The Michigan women’s soccer team fell, 2-1, to rival Michigan State in a game defined by missed scoring chances.
The Wolverines (2-4-3 Big Ten, 5-5-6 overall) can’t seem to beat their rivals, falling short to Michigan State (2-7-0 Big Ten, 6-10-0 overall) after a loss to No. 17 Ohio State last week. Going into the matchup, it seemed like Michigan would have blown out the Spartans. The game, originally postponed for weather conditions, was a shock for both sides.
The Wolverines started off strong offensively, dominating possession of the ball and notching four shots within the first four minutes. Junior forward Reilly Martin was the first to convert on a pass from freshman midfielder Nikki Hernandez, soaring past Michigan State defenders and scoring a 10-yard goal inside the box just over five minutes into the game.
“I think our chemistry together has really developed over the season,” Martin said. “It’s really great having a freshman who can step up and just take part in such a big role.”
The Spartans were quick to tie the game at though. Roughly three minutes after Martin’s goal midfielder Lexy Warner, tapped in a rebound inside the box.
“We had a number of situations where the ball’s falling and it seems like Michigan State is a step closer than us,” Martin said. “The one goal they scored in the first half, the ball was knocked in the box, dropped down and their player put it in. That was the difference.”
The match remained tied, 1-1, for the remainder of the half, as the Wolverines struggled to convert their shots to goals. The period ended with the Wolverines totaling 15 shots and one save compared to the Spartans four shots and five saves.
“Well you know, unfortunately for us today we hit a lot of shots high, a lot of shots wide. We just didn’t hit the target well,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “Certainly not often enough with all the chances we had.”
At the start of the second half, Martin continued to implement the Wolverines’ strategy, which, according to her was to, “put high pressure on them for 90 minutes.”
Though she was unsuccessful in giving Michigan a lead, Martin’s skill and talent didn’t go unnoticed.
“Reilly was the best player for either team today, she showed for the ball, she got a ton of balls,” Ryan said. “She was dangerous every time she touched the ball, she dribbled by multiple Michigan State players, she took a lot of chances and scored a goal. It’s great to see Reilly rising to the occasion, she’s our most consistent scoring threat.”
Eventually, the Spartans found a scoring threat of their own. As the rain started to pour down with just over 58 minutes remaining, Warner set up the assist to break the tie. This allowed for forward Kristelle Yewah to head the ball into the goal, making the score 2-1. The Wolverine attack continued pressuring though, letting eight more shots fly in the remainder of the half. Overall, the Wolverines outshot the Spartans, 32-10, but lacked accuracy in shots on goal, often shooting high and wide.
“I think we needed to do a better job of creating higher percentage shots, so instead of shooting from outside the box, working a little bit harder to create chances inside the penalty box, which are higher percentage scoring chances,” Ryan said. “It’s something we’re going to work on every week and you know your hope your execution is good.”
Added Martin: “Unfortunately things didn’t fall our way, I think we outshot them by a lot on the attack and the field was not ideal, but that’s not an excuse we should have definitely put more goals away.”