By Jake Lourim, Summer Managing Sports Editor
Published August 13, 2014
With a senior captain and returning starter on the bench, a top goalie substituted out for the night and a young team still adjusting to the new season, the Michigan women’s soccer team gave upstart Western Michigan a golden opportunity.
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And the Broncos took advantage, kicking the two teams’ seasons off in wildly different directions.
The Wolverines, runners-up in the Big Ten last season, lost at Western Michigan on Wednesday, 1-0, in their only exhibition.
Meanwhile, the Broncos followed up a season in which they won the MAC title and stunned Marquette in the NCAA Tournament with an upset over the state’s marquee program.
Michigan senior defender Chloe Sosenko missed the game, and sophomore goalie Taylor Bucklin exited the exhibition at halftime.
Sosenko wasn’t injured but rather “working on some things,” according to Ryan. He declined to elaborate.
So the Wolverines were without two of their four returning starters when Western Michigan forward Emma Kahn hammered a shot into the upper-right corner of the net from 25 yards out.
That go-ahead goal with 3:54 left stuck, and Michigan lost its first exhibition game since 2011.
The Wolverines open the season next Friday at home against Cal State Northridge, but before then, they’ll have to generate a few more scoring opportunities despite being young and shorthanded.
“In the past couple years, they’ve come in and they already knew how to play with each other,” Ryan said. “Right from the get-go, they were really sharp. It’s just going to take us some time for these kids to get to know each other because some of our key players are sitting on their first year of eligibility or second year of eligibility.”
Ryan said Michigan will likely stick with the 4-3-3 formation it used Wednesday. The Wolverines started three freshmen plus Florida State transfer Ani Sarkisian. They outshot Western Michigan, 11-5, and had more shots on goal by a margin of 5-2.
Ryan’s first priority was the back line in front of Bucklin, so he put junior Christina Ordonez and sophomore Anna Soccorsi at center back. He flanked them with sophomore forward Madisson Lewis and freshman forward Taylor Timko at outside back, sacrificing firepower at forward for stability on defense. With some of its top talent on the back line, Michigan limited the Broncos’ scoring opportunities.
“Taylor Timko really stepped up today,” Bucklin said. “She played awesome. On the bench, we were talking that she could have gotten MVP of the game. She has great speed up the wings and she wins almost every tackle, so she really played great today.”
Bucklin needed to make only one save in the first half. Freshman goalie Megan Hinz replaced her at halftime and did not face a shot on goal in 30 minutes, and then junior Maddie Clarfield then came on and gave up the late goal.
Bucklin, who last year set the program’s single-season records in wins, shutouts and save percentage, is also playing behind a mostly new back line. With Sosenko out, none of last year’s regular defensive starters played Wednesday.
“I think my back line did a great job today,” Bucklin said. “We have lots of speed in the back line with Taylor and Madi on the sides playing fullback. We’re great in the air. Tina Ordonez was winning almost every head ball, so everyone was performing very well today in the back line.”
Wednesday’s makeshift defense wasn’t bad considering half of it was comprised of forwards. But Ryan made it clear that there remains much work to be done.