The ball sailed from the corner towards the center of the scrum, right to the waiting Janiece Joyner. The freshman defender leaped into the air to head the ball into the goal in the 22nd minute.
But the ball went wide of the net by mere inches, and the Michigan women’s soccer team’s chance at scoring was gone. The rest of the game proved barren for the Wolverines, as they lost to Wake Forest, 4-0, on Thursday.
“Disappointed in the result tonight,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Klein in a statement, the only comment provided after the loss. “Never a good feeling to lose but hopefully this game is a moment for us as a team to regroup, refocus and improve in our areas of weakness. This will make us better.”
For the first 26 minutes, the game appeared to be evenly matched. Neither the Wolverines nor the Demon Deacons were generating scoring chances — Michigan had no shots to Wake Forest’s one. But when the Demon Deacons scored their first goal, the floodgates opened.
In the 26th minute, fifth-year senior forward Taylor Timko defended Wake Forest’s Estelle Laurier in the top corner of the field, trying to prevent her from getting a shot on goal. Laurier was able to sneak past Timko and found her teammate — forward Ryanne Brown — for the finish into the net.
Fifty-five seconds later, the Demon Deacons scored again — this time, Laurier found twine from 10 yards out. The Wolverines regained possession and charged down the field but were caught offsides.
In total, Michigan was offsides seven times throughout the game — including five in the first half. It could have been a sign of an offense trying to gain some momentum and pushing just a bit too fast, but it could also be symptomatic of a young team trying to find footing in its first road game of the year.
The Wolverines’ starting 11 included four sophomores and a freshman — already a fairly young lineup. But Michigan’s youth showed further, as it substituted in a total of eight players. Four of the eight subs were freshmen and just one — redshirt junior Katie Foug — was an upperclassman.
The frequent substitutions by Klein show signs that the young team isn’t settled yet. The offense visibly lacked chemistry, with passes frequently missing the intended target. It took until late in the second half for the Wolverines to penetrate the Wake Forest defense and create real chances to score. By then, the Demon Deacons’ four-goal lead was insurmountable.
Given Michigan’s inexperience, it may take time for it to build chemistry and find its stride — just as it showed in Thursday’s loss.