Entering the overtime period in Sunday’s matchup between the Michigan women’s soccer team (12-3-3 overall, 6-2-2 Big Ten) and Maryland (4-9-5, 0-7-3), it seemed as if the Wolverines had been cursed. In its final regular season game, Michigan nearly tripled the Terrapins’ shot total and quadrupled their shots on target. They dominated possession and created opportunity after opportunity in Maryland’s box. They even hit the goalpost on three separate occasions.
Despite controlling play, the Wolverines found themselves on the verge of losing both the game and their home field advantage in the upcoming Big Ten playoffs. But, these fears were soon quelled, as Michigan emerged victorious with a goal just thirty seconds into sudden death overtime, winning 2-1.
“I thought we played really really well today,” Michigan coach Jennifer Klein said. “It’s nice to get the result and get a goal for all of the opportunities and really nice soccer that we had.”
On paper, the game didn’t look like it would require overtime. The Terrapins entered Sunday’s matchup winless in conference play and in last place in the Big Ten. Yet despite their lackluster season record, Maryland started the game strong and put Michigan on the back foot early.
After about 10 minutes, however, the game began to ebb in the Wolverines favor. Michigan looked dominant offensively, forcing the Terrapins deep into their own half. The game’s scoring opened in the 30th minute when graduate defender Alia Martin played a ball to senior midfielder Raleigh Loughman in the right side of the box. Loughman took the ball, and casually approached Maryland goalkeeper Liz Brucia before chipping it over her head and into the left corner of the net for her second goal in two games.
“Raleigh’s a player that has a good work rate,” Klein said. “But she also organizes and has good sophistication. I think you’re starting to see those goals because of the places she’s getting into and the quality of her execution.”
After the goal, the Wolverines maintained their momentum, nearly adding to their lead in the 32nd minute when senior midfielder Meredeth Haakenson fired a shot from close range that rammed into the crossbar before bouncing harmlessly away. Just a minute later, another ball was crossed to Haakenson, who headed it directly towards the goal, where it once again hit the woodwork, this time bouncing off of the left post.
Michigan entered halftime up only one goal, though clearly the game’s aggressor. But Maryland didn’t give up easily and opened the second half with an early goal from forward Mikayla Dayes, tying the game at one all. The Wolverines bounced back and regained control of the contest, putting intense pressure on Maryland and creating several major opportunities.
In the 58th minute, sophomore forward Kacey Lawrence received a ball from Loughman and rocketed it off of the crossbar. In the 63rd minute, freshman midfielder Avery Kalitta collected a rebound with Brucia out of position and shot at a wide open net, but the Terrapins defenders stopped the ball on the goal line to keep the game tied.
The remainder of the second half played out with the Wolverines thoroughly in control and getting ever closer to putting the ball in the back of the net, but never quite being able to finish the job. Time after time, the Wolverines put themselves in excellent positions to score, only to be denied by either luck, miscommunications or brilliant last-second defensive play from the Terrapins.
“I think we did a really good job with our one touches throughout the box, but we also need to capitalize on just shooting it,” fifth-year midfielder Nicki Hernandez said.
Despite their dominance, Michigan was forced to enter a sudden death overtime period and face the possibility of losing its home field advantage in the conference tournament.
This fear lasted exactly thirty seconds, before Hernandez charged down the left sideline and fired a shot from distance that flew into the right corner of the net over a diving Brucia, ending the game and giving Hernandez her sixth goal of the season and her first goal in 10 games.
Ironically, the shot that won the game for the Wolverines wasn’t even intended to be on net.
“I was actually trying to cross it,” Hernandez said, “So it had a little bend into the goal, but it worked out.”
Much like Hernandez’s shot, the matchup didn’t go exactly as expected for Michigan. But worked out in the end, giving the Wolverines a boost heading into the postseason.