Following an afternoon of melancholy closure, the Michigan women’s soccer team’s seniors fell to their knees as the clock hit zeros.
An adequate defensive effort and late inspiration on offense were overshadowed by another showcase in finishing failure for the Wolverine Sunday, who lost to move to 2-6-2 in Big Ten play with the 1-0 loss to Indiana. The team finished on a 1-4 skid, and all losses were shutouts.
In a disappointing season for the reigning Big Ten tournament champions, Michigan’s stagnant offense was a problem throughout. The 1-0 loss came against a struggling Indiana team who picked up just their third win on the season’s final day. Ending in shutout style felt like a fitting end to a season full of finishing woes. The Wolverines – that entered the season with Big Ten championship aspirations – could not seem to find the goal.
“We would love to create a few more opportunities and better looks in front of the goal,” Michigan coach Jennifer Klein said.
With some inexperienced players and a general lack of communication, those opportunities on goal were a rarity for Michigan on Sunday. Even when the Wolverines did come across opportunities they failed to convert the opportunities into points on the scoreboard.
“In moments we just didn’t get the breaks that we needed,” Klein said.
The lack of breaks on Sunday encapsulated a wider season-long offensive struggle. While the defense has kept the team in games, 14 of the Wolverines’ 18 matches ended with fewer than two goals scored. In eight of those, Michigan failed to tally a single goal and the team’s record bore the price of that inability to score.
In some situations the offense has gotten good looks, and simply could not find the net. Senior forward Hannah Blake had an opportunity in the 29th minute and senior forward Lily Farkas had another in the 81st, both clean looks inside the goalie box, and both blocked by Indiana’s Bethany Kopel.
While Klein deflected when asked about the offensive play, heading into next year, the Wolverines hope to bounce back – much like they did a season ago after the COVID year in 2020.
“I can’t help but see some parallels to the 2020 year and how we came back even better in 2021,” Klein said. “I’m hoping that in this year, in ’22, this hardship that we face will make us better and we will find the good in it, and be all the more prepared, ready to go for 2023.”
Looking forward on the issues of communication and experience, Michigan will try to reload with a new recruiting class.
“When it comes to a soccer standpoint, or specifically when it comes to some personnel that we need to go find in the recruiting, we’ll have time to look into that,” Klein said.
Perhaps that recruiting will translate into young talent that will be able to finish around the goalie box. After this season’s offensive struggles, Klein remained positive about the growth that young players experienced.
“We got a lot of really young players opportunity on the field the whole season and that’s a positive,” Klein said. “Any time you can give experience to your younger players it’s only gonna make them better.”
While this might be a silver lining, if the Wolverines want to find success next year, they must find a way to solve the issues at hand – finishing offensive possessions and scoring goals.
And games like Sunday’s must become an anomaly.