Wolverines boost confidence against Chippewas
In the 70th minute, Central Michigan forward Lexi Pelafas sprinted down the right side to receive a through ball near the box. Pelafas was in a foot race with her defender, but used her physicality to shrug off the opponent and win the ball. Staring straight at the keeper, she hammered a shot off the inside of the left post and into the back of the net.
It was a display of quality football, but it was too little, too late. The Chippewas’ (1-5) late-game score was their sole shot on goal. The Michigan women’s soccer team had already notched all six of its goals in a 6-1 victory Friday evening.
The Wolverines (4-3) dominated possession from the opening whistle and used give-and-go passes to expose holes in Central Michigan’s sloppy defense. This spurred scoring chances for Michigan, who finished with 10 shots on goal.
“It’s just something that we’re constantly working on, and looking to have numbers and support around the ball and I think we just really got on the same page, and it just showed,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Klein. “I think we dictated play right away, and it allowed for us to get into a good rhythm.”
The Wolverines’ back line faced limited pressure due to the Chippewas’ slow play and failure to attack open space on offense.
Just over five minutes into the game, senior forward Reilly Martin settled the ball at her feet in the goal box. Martin broke away from her defender and found a gap to the right before hitting the bottom left corner to put her team up 1-0. This was the opening of the floodgates.
Then the flood came full force, starting in the 14th minute with sophomore midfielders Nicki Hernandez and Sarah Stratigakis. Hernandez kicked a pass into a crowded box to Stratigakis, who sent the ball past the keeper into the bottom right corner.
Less than a minute later, Hernandez came back in action. But this time, she found the netting herself — off a ball from Martin — to put Michigan up 3-0.
The flood continued throughout the first half as Martin blasted one into the top right corner in the 17th minute for her second goal of the night, off a pass from Hernandez. And then in the 26th minute, freshman forward Sammi Atterbury scored following a smart through ball from freshman midfielder Raleigh Loughman.
The second half was much less eventful for the Wolverines. They continued to control the game but only scored once, in the 64th minute, when Stratigakis delivered a through ball to Hernandez who blasted one off the keeper’s hands and into the twine to finish with a stellar two goals and two assists.
“Overall just really happy with the result that we were able to get, for our last game of non-conference,” Klein said. “You know, it’s been a journey and a process for our non-conference games and we really felt like we learned a lot and we put ourselves in good position heading into Big Ten.”
Michigan’s sizable victory will certainly serve as a confidence booster, but for a team heading into conference play just barely holding a winning record, there is always room for improvement.
And Klein is fixated on shutting out opponents as an area to work on.
“I was disappointed in giving up a goal,” Klein said. “Our focus going into the game was to have a clean sheet.”