The last time the Michigan women’s soccer team won at Minnesota was in 2012. Entering Minneapolis, the Wolverines looked to improve upon their already stellar away record and capture an elusive first win in Big Ten play.
On Thursday night, Michigan did just that. The Wolverines (6-4-2 overall, 1-2-1 Big Ten) defeated the Golden Gophers (5-6-1, 1-3-0) 1-0, in a 65th minute goal.
Graduate midfielder Meredith Haakenson was born and raised in Maple Grove, Minnesota, only a 20 minute drive from the University of Minnesota. Thursday night was her first time back playing in her home state and she delivered, scoring Michigan’s only goal.
The Wolverines looked strong, controlling possession throughout the first half. Michigan’s domination of possession and stellar passing ability in the first half allowed it to have five shots on target. But the Wolverines were unable to put any in the back of the net.
Michigan coach Jen Klein talked about how, from the start, possession was imperative if her team was to break down the Golden Gopher defense.
“Positioning of players allowed us to have good support options, play players to a particular foot to create opportunities and break (Minnesota’s) lines of pressure,” Klein said.
Although the Wolverines held the majority of the time of possession, one main factor in Michigan’s lack of goal scoring success was Minnesota’s goalkeeper Megan Plaschko as she made five remarkable saves in the first half alone.
“A lot of credit to their goalkeeper she did a fantastic job the whole game,” Klein said. “She did a great job of keeping them in the game.”
Moving into the second half, Michigan stuck to its game plan of holding possession and making smart passes. Junior defender Sarah Bridenstine crossed the ball while being covered by two defenders for a slight redirect from Haakenson to put the Wolverines ahead. The continued pressure and opportunities allowed Michigan to score the deciding goal, sneaking it past Plaschko.
“What we told the team at halftime was to keep doing what we’re doing,” Klein said. “We’re generating opportunities and if we stay committed to it one will break for us.”
After the goal, the Golden Gophers displayed a sense of urgency to get an equalizer. Minnesota produced three corner kicks, but mustered only one shot on target. The discipline of the Michigan defense allowed it to contain the ball from entering the box on many occasions and force corner kicks or bad passes.
Klein credited much of the defensive success at the end to a collaborative effort from the backline and the rest of the team.
“We want to make sure we put a full team effort in when it comes to defending. Not only our backline but our entire team gave a great defensive performance as far as working hard and matching their energy,” Klein said. “Minnesota had a lot of good attacking personalities so we knew we were going to have to step up and be ready to battle to the end.”
Looking forward Michigan will have to continue its success from Minneapolis in terms of chance creation and disciplined defense if it wants to contend in the Big Ten.
“We need to make sure we show up and we work hard every single day. I don’t think there’s any easy game in our league so we first and foremost need to make sure we show up and work hard.”