It was a day of relief for the Michigan women’s soccer team.
After a 4-0-1 start to their 2017 campaign, the Wolverines (1-1 Big Ten, 4-2-3 overall) had been winless in their previous four games and had been shutout in their last two games coming into Sunday’s matchup with Indiana. But over the span of 3:27 in the first half against the Hoosiers (1-1, 5-4-1), Michigan’s offensive luck changed dramatically, and it was able to hang on for a 2-1 win.
It started with forward Reilly Martin. The junior’s season exemplifies the type of frustration the Wolverines have faced — she leads the team in shots but, before Sunday, hadn’t scored a goal. She led the team in shots once again Sunday and finally converted on those opportunities.
In the 22nd minute, Martin received a pass from redshirt sophomore midfielder Katie Foug. Martin flicked the ball in the air, spun around the Indiana defender and poked it into the back of the net.
“(It was) definitely good to finally break the ice on scoring,” Martin said. “We’ve had some unlucky games and just couldn’t finish them, but I think we finally got back on track.”
The Wolverines’ offensive fortunes continued to trend upward moments later. In the 25th minute, redshirt senior midfielder Ani Sarkisian sent a through ball into the box, and just before the Indiana goalkeeper could get to it, freshman midfielder Nicki Hernandez touched it over her and deposited it into the open net.
It was Hernandez’s first career goal, but her own relief extended beyond even that. Hernandez has had lingering health issues that have held her out of action. According to her, it was actually her time on the shelf that gave her the ability to maintain composure on her goal.
“When I was out and injured with the concussion and the ankle, I was always practicing on my touches and things like that, situations like that,” Hernandez said. “So when the actual situation happened, I was able to be calm.”
But Michigan wasn’t out of the woods yet. The Hoosiers pulled within a goal thanks to a header from Chandra Davidson off a corner kick in the 40th minute, and they pressed the Wolverine defense near the end of the game.
At one point, Indiana appeared to have tied the game, but the goal was negated by a handball.
In the end, Michigan staved off the Hoosiers, and for the first time in 21 days, coach Greg Ryan and his team celebrated.
“We needed to win a game in the Big Ten, right?” Ryan said. “We thought we were better than Purdue, but we didn’t come away with a win. So today, it was just critical to get the result. I was very happy with the way we played.”
The Wolverines will continue Big Ten play next weekend when they travel to Minnesota and Wisconsin. And with a good feeling for the first time in a few games, they believe Sunday was simply a sign of things to come.
“It’s great finally having a win, especially at home and being away next weekend,” Martin said. “I think just having that confidence on us to know that we’re going to do well this Big Ten season with a win on our back moving forward, it’s really going to give us a boost of confidence.”