BY COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
Daily Sports Writer
Published September 9, 2007
Julian Robles had rehearsed this moment.
He would score his first career goal in front of his family and friends and karate-kick the corner flag in celebration.
But when it actually happened, instinct took over.
In the 51st minute of Friday's game against Cal State-Northridge at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif., the sophomore defenseman from Los Angeles headed a corner kick from junior forward Jake Stacy to score Michigan's first goal. Running wildly in celebration, Robles slid into the sideline and was mobbed by his teammates.
So much for planning ahead.
"He just absolutely forgot what he wanted to do," Michigan coach Steve Burns said. "Obviously, even the best-laid plans go awry."
Robles's goal helped the Wolverines defeat the Matadors, 2-1, a victory that made Michigan 3-0 for the first time in three years.
The teams combined for just five shots in the scoreless first half, but both squads' offensive production increased after Robles' goal. Stacy scored on a breakaway in the 66th minute to put the Wolverines up two. Cal State-Northridge (1-1) tallied its first goal in the 79th minute and controlled the ball for much of the last 10 minutes but couldn't force overtime.
"In the first half, we really kept the ball going forward," junior goalkeeper Patrick Sperry said. "We had some chances, and we knew the goals were coming. The second half was more of a battle. They came after us pretty hard the rest of the game, and it was a task for us to buckle down."
The Wolverines don't begin Big Ten play for two more weeks, but Burns said Friday night's contest was similar to a conference match because of the Matadors' talent and strong performance in past seasons.
"(Cal State-) Northridge is a team we knew was going to play us like a Big Ten opponent - that is, go toe-to-toe and try to force you to back down physically," he said. "We made sure our players would play the way they will play November in East Lansing (for the Big Ten tournament), and we did a great job of that."
Burns also said that winning early season, non-conference games against consistent NCAA contenders like the Matadors will improve Michigan's chances for an at-large tournament bid at the end of the season.
The Wolverines played last night at 10 p.m. against Cal State-Fullerton in the second game of their West Coast trip.
Michigan will play Kentucky at home on Friday, continuing a series that has ended in three Wolverine overtime wins in three years, including last year's upset against the then 14th-ranked Wildcats.
After starting the season with three straight wins, the Wolverines believe they're building confidence in their offense.
"It takes a lot of pressure off the defense when your offense is scoring goals, and you're keeping the ball and playing intelligently," Sperry said. "The offense can take chances without worrying about rushing shots or forcing chances. It's all really coming together well."