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Monday, September 22, 2014

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Wolverines unravel in California in consecutive shutouts

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By Brad Whipple, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 1, 2014

The West Coast has held a hex over the Michigan women’s soccer team for most of coach Greg Ryan’s tenure — and it continued to plague the Wolverines this weekend.

For the first time since 2011, the 10th-ranked Wolverines (2-2) were shut out in back-to-back matches. Friday, San Diego dealt Michigan its first loss of the season in a 5-0 onslaught. The Wolverines couldn’t rebound Sunday, when they were blanked 3-0 by San Diego State.

“I don’t think it’s tough to respond to losses like these,” Ryan said. “We hit our bottom against San Diego, and I don’t think we’ll play that poorly again this year. … Friday, we didn’t represent Michigan. We didn’t represent anybody.”

Michigan’s downfall stemmed from an inefficient offense, which has struggled to finish its chances early in the season. But this weekend, it fought to even create those opportunities. After taking 37 shots in their opening homestand last week, the Wolverines mustered just four shots on goal in California.

“Coming onto the road, you’re in completely different circumstances, and this is such a young team,” said junior midfielder Corinne Harris. “We were put in a situation where we’re not as comfortable, and it affected us.”

Friday night against San Diego, Michigan gave up its first goal of the season just three minutes into the match off a crossed ball. The Toreros (1-2-1) continued to take advantage of what Ryan called a “lack of effort” and rampant disorganization, notching two more goals before the end of the half.

Sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Bucklin made only one save in the first half and was taken out for the second half. Freshman Megan Hinz and junior Maddie Clarfield shared time in the net, but each gave up another goal.

“That was really the first time we got overwhelmed right away,” Harris said. “Their intensity was so high, and we didn’t come out ready to meet that. … We’ll never let that happen again.”

In Sunday’s game, San Diego State (2-1-1) outshot Michigan 19-8 and put 13 shots on goal. It took 11 minutes for Harris to take Michigan’s first shot, but according to her, she felt the team had good possessions and created high quality scoring opportunities. Harris took half the team’s shots but was unsuccessful in getting one past the keeper.

“Corinne has had a fantastic start,” Ryan said, “but the one thing she has to do is score goals. She’s getting chances, and I’m really proud of how she’s played, but at the end of the day, she’s got to put the ball in the back of the net.”

Nearing the end of the first half, Aztec forward Meggie Gulczynski scored on a free kick that flew above the hands of Bucklin. Adding insult to injury, in the final 30 seconds, sophomore midfielder Anna Soccorsi accidentally headed the ball into Michigan’s goal.

With San Diego State sitting comfortably with a two-goal lead, Hinz replaced Bucklin, who had made eight saves in the first half. In the 87th minute, the Aztecs collected a rebound off a corner kick and knocked it passed Hinz from three yards out.

“The only chances that went in for San Diego State were not good chances,” Ryan said. “They were silly goals: an own goal, a ball that’s easily savable and a late corner kick when I have all the subs in.”

Last year’s Wolverines, which reached the Elite Eight, never suffered a weekend like this. This year’s team, which Ryan said can’t be compared to its predecessor, has the same goals for the 2014 season.

But there’s still a long way to go.