This time last year, the Michigan women’s soccer team faced San Diego and came out of the game lost after a 5-0 bludgeoning in California. The Wolverines, frustrated and disappointed by their lack of a performance that night, still hold that game in their minds, like a ghost continuously reminding them of what happened.
“I’m getting therapy once a week for what they did to us last year,” said Michigan head coach Greg Ryan.
Jokes aside, these insights show Ryan’s, and the Wolverines’, desire to redo and fix whatever had gone wrong and prove their mettle. The only therapy that would help remedy the effects of that loss was to let it all out against San Diego.
“Last year, we couldn’t (match San Diego’s physicality),” Ryan said. “When we played this team, their physical nature just dominated us.”
The doctor came and prescribed a match against San Diego. This time, Michigan would play at home, and this time, there would be more grit and determination.
“We’re really big on just organized, tough defending,” said junior forward Nicky Waldeck. “That’s supposed to be our M.O. Losing, 5-0, to any team, doesn’t sit right with us.”
The Wolverines did not stop and give into San Diego’s physical nature, not after attempting 13 shots in the first half and 12 more in the second. The Toreros applied constant on-ball pressure, and used double teams often.
The Wolverines continued to keep the intensity up, even after all the saves by the Toreros’ goalkeeper, Michelle Craft (seven in all).
Michigan didn’t stop until scoreboard read final: Michigan 2, San Diego 1.
“We definitely had a chip on our shoulder for a while,” Waldeck said. “It felt good to go out there and fight against them.”
Added Ryan: “Tonight, I thought from the first whistle that we were a step quicker. I wasn’t concerned (about our physicality) because we had met that physical thing the whole match and, honestly, I don’t think (San Diego) really got an edge on that with us.
“I got behind them because they wanted to erase the memory. … And the kids stepped on the field so confident.”
The victory is saved, overwriting the past defeat, and with that the season can move onward to next game against Detroit. Ryan, jubilant as ever after a victory, delivered words about his team reminiscent of a motivational speech.
“Believe in yourself, because if you believe in yourself, you can do this,” he said.
If that’s what it feels like to conquer a ghost that’s troubled him since last year, he’ll take that feeling any day against any team.