Fifth-year midfielder Sarah Stratigakis took a breath in and exhaled, her shoulders relaxing back.
She took her run up to the penalty spot and struck the ball hard, but telegraphed it toward the center of the goal. Trojan goalkeeper Anna Smith knocked it down and gobbled up the ensuing rebound.
The moment epitomized the 24th-ranked Wolverines’ (5-1 overall) 1-0 overtime loss to Southern California (3-2 overall). Time after time Michigan created opportunities that it squandered, backing up strong midfield and defensive play with poor decisions and bad shots by its attackers.
“Good stuff out of the back, good build-up play, but just the final third we’ve got to finish those opportunities,” senior midfielder Meredith Haakenson said.
It was apparent from the impetus of the first half. Senior forward Sammi Woods received the ball in the box before taking a shot landed directly in the chest of Smith.
Again, a beautiful build up yielded no result when Haakenson sent a through ball to fifth-year senior midfielder Nicki Hernandez. The teammates worked a give-and-go that landed Hernandez well behind the Trojans’ back line. Hernandez had an open shot on goal, but the ball was sent halfway into orbit as it sailed over the net.
Michigan coach Jennifer Klein began to make substitutions in an attempt to remedy the Wolverines’ stagnant play. They were not successful.
The subs continued the possession domination the starters had, but also continued the inability to finish. Despite that, Klein stood by her decisions.
“I don’t know right off the top of my head if there’s something I’d go back and change,” Klein said. “I think we did a good job of utilizing players (and) I thought the players that came off the bench gave great minutes.”
After halftime, Michigan saw no changes to the score despite controlling the game. It was a testament to the lackluster offensive performance, but also the team’s strong defensive showing.
“I think one of the things that we’re mainly focusing on was our defense and just getting better at defense,” Haakenson said. “We saw that all on the field today. Just the team defending that we put out there it was really good.”
When the clock struck zero and the second half came to an end, it remained scoreless. That changed quickly. A corner kick three minutes into the sudden-death overtime swept across the front of the net and found Southern California’s Aaliyah Farmer who buried the ball with a header — the golden goal and the only one converted for either team.
Exiting the field with chins low, the Wolverines had outshot the Trojans 20-12 and tallied six more shots on goal.
But on one of its four total shots on goal, Southern California was the one to convert, heading back west with the win.