The No. 18 Michigan women’s soccer team found itself in a place it has been three times this season: tied at the end of regulation. The Wolverines (7-1-2 overall, 1-0-1 Big Ten) battled Wisconsin (7-1-3, 2-0-1) for 90 minutes, but staunch defense and limited offensive opportunities on both sides forced the game to overtime.
After a lackluster first 90 minutes, the two overtime periods offered both teams a chance to gain momentum and muster out a win. But the defensive stalemate continued, forcing the game to a scoreless tie.
Although Michigan has plenty of overtime experience, it could not channel that into a win, settling for one point in a highly contested Big Ten.
“Our league is really really difficult,” Michigan coach Jennifer Klein said. “Every team is going to be tough. Every game is going to be a battle and they’re going to push you to the very, very end. … I think overall it’s just we’re getting a point on the board today which is really key for us within the league.”
Michigan entered the game averaging over 23 shots per game, fifth best in the country. However, throughout the game, the Wolverines found themselves searching for shots on goal. Senior midfielder Meredith Haakenson took the first shot for Michigan 16 minutes into the game. The Wolverines only forced the Badgers to make one save throughout the game and never produced any real offensive pressure.
Despite junior defender Jayde Riviere’s breakaway speed and superior ball handling, she never created enough separation to deliver a good shot. This was emblematic of the rest of the team’s struggles to get good chances in front of the goal. The Wolverines had 13 shots and only one on goal, a far cry from their usual average. This was the second game this season Michigan has failed to score, despite notching a clean sheet for the fifth time.
Given the sparing shots on both sides, neither team gained any real momentum throughout the game. The Wolverines controlled the ball in the midfield and in their offensive third for the majority of the game, but Wisconsin’s defense thwarted any offensive attacks.
“Wisconsin’s a gritty team,” fifth-year goalkeeper Hillary Beall said. “They’ve always been a gritty team. I think that they just bring that extra step when we play them. Their energy is pretty good.”
Michigan’s defense was a key part of why the Badgers never scored. Wisconsin also managed only one shot on goal, with 10 shots in total. The ball was cleared out of the Badgers’ offensive third quickly and efficiently throughout the game.
“I think our centerbacks did a phenomenal job of stepping up and really getting in there with grit,” Beall said. “(Graduate defender) Alia Martin and (senior defender) Sydney Shepherd played high top. I’m so grateful to have them back there.”
The Wolverines relied on their depth, consistently rotating players in. The team returned all of its starters from last season, enabling it to jell quickly and get off to a good start thus far. This helped the team withstand the 110 minutes of gritty soccer.
“Something that we’ve been preaching to our team is that we are a team very fortunate with depth,” Klein said. “…We were able to keep going, put players on, try to rotate. I think it allowed us to keep the momentum and push, just unfortunate that we didn’t get a goal today.”
Michigan’s depth was tested in the first overtime period when Riviere took a hard hit to the head. Wisconsin midfielder Emma Jaskaniec received a yellow card for the hit and Riviere did not return to the game.
“Jayde is a player who is always going to bring something special when she’s on the field,” Klein said. “Whether it’s just her tactical ability or her ability within, speed and everything like that. When you lose that player it definitely takes something away, but I am still really proud of the players that we put on.”
The most exciting action came during the second overtime period when the Badgers took three consecutive corner kicks. Each time, the Wolverines stacked the box and cleared the ball out successfully.
Down their best player and having already played 100-plus minutes, Michigan looked to have ceded the momentum. Still, the Wolverines held their ground and didn’t allow a goal despite three close calls. They took a possibly game-changing set of plays to force the momentum back to their side.
With the offense sputtering, Michigan’s defense played a pivotal role, allowing the Wolverines to muster out a point.
“We’re in the hunt for a Big Ten Championship,” Beall said. “We didn’t drop a game, we obviously got a point out of it. Definitely defensively killing it the past few games. Defending, we’re just doing great and I think if we can get on the board we’re going to be really great.”