In the 86th minute of the Michigan women’s soccer team’s match against Notre Dame, junior midfielder Sarah Stratigakis received a strong cross from the wing and fired a header on goal. The shot was the Wolverines’ best and final chance to go ahead, but Fighting Irish goalkeeper Mattie Interian denied it with a diving stop.

Seconds later, Michigan’s fortunes shifted drastically. Instead of celebrating a dramatic, game-winning goal, the Wolverines found themselves chasing Notre Dame forward Kiki Van Zanten as she charged through the Michigan back line and buried a header on a flawless cross. Instead of walking away with a solid non-conference win, the Wolverines left the field with a 1-0 loss.

For Michigan (3-1-0), the defeat was marked by an inability to convert offensively. The Wolverines only managed seven shot attempts to Notre Dame’s 13, despite roughly even possession time. 

“I think we just need to shoot,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Klein. “I think it looks like we’re looking for this magic opportunity, and I think you just gotta swing it and get the ball in the frame and see what happens.”

From the start, the Wolverines struggled to find any rhythm offensively, failing to register a shot until the 20th minute, when a weak Stratigakis header bounced safely into Interian’s mitts. The first half featured conservative, possession-oriented soccer from both sides, characterized by short passes and a strong emphasis on defense. 

Still, turnovers in the midfield created some opportunities for Michigan, including its best first-half scoring opportunity. In the 25th minute, a Fighting Irish turnover in their own end led to a scoring chance at the top of the box for sophomore midfielder Raleigh Loughman. The shot was strong, but fired straight into Interian’s arms, and the game remained scoreless going into halftime. 

“Once the game settled, we started to gain some momentum,” Klein said. “We went into halftime with a really good fire and creating some really good opportunities.”

The second half featured much of the same, with both teams continuing to emphasize sound defense over explosive offense. Early on, a defensive lapse from the Wolverines left Notre Dame midfielder Luisa Delgado open at the top of the box, but her shot sailed just over the woodwork, keeping the game level at zero. 

Michigan used its superior speed in the second half to get behind the Fighting Irish defense on runs, but misplaced and overshot passes prevented it from capitalizing on these opportunities. For the latter part of the second half, the Wolverines appeared to be in control, with Stratigakis, junior forward Emma Cooper and fifth-year senior defender Sura Yekka all tallying shots in the final ten minutes.

But in the end, Van Zanten’s 86th minute score proved to be too much for the Michigan to overcome, and the Wolverines’ inability to find the back of the net became their downfall.

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