The Michigan women's soccer team was penalized five times for offsides in its 3-0 loss to Northwestern. Ellie Vice/Daily. Buy this photo.

Coming off a 2-0 loss to Michigan State, the Michigan women’s soccer team faced another tough Big Ten matchup against No. 5 Northwestern on Thursday.

Although the Wolverines (6-7-3 overall, 1-5-2 Big Ten) started the game strong, the game ended in a manner reflecting their current home game record of 1-4-2, as they fell, 3-0, to the Wildcats (12-2-2, 6-1-1). The shutout on the scoreboard was a product of offensive chances thwarted by offside violations.

Michigan maintained possession for much of the first half, controlling the ball through short backfield passes. The Wolverines found chances through midfield runs, but their strong start stalled as these chances were often cut short by offside calls.

“I think we’ve led our league in the last couple years with offsides so we have to work on timing of our runs or timing of the pass but at least we’re up there and we’re threatening,” Michigan coach Jennifer Klein said. “At some point we’ve got to get that down a little bit.”

About 25 minutes into the half, the Wolverines’ offense earned a chance on goal and even found the back of the net, prompting a roar from the crowd. But the momentum shift quickly died down after the referee signaled offside. Even with an early, thwarted chance at a goal, Michigan continued to remain in control of possession by connecting on short passes through openings in Northwestern’s defense.

But the Wildcats didn’t allow this to go on for long. They started to take over possession as the half wore on, and the Wolverines still found themselves subject to offside violations when they regained possession. 

Northwestern earned back-to-back corner kicks to end the first half. Michigan’s defense headed the ball out of the box on a corner kick, but Wildcat Caterina Regazzoni took advantage of the resulting bounce to find the back of the net while the defense was scattered, bringing them to a 1-0 lead.

“It is unfortunate that in the last couple of minutes you give up a goal because it takes out a little bit of maybe the momentum we had,” Klein said. “But what I told the team is don’t let the minority impact the majority because I felt like we were really good the majority of the first half.”

The Wolverines started the second half with energy levels similar to the first half, attacking offensively and still finding chances on goal. That soon changed.

Northwestern began earning more chances through corner kicks, eventually capitalizing on another one about 15 minutes into the half. The Wildcats’ corner kick was sent in, headed to the middle, and then knocked through the Michigan defense by Aurea del Carmen, bringing Northwestern to a 2-0 lead.

The Wolverines weren’t able to keep up their offensive energy after this second goal, finding fewer chances than they had in the first half.

Following another offensive attempt by Michigan that was neutralized by an offside call, Wildcat Ella Hase found the back of the net with less than six minutes left to extend Northwestern’s lead to 3-0, a score that only reflected the difference in offside calls.

While Michigan stayed almost even with the Wildcats when it came to total shots, shots on target, and saves, the Wolverines distanced themselves from these similarities when it came to offside violations, picking up five calls to Northwestern’s one.

With three games left before the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan has to look within itself and decide what can be improved before the conclusion of the season.

“The light’s getting darker,” Klein said. “It’s starting to look harder and harder but we still have three chances and I think to give ourselves the best chance, honestly, we have to go out and have fun.”

But as offside violations rack up and chances continue to be missed, the postseason gets farther away for the Wolverines.