Wolverines emphasize defense against Wake Forest

Sunday, September 10, 2017 - 7:14pm

Michigan coach Greg Ryan was impressed with the unit given that it had only one returning starter.

Michigan coach Greg Ryan was impressed with the unit given that it had only one returning starter. Buy this photo
Zoey Holmstrom/Daily


The Michigan women’s soccer team fended off No. 17 Wake Forest in a scoreless double-overtime game despite a potent offensive attack by the Demon Deacons. 

The Wolverines (3-1-3) returned home, where they had won three straight shutouts. Just as it had in the previous matches, Michigan placed emphasis on defense and goalkeeping as they fought to repel the Wake Forest offense.

Despite starting a relatively new back line, the Wolverines played defense quickly and concisely. Wake Forest looked for any chance to break through, shooting nine shots, four of which were shots on goal. Every one-on-one scoring opportunity the Demon Deacons had was met with a swift clearance or block that helped relieve pressure on the goalkeeper.

“This is a young defense – most of them weren’t here last year,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “(Redshirt junior forward) Taylor (Timko) was out with an injury, (freshman midfielder) Sarah (Stratigakis) was gone with Canada. (Sophomore midfielder) Brooke Cilley was out for most of the fall and didn’t play in the back. The only returning defender is (sophomore defender) Jada (Dayne). They have really come together as a back four and the goalkeeping behind them has been outstanding.”

Freshman goalkeeper Hillary Beall made her second start, starting over senior Sarah Jackson, who played the second half. Recording four saves, Beall stopped the Demon Deacons from capitalizing on mistakes the defense made.

At the start of the second half, Wake Forest came out aggressively. It forced two fouls and three shots in the first 15 minutes, looking to control the offensive momentum as they had the first half. Despite being unable to slow the Demon Deacon offense, Michigan avoided being scored on, while pressuring the opposing forwards to shoot high above the post.

In an effort to stop Wake Forest’s attackers, the Wolverines had their midfield fall back to assist the defense. In addition, Michigan added a veteran presence in senior midfielder Rubina Veerakone to control the center of the field, which Wake Forest had previously dominated.

The individual efforts by the defenders alongside strong play by the midfield allowed the Wolverines to shift the momentum, creating much needed scoring opportunities.

“(Freshman midfielder) Alia Martin … I thought she did a great job of dealing with their leading goal scorer and just keeping her as quiet as possible because she’s been scoring against everybody,” Ryan said. “This is stuff we work on all the time, and they really executed.”

With momentum, Michigan went on the attack, which led to a few unsuccessful scoring attempts. After recovering momentum with two substitutions, Wake Forest retaliated, beating the defense to get six shots in the final nine minutes of the game.

Despite the relentless attack, Michigan’s defense handled the situation in a calm yet gritty manner, closing out on forwards after being beat and attempting to clear loose balls.

While the Deamon Deacons managed 11 shots in the second half and overtime, just two were on goal, showing the effort the Wolverine defense had put in to prevent any Demon Deacon opportunity from becoming a legitimate scoring threat.

The two shots on goal, however, would have been goals had it not been for Jackson. Despite not starting over Beall, Jackson had a great game, making a key save in the final minutes.

“So far all three goalkeepers have just been outstanding, including Megan Hinz,” Ryan said. “We’ll always see who looks the sharpest, but right now they all look sharp. You can pick any one and they’re gonna do well.”