- Amanda Allen/Daily
By Shawn Heroor, For The Daily
Published September 7, 2014
His team having conceded eight goals last weekend in California, Michigan women’s soccer coach Greg Ryan made it clear defensive play would make or break the season.
His message was received this weekend.
The Wolverines’ strong defending led to a 3-0 victory over Central Michigan (1-3-1) on Sunday afternoon. Freshman keeper Megan Hinz made two saves for the Wolverines (4-2), good for her second consecutive shutout.
“It was a good weekend,” Ryan said. “It kinda put California behind us.”
The Wolverines got the scoring started in the 12th minute, as junior midfielder Corinne Harris slid a through ball to sophomore forward Madisson Lewis behind the Chippewa defense. Lewis then cut the ball back to a wide open Ani Sarkisian, with the redshirt freshman forward hammering home her first collegiate goal from close range.
“I wanted to put one in the net,” Sarkisian said. “I thought, ‘If I don’t put this in, I’m coming out.’ ”
The Wolverines netted their second just two minutes later. Sarkisian won a corner and delivered a perfect ball to sophomore forward Nicky Waldeck, who squeezed a header just inside the back post.
It was Michigan’s sixth goal from a corner this season.
The Chippewas found their best opportunity in the 22nd minute, when a shot off a corner beat Hinz, but freshman defender Taylor Timko was quick to clear the ball off the line and preserve the two-goal lead into halftime.
A Chippewa miscue nearly gifted the Wolverines a third in the second half, as a handball in the box gave Michigan a penalty kick. But Sarkisian hit the penalty softly, and Chippewa keeper Maddy Bunnell dove to her left to make an easy save.
Lewis and Harris were again at the heart of the attack for the Wolverines’ third goal, as Lewis beat a defender to the byline and cut the ball back to Harris, who found sophomore Jessica Heifetz at the back post for a simple tap-in. It was the first goal of Heifetz’s career.
“I thought Maddie Lewis was outstanding today,” Ryan said. “Maddie creates so much, beating people to the end line. We need to be slipping her in more.”
“Harris has been the best player so far this year. She’s been outstanding.”
Despite the success of the weekend, Ryan emphasized that improvements must need to be made for the young Wolverines, especially for the upcoming Big Ten schedule.
“Coming into the Big Ten season, goals are going to be at a premium, we’re not gonna score seven goals in a weekend,” Ryan said. “These games are going to be very tight, so the real focus on the team is defending well.”
Added Sarkisian: “We just need the consistency through the game to be better. We got too comfortable after we built a lead.”
The consistency for the Wolverines isn’t quite there yet, but this weekend’s results are an encouraging sign for the future.