Michigan earns draw with revamped defensive effort
With both teams jockeying for a spot near the top of the Big Ten standings, Sunday’s matchup in Minneapolis between the Michigan women’s soccer team and No. 11 Minnesota was set to be a tight one. After regulation and two overtime periods, neither side could could claim three points, and the two settled for a scoreless draw.
The Wolverines (5-2-2 Big Ten, 10-5-2 overall) entered the game coming off a 3-2 loss to Wisconsin, in which they blew a 2-0 lead in the last 30 minutes. Despite late defensive breakdowns against the Badgers, the Michigan defense looked rejuvenated against the Golden Gophers (6-2-1, 11-3-3).
Minnesota started the game strong offensively, generating numerous chances. Despite the scoring opportunities, Michigan sophomore goalkeeper Megan Hinz stood tall to keep the Golden Gophers at bay. Hinz recorded one of her best outings of the season, stopping all six shots she faced for her fourth shutout
“I am really pleased with our grit and effort day,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “I loved the way that we played defensively.”
The Wolverines, despite giving up some good chances, also had offensive forays of their own. Junior forward Nicky Waldeck put a header just over the bar in the 15th minute, and redshirt sophomore forward Ani Sarkisian, who has scored seven goals this season, proved difficult to contain as she notched three shots in the match, though neither could find the back of the net.
In the second half, Michigan’s defense stifled Minnesota and held its opponent to only one shot in the final 60 minutes. The Golden Gophers are now scoreless in their last two matches.
On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines had possession in Minnesota’s territory for long stretches as they notched five shots on net in the frame. Their best chances came through sophomore midfielder Emma Groffsky and junior defender Melissa Kreutz, whose shots tested Minnesota’s goalkeeper.
In overtime, both teams failed to muster any concrete scoring chances. Michigan recorded the only two shots. By the end of the second overtime period, both teams appeared as if they were content with settling for a draw.
The Wolverines are still just two points back of the Golden Gophers, but are now five points behind conference-leading Wisconsin. Michigan has two games left to play, a home match against Purdue and an away contest at Penn State.
“We are in a good spot right now,” Ryan said. “We need to be better attacking and we need to finish our chances, but if we can play with this kind of effort, we will get to where we want to be.”