With practice beginning just seven days ago, it would be understandable for any team to struggle in an exhibition match. But the Michigan women’s soccer team exceeded expectations Wednesday, starting the season on the right foot with a 3-1 exhibition victory over Ohio State.
“We looked fantastic,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “It was as good as I could’ve possibly hoped for. The main thing that caught my eye was just how much growth we’ve had in a year. Great team understanding; how to execute defensively; create lots of chances and attack. They put a pretty solid performance in and usually a week in you’re still fixing a lot of stuff.”
The Wolverines’ offense certainly looked rejuvenated after tapering off last season, to the tune of 19 shots on goal, almost half of which came from corner kicks.
Though the Wolverines faced a formidable backline, anchored by the Buckeyes’ Morgan Walcott and Kylie Knight, they had no problems in getting the ball past defenders, opting to keep the ball down to prevent height from becoming a factor.
Michigan’s back end, however, was a tough obstacle for Ohio State to handle, allowing just six shots on goal, highlighted by two saves from sophomore goalkeeper Megan Hinz.
“(Hinz) is incredibly focused in the goal,” said Ryan. “Her understanding and reading every game is outstanding. And her communication is among the best I’ve ever seen at any level, in terms of taking leadership at the back, and organizing the defense and just constantly communicating and keeping everybody on the same page.”
Ryan also opted for a number of substitutes — seven in all — three of whom were freshman Sura Yekka, Abby Kastroll and Reilly Martin. Yekka played at the back end, while Kastroll and Martin played up front. Kastroll attempted two shots, scoring one in the process, assisted by junior midfielder Madisson Lewis.
With Wednesday’s exhibition over, Ryan said that Michigan will look to sort out some problems with the offense before the season kicks off next week against Eastern Michigan. Efficiency, it must be noted, is a concern with this offense, as the Wolverines will have to learn and convert on more of the chances given if they’re to be the powerhouse they’re predicted to be. Earlier Wednesday, the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll had Michigan finishing second in Big Ten play behind Penn State.
“I’m actually very surprised by that (ranking),” said Ryan. “It shows that people recognize that we do have a lot of talent. I think that, based on where we’re at right now, we do have a really good team. Will we be No. 2, No. 1 or No. 6? That’s really just up to us to get the most out of our potential.”