By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 31, 2012
Just a few hours before kicking off the Big Ten Tournament against Wisconsin on Wednesday, six members of the Michigan women’s soccer team earned all-conference honors.
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Junior forward Nkem Ezurike, freshman midfielder Corinne Harris, junior defender Holly Hein, senior goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer, junior midfielder Meghan Toohey, and junior defender Shelina Zadorsky each received awards. The six selections tie a program record set in 1999.
Kopmeyer, named Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, has been key to the Wolverines’ success this season. She ranks first in the conference in shutouts (9) and second in goals-against average (0.66) and save percentage (.854). Her contributions to the team have been crucial all season, as Michigan has won seven games by only one goal. Even in losing efforts, Kopmeyer has kept the score close; the Wolverines trailed by two goals only once all year.
“It’s nice to get a little bit of recognition,” Kopmeyer said. “But it’s really a reflection of our entire defense.”
In addition to her success between the posts, Kopmeyer helps lead one of the best defensive units in the conference. Through 19 games, Michigan has allowed just 13 goals and recorded 11 shutouts. Anchored by Hein and Zadorsky, the back line has consistently shut down some of the most explosive offenses in the Big Ten. During the season, it was performing so well that Michigan coach Greg Ryan compared it to the unit he led as coach of the US National Team.
On the other side of the pitch, Ezurike has been the Wolverines’ go-to weapon all season. Ezurike has scored more than half of Michigan’s tallies during conference play, including five game-winners. She finished the regular-season with 12 goals in 16 appearances. Because opposing teams focus on stopping Ezurike, her presence creates openings for teammates.
As midfielders, Harris and Toohey help support the defense and create attacking opportunities. Harris, who was named to the all-freshman team, posted five assists and three goals. Meanwhile, Toohey recorded four assists and scored three game-winning tallies this season as the catalyst for the entire team.
“Toohey is just that engine in the midfield that we can’t do without,” Ryan said. “Nobody runs as hard as Meghan Toohey.”
Speaking on behalf of all six award-winners, Michigan coach Greg Ryan emphasized that the individual recognition reflects the team’s effort all year.
“You don’t get six on that list without the whole team doing well,” he said. “Each one has contributed in their own way.”
The six all-conference selections have helped lead the Wolverines to a third-place finish in the Big Ten, their best result since 2004. They will likely earn an NCAA Tournament berth and could host a first-round game for the first time since 2002.