Following a disappointing loss against Penn State in its last outing, the Michigan women’s soccer team was determined to get back into the win column.
On Thursday night, the Wolverines (5-2-2 Big Ten, 5-2-2 overall) did exactly that, controlling the ball and riding an early goal from senior midfielder Nicki Hernandez to down Illinois (5-4-1 Big Ten, 5-4-1 overall), 2-0.
“We really took a big focus on areas that we needed to improve and we felt like our defensive organization and presence within the game was an area that we got exposed and we wanted to improve on,” Michigan coach Jennifer Klein said. “So that was a big focus this week in practice and I thought our team did a good job of making that a big focus of today. Good defense led to some good opportunities with us in the attack.”
Not only did the defense lead into the attack, but it became a vital part of it when junior midfielder Skylar Anderson made a long run up the side of the field from the right-back position to receive the ball in the box, scoring Michigan’s second goal in the 79th minute of the game. It’s rare to find a scoring opportunity as a defensive player, but Anderson did so with ease.
“I was really excited … I don’t obviously score a lot, but it’s great when the ball can go in the back of the net,” Anderson said.
The game also marked the Wolverines’ first game back at U-M Soccer Stadium after beginning the year playing in Brighton, Mich. After just one game, the team already feels back at home.
“This is an unbelievable stadium, a great place to play,” Klein said. “And actually it kind of felt like the season because you had games, but now that you finally get an opportunity to play at your home stadium … it’s just phenomenal to be home.”
Along with Hernandez’s goal from the first half, Anderson’s goal, a quiet, rolling shot to the bottom right corner of the net, secured the Wolverines’ and defended their long-standing win streak against Illinois in Ann Arbor.
“I think it was a hard game and we had a lot of stuff to improve on,” Anderson said, agreeing with her coach. “We had a couple of injuries so a lot of people had to play that don’t normally play, but we came out with a win and I’m really proud of everybody.”