Just forty seconds into Sunday’s game at U-M Soccer Stadium, the ball already found the back of the net.
After starting strong with an early goal, the Michigan women’s soccer team (5-5-1 Big Ten, 9-8-1 overall) beat Michigan State (0-8-2, 5-9-3), 2-0, ending the team’s regular season with a win on Senior Night.
The Wolverines took their early lead off a pass from sophomore midfielder Sarah Stratigakis to sophomore midfielder Nicki Hernandez in the penalty box. Hernandez hit a low shot to the bottom right corner of the net, relieving pressure on Michigan from the start as fans were still adjusting blankets, just settling in to pay attention to the game.
“Getting one early was our mission today,” Stratigakis said. “Our energy was up and I think overall we were playing really well together and as a team.”
The Wolverines kept up the momentum throughout the first half, winning balls out of the air and controlling possession with multiple chances in the Spartans’ box. Toward the end of the half, though, Michigan State increased pressure on Michigan’s back line, with one shot hitting the crossbar and almost tying the game. But the Wolverines held the shutout with key saves by sophomore goalkeeper Hillary Beall.
“We realized they had some momentum, but we just got together and talked about what we needed to do as a team, and we continued to high press them and just be more greedy out there,” Stratigakis said. “Once our talent came out, we just outmatched them.”
With a 1-0 lead going into the second half, Michigan started converting its possession into chances more readily, with shots on goal from Stratigakis, senior forward Reilly Martin, freshman midfielder Meredith Haakenson and redshirt junior midfielder Katie Foug.
In the 73rd minute, sophomore forward Emma Cooper finally made it 2-0 when a corner kick by Foug was tapped by Stratigakis to Cooper who shot from the right side of the box.
After the goal, the Wolverines kept up their speed of play and continued to generate chances in the final minutes, including a through ball to Foug resulting in an open net. But the score remained 2-0 by the end of the game despite Michigan’s opportunities in the penalty box.
The win, with a finish as strong as its start, earned the Wolverines a place in the Big Ten tournament beginning Oct. 28. Michigan will secure either a seven or eight seed depending on the outcome of Michigan State’s game at Nebraska on Wednesday.
“At this point, it’s just about showing up and doing what we’ve been working on every day in training and what we’ve learned in every game,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Klein. “It was a great performance by the team, and I’m very happy with them.”