By Jason Rubinstein, Daily Sports Writer
Published August 14, 2013
The pair combined for one goal and five assists last year, but with a strong defense behind them, they should be able to push the ball farther this year.
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Senior Tori McCombs will also bring experience and durability that should compensate for her lack of a scoring touch last year. McCombs scored just two goals with four assists in 11 starts, but could put up better numbers when the field is spread out.
Aside from the offense, the defense remains anchored by fifth-year senior Holly Hein and senior captain Shelina Zadorsky, both of whom are also ranked in TopDrawerSoccer.com’s Top 100. Hein and Zadorsky played a big part in helping the Wolverines to 13 shutouts last season, and with another year of offseason training, the duo’s chemistry only grew stronger.
“They both played together in Ottawa, Canada this summer,” Ryan said. “Their ability to read and connect with each other is fantastic.”
Added Hein: “We both demand a lot of each other and it keeps accountable for one another.”
And this year, the two seniors will have more additional help.
Michigan will give a heavy look to freshman Anna Soccorsi to help maintain an already star-studded defense. The Yardley, Pa., native enters the year after being named the 2012 Prep Player of the Year by the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
“Anna Saccrosi is equally as fast (as Lewis), and I mean exceptionally fast,” Ryan said. “Anna is impossible to outrun. Against Penn State, who has very fast forwards, Anna will be looked at.”
“We haven’t had kids with this kind of speed since I’ve been here at Michigan,” Ryan said.
In January, Ryan announced the transfer of Olivia Brannon, one of the nation’s premier defenders. Brannon, the former Gatorade Michigan State Player of the Year and Michigan Miss Soccer, will join the Wolverines after a two-year stint with the University of Virginia.
“Her ability to read the game and play the game is amazing,” Ryan said. “She knows the game so well and I think she’ll have a great year for us.”
Brannon brings years of international competition to the Wolverines, participating on the United States National Team’s under-20 squad.
“It’s probably the best defensive unit I’ve had in coaching college soccer,” Ryan said.
While gaining Brannon and a star-studded recruiting class, Michigan did see player losses affect one key cog in its success last year. The Wolverines will be without the goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer.
Just after graduation, Seattle Reign FC made the Big Ten Goalie of the Year its fourth-round selection in the National Women’s Soccer League draft.
Kopmeyer’s void inherently provided a goalie competition for the Wolverines. Sophomore Maddie Clarfield, junior Zaryn Jennings and freshman Taylor Bucklin are vying for the starting position. Neither Clarfield nor Jennings saw significant minutes last season stuck behind Kopmeyer, meaning all three goalkeepers are relatively inexperienced.
But Bucklin entered the competition with an impressive résumé. The freshman goalkeeper played for the Canadian U-17 Women’s National Team and started for Canada at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Azerbaijan. There is no doubt the Conn. native will be looked to handily replace Kopmeyer.
“Taylor Bucklin is our number one goalkeeper and we’re very confident in her,” Ryan said. “She’s extremely mature for being a freshman, and with our defense in front of her, plus her talent, we will be solid. We have depth in goal, which is great for competition, but Taylor is our go-to goalkeeper and she knows she has to work to maintain that spot.”
Daily Sorts Writer Greg Garno contributed reporting.