With the help of redshirt sophomore forward Ani Sarkisian’s first career hat trick, the Michigan women’s soccer team walked away with its second victory of the week. After beating No. 22 Northwestern on Thursday, the Wolverines came out Sunday afternoon with a valiant defensive effort once again, beating the Fighting Illini, 3-1.
Michigan started off the game with high levels of energy and stout defense. From the start, the Wolverines (5-1-1 Big Ten, 10-4-1 overall) put pressure on Illinois and never let up. Within the first 17 minutes of the opening half, Michigan put up seven shots, while the Fighting Illini got off only one shot.
“We put them under a lot of pressure and then they had a hard time getting in any kind of a rhythm,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan.
Though the Wolverines were in control for the entire game, they suffered a setback in the 17th minute when they gave up an own goal, putting Illinois up 1-0 early. The Fighting Illini (2-3-3, 8-3-3) seemed to pick up some momentum. However, it was stopped in the 20th minute when Sarkisian maneuvered through the Illinois defense and kicked a hard line drive in the top right side of the net for Michigan’s first goal of the game, Sarkisian’s fourth of the season.
“That first goal … she just kept going, kept pushing it by player after player,” Ryan said. “She was huge for us today.”
The Wolverines continued their dominance for the rest of the match, holding the Fighting Illini’s offense to a minimum. In the final 10 minutes of the half, Michigan put up five shots and outshot Illinois, 9-2, in the first half. Though the Wolverines were in control, they still needed to find a way to put the ball in the net.
After halftime, Michigan continued playing with the same energy and determination it showed consistently throughout the first half. At about the 51st minute, the Wolverines went on a full-out attack, with aggressive play from Sarkisian and junior forward Nicky Waldeck. However, they still were unable to get any results.
The results started appearing in the 65th minute, when Sarkisian scored her second goal of the day, knocking the ball off her chest and into the net with an assist from sophomore forward Taylor Timko. Sarkisian scored again three minutes later when she received a pass from freshman forward Reilly Martin and buried it, earning a hat trick.
“We were able to break apart their defense really well,” Sarkisian said. “They weren’t really sticking with our runs … and they weren’t able to stop us.”
Michigan remained in control of the game until the end, allowing the Fighting Illini just two shots in the final 20 minutes of play. The only sign of a comeback came with a corner kick with eight minutes remaining, but the Wolverines’ defense proved too much for Illinois. Michigan held the Fighting Illini to five shots in the second half, maintaining the same dominance it showed in the first.
“What (Ryan) has been telling us at halftime is, we can’t just sit back and hope that we’re gonna score,” said senior defender Christina Murillo. “We want to keep going at them for the full 90 minutes.”