniors, it was disappointing. But for the younger players, the main takeaway was, as Ryan said, experience.

Michigan will play its final game before the Big Ten Tournament this coming Saturday against Illinois in Champaign.