Fifteen minutes into extra time, senior midfielder Meredith Haakenson collected the ball at the top of the box. After surveying the field, Haakenson slipped it past the defense to the foot of junior forward Dani Wolfe. Wolfe dribbled to the end line before finding sophomore forward Sammi Woods, who sent a shot just past the goalkeeper’s outstretched arm, into the back of the net.
Woods’s goal completed the 21st-ranked Wolverines’ (1-0-0 Big Ten, 7-1-1 overall) comeback 2-1 victory over Illinois (0-1, 4-4) on Friday. Despite trailing for nearly 80 minutes of the game and needing two extra time periods, Michigan’s strong defense and slew of offensive chances eventually propelled it to the win.
The defense got off to an unpromising start, however, when an early foul by senior defender Janiece Joyner in the box led to a penalty kick for the Illini. Fifth-year goalkeeper Hillary Beall made the save, but the ball bounced off her hands onto the foot of Illinois attacker Makena Silber, who gave the Illini a lead just two minutes into the game.
Despite senior defender Sydney Shepherd — who had started every game to this point — being unavailable, and Joyner going down with an injury in the 15th minute, Michigan’s defense tightened up after the early goal. Senior back Alia Martin and junior midfielder Emily Leyson held the unit together as their replacements.
“This is where you are very thankful that you have some depth,” Michigan coach Jennifer Klein said. “Typically (Leyson) plays in the midfield, but we slid her back there … She did a great job.”
But while Michigan’s defense rebounded, its offense stalled. Despite holding the ball in the offensive end for most of the half, strong defense in the box from Illinois prevented quality chances, limiting the Wolverines to six first half shots and maintaining the Illini’s one goal lead into the break.
The Wolverines came out of halftime energized, doubling their shot total within the first 10 minutes of the half. Still, many of the chances were not high quality with shots constantly being taken from the top of the box and sailing way over the top of the net. Though it outshot Illinois 20-2 throughout the half, it would take until the 80th minute for Michigan to even the score, when the Wolverines earned a corner kick.
As the ball flew in, Illinois goalkeeper Naomi Jackson made an aggressive move, attempting to punch the ball out of the box. Instead, it hit off her hand, right to the head of senior midfielder Raleigh Loughman. Loughman hit it up to Haakenson, who headed it into the back of the net, knotting the game at one.
“I got to give credit to Raleigh,” Haakenson said. “It was a great ball … I didn’t really have to do much. She’s a senior, and I’m a senior … On senior night it was a present for all of us.”
Though Michigan earned a few more chances throughout the rest of regulation, nothing resulted. The first 15 minutes of extra time carried on similarly, with the Wolverines creating chances but not capitalizing.
Finally, in the 105th minute, Woods put the ball into the bottom left corner of the net, completing the comeback win.
“Overtime is always a lot of high emotions,” Woods said. “Being the team that gets that golden goal is always a surreal feeling, but being the one to actually get that goal is even better.”