Michigan offense pushes it to rivalry win
A full stadium, senior festivities and an in-state rivalry set the tone for the match between the Michigan women’s soccer team (8-8-1 overall, 4-5-1 Big Ten) and Michigan State (5-8-3 overall, 0-7-2 Big Ten). The Wolverines offense kept that going, as they pulled out to a 2-0 lead, which they never surrendered.
Within the first minute of the game, Michigan sophomore midfielder Sarah Stratigakis, a Canadian national team member, got the ball on the left-hand side of the box and stopped to survey the field. Seconds later, sophomore forward Nicki Hernandez sprinted into the middle of the box and Stratigakis gave her a perfect lead pass. Hernandez hit the ball first time across the keeper into the bottom right corner.
With the Wolverines breaking through with a goal in the first minute of the game, the game plan for each team was changed instantly. The Spartans seemed tense and easily frustrated after the early goal, while Michigan continued to pass and try the long ball down the wings.
“We talked about setting the tone, and dictating play,” said coach Jennifer Klein. “The early goal allowed us to relax and just play.”
In the first half, the Wolverines played through Stratigakis and senior midfielder Ashley Calcagno to progress the ball from the defensive third to the attacking third. Michigan also made sure to play up the wings with long lead passes, and pounced on the opportunities for quick counter attacks to attack through the central of the Michigan State defense. This led to multiple balls being played into the box that made the Spartan keeper react.
Michigan State got the ball into the box, through crosses, corners or creative plays through the middle. The Spartans came close with a fair amount of efforts — like when junior midfielder Hannah Jones hit the right crossbar — but could not find the back of the net.
The second half was represented by many missed chances for the Wolverines to extend their lead. Then in the 73rd minute, a corner play got Michigan its second goal.
It was a play where Stratigakis looked to be coming short, then darted straight to the goal and passed the ball right in front of the six-yard box to sophmore midfielder Emma Cooper, who shot it straight down the middle in between the Spartan goalie and two defenders for a goal.
Cooper’s first goal of the season, and Stratigakis’ second assist of the game, put the Wolverines up 2-0 and in full control of the game.
Michigan displayed their offensive prowess from the beginning of the game, and in the end the final statistics showed the disparity in chances. The Wolverines rifled 22 shots compared to Michigan State’s eight.
“To end the regular season with two wins at home I think it was a great performance by the team,” Klein said. “I’m very happy with them.”