Drum-banging, soccer-crazed students decked out in maize and blue attire and chanting relentlessly is what Michigan soccer games have become known for.
The support of the Michigan Ultras in the student section, as well as fans, friends and family, has led senior defender Christina Murillo to fall in love with playing at “one of the best stadiums out there,” and apparently the rest of the Wolverines have as well. Michigan has outscored opponents a combined 24-6 at home this season, only losing a single game.
The Wolverines haven’t lost at U-M Soccer Stadium since Aug. 23. They are now 4-0 in the Big Ten at home, and in these games they’ve combined to outshoot their opponents 91-25.
When the Wolverines (5-1-1 Big Ten, 10-4-1 overall) took on Illinois in Ann Arbor on Sunday, they showed once again the same energy and determination they’ve showed all year on home turf. With a 3-1 defeat of the Fighting Illini (2-3-3, 8-3-3), Michigan notched its seventh consecutive home win.
Coming off a big home win against No. 22 Northwestern on Thursday, Michigan was looking to carry some momentum into the game against Illinois. But an unlucky bounce off of a defender into the net left the Wolverines trailing at home for the first time in Big Ten play.
But that didn’t stop them. Michigan coach Greg Ryan pointed to the energy the players showed Sunday as the reason for the come-from-behind win, which has been consistent at every home game thus far.
“The energy the team puts in here is really special,” Ryan said. “Today, Illinois just wasn’t able to cope with that amount of energy. I felt like that was the difference in the game.”
Not only does the crowd energize the players, but the players returned the favor with their determination. After the early Fighting Illini goal and many missed opportunities for the Wolverines, the crowd turned silent. But redshirt sophomore forward Ani Sarkisian got the home fans back into the game. Dribbling the ball past several defenders, Sarkisian moved the ball to the top of the box and ripped it home to tie the game at 1.
That extra determination Sarkisian showed on the first goal was what allowed her to capitalize on two more opportunities, scoring the first hat trick of her career.
“We kept our possession up like usual today,” Sarkisian said. “We just finished more.”
Coach Ryan was especially impressed with Sarkisian’s effort.
“Today, it was just that determination to go to goal,” he said. “She just kept going, pushing it by player after player.”
The defense, midfielders and forwards all worked together on Sunday, constantly putting shots on goal, playing physical defense and making few mental mistakes. Murillo would like this kind of home effort to continue, as only one more home game remains for her and other seniors who will be graduating after the season.
“Especially for us seniors, playing at home is always a great atmosphere,” Murillo said.