Despite striking first, the No. 24 Michigan women’s soccer team’s second loss came in the same manner as its first when the Wolverines failed to take advantage of opportunities in the box.
After taking an early lead in the fifth minute, Michigan’s (3-2 overall) lack of finishing and communication caused an offensive collapse against unranked Iowa State (1-2-1), 3-2.
With the mass exodus of graduating players, the Wolverines have been left to reconfigure the roster.
“One of the best things about our team is that we look to develop everybody to be a leader,” Michigan coach Jen Klein said. “Everyone has a voice, and everyone has the ability to impact and influence what we’re doing.”
But the starting lineup was mutilated further with two of their remaining leaders out with injury, senior defender Jayde Riviere and senior midfielder Hannah Blake.
The resulting starting XI for Michigan was far from a well-oiled machine. Adapting to a new formation, a lack of communication and poor finishing prevented the Wolverines from running smoothly.
In spite of later struggles, junior forward Kacey Lawrence started the game strong for Michigan. She scored an early goal in the fifth minute, in a ruckus at the top of the box after a cross from senior forward Lily Farkas.
But quickly, the Wolverines were caught on their heels. Cyclones midfielder Emma Mira countered just three minutes later, slicing through the defense to tie the game. Fifth-year goalkeeper Izzy Nino — who hasn’t seen significant game action since 2018 — struggled to fill the void left by departed goalie Hillary Beal.
Iowa State kept the pressure on to score again in the 12th minute and amass a quick 2-1 lead.
Both teams were productive earlier on, but those three goals encompassed all the action in the half despite the best efforts of Farkas and freshman forward Kali Burrell.
Burrell and Farkas sent ball after ball into the box, but no one was there to receive it. Crosses repeatedly resulted in shots just inches wide of the post as they continued to sprint up the lines. Burrell broke away towards the end of the half with a crossover around the Cyclones defenders, but once again the Wolverines’ offense failed to capitalize in the final third.
Burrell kept trying to bring life to Michigan’s forwards, but the finishing woes continued.
“She is one of those freshmen that’s really stepping up this year,” Lawrence said. “She has a lot of confidence, and she motivates other players.”
The Wolverines caught a break in the 65th minute when senior forward Dani Wolfe was fouled outside their opponents’ box. Freshman midfielder Jenna Lang lined up for the free kick and curved it into the top left bucket to equalize the game at two.
Hope returned to the stands at the thought of a Michigan rally. It wouldn’t last long though.
A miscommunication in Nino’s box allowed the deciding goal to score in the 81st minute. The goal sent Nino into a fit of rage while she tried to get her defenders on the same page.
Michigan chased an equalizer with nine minutes to go. Its three shots in the final minutes proved to be unfruitful as the clock wound down.
“A loss stings, especially at home seeing the other team celebrate,” Lawrence said. “That’s really a lesson we need to take.”
The Wolverines had plenty of chances to score throughout the game, but they lacked consistent attack.
“We need to be more consistent in our discipline in (the) details,” Klein said. “I think we have very, very good shiny moments and then we have some moments that we’re just not dialed in.”
Michigan has suffered a quick fall from grace after its initial No. 9 ranking. The Wolverines need to start clicking offensively to bury the ball in the back of the net or the losses will keep stinging.