With nothing but open field in front of her, junior forward Dani Wolfe looked to capitalize on the Michigan women’s soccer team’s early momentum to go up 1-0. But Purdue got lucky for the first and only time all game, and Wolfe’s shot hit the left post. The miss could have turned the momentum the other way, but the Wolverines immediately responded and never looked back.
Moments later, senior midfielder Meredith Haakenson found herself one-on-one with the Boilermakers’ goalkeeper, shooting and scoring a chip shot in the top left corner. Haakenson’s goal, assisted by fifth-year midfielders Sarah Stratigakis and Nicki Hernandez, opened up the onslaught of scoring in No. 13 Michigan’s (13-3-3 overall, 6-2-2 Big Ten) Big Ten Tournament semifinal win over No. 19 Purdue (14-3-2, 8-2-0). For the second time in three years, the Wolverines are in the Big Ten Championship, where they will face Rutgers.
With four different players scoring a goal each, Michigan won 4-1, controlling possession throughout the game against the higher seeded Boilermakers.
“It feels really good,” fifth-year goalkeeper Hillary Beall said. “It’s something that we’ve been working with for all year, definitely. I know it’s been a while since we’ve done it, so I think it’s just about time to put this program on the map and win the Big Ten Title.”
After a few missed opportunities early, including Wolfe’s and one where Hernandez had the ball in front of the net with the Purdue goalkeeper out of the goal, Haakenson’s goal in 27th minute turned the tides.
The goal scoring was complemented well by Beall’s shot-stopping abilities. Swinging the momentum their way after the first Michigan goal, the Boilermakers had three straightforward chances to level the game right in front of the net. Thanks to a diving save by Beall and an impressive defensive effort, Michigan staved off Purdue’s only meaningful offensive attack.
Beall’s diving save was arguably the play of the game, keeping the Wolverines ahead and stalling the Boilermakers’ momentum. The goalkeeper finished the day with five saves on six shots, allowing one goal in garbage time.
“I was up for the task,” Beall said. “Just being able to help my team and keep them in it was the best I can do.”
The Wolverines consistently outpaced Purdue. Towards the end of the first half, junior forward Lily Farkas took the ball all the way down the middle of the field and passed it to junior forward Hannah Blake. With one tap, Blake scored the second goal of the day. Once again, this goal came at an opportune time as the Boilermakers had all the momentum.
With two of its four goals in the match coming from bench players, Michigan’s depth proved crucial.
“Anytime you have the depth that we have, you have an opportunity to maintain a high level and a high intensity,” Michigan coach Jennifer Klein said. “When they get on the field and you know that they’re gonna be good and be impactful. I think they showed that today.”
The Wolverines outshot Purdue 17-7 in the first half. A lot of this was thanks to Michigan’s speed, especially that of junior defender Jayde Riviere. Riviere consistently outran her defenders and was integral to getting the ball in the offensive third in open space.
The second half picked right up where the first ended. Wolfe converted a penalty kick ten minutes into the half after the Boilermakers committed a hand ball foul inside the box. Wolfe’s goal put the game away once and for all.
Hernandez put the cherry on top with a goal assisted by senior midfielder Raleigh Loughman. The goal was Hernandez’s second of the tournament, matching her two assists. Hernandez’s presence was visible all over the field throughout the game.
Purdue finally got on the scoreboard after forward Callie Ingram scored a goal off the rebound from a shot that hit the post. The game was closer than the lopsided final score indicates, with the Boilermakers controlling the ball and pace for large chunks of the game.
“We wanted to prove that we were a better team,” Beall said. “I think we were just ready for it. We wanted it more than them tonight.”