Strong freshman performances could not save Michigan against Iowa State. Selena Sun/Daily. Buy this photo.

Coming into the season, the No. 24 Michigan women’s soccer team had big shoes to fill. 

Losing six seniors — all of whom saw consistent game time — left gaps all over the field. On top of that, the Wolverines entered Thursday’s match against Iowa State missing two starters and senior leaders to injuries, defender Jayde Riviere and forward Hannah Blake.

Those gaps showed in Michigan’s 3-2 loss to the Cyclones. The Wolverines never quite found a consistent rhythm, exhibiting flashes of talent and poise but frequently falling out of sync. The inexperience of a team still getting acclimated to each other was apparent throughout the match.

“As a team, we’re still forming and figuring out roles and responsibilities,” Michigan coach Jen Klein said. “I think there was a little bit of some confusion in there, but we just have to find ways to make it work and unfortunately we didn’t.”

That dependable team connection usually comes with time, especially in the case of a younger unit rebuilding from the loss of numerous leaders. While Michigan still has its work cut out, the freshmen have stepped up and shown that they can help fill some gaps.

“(The freshmen have) been awesome,” Klein said. “Going into our offseason and what we lost, we knew that we were going to need the freshmen to be big contributing members to the team, and I think that they’re doing a great job.”

Freshman defender Aniyah League started in Thursday’s game, and three other freshmen — forward Kali Burrell, midfielder Vickie Jones and midfielder Jenna Lang — saw the field as substitutes. 

Trailing 2-1 towards the end of the first half, Burrell entered the game and provided an almost immediate spark for the Wolverines, generating multiple scoring opportunities.

Burrell returned as a second half starter and continued to drive Michigan’s offense in tandem with senior forward Lily Farkas. Burrell consistently played a part in the Wolverines’ chances on goal, whether that stemmed from a shot, steal, cross or off-ball movement. She ended the game with four shots while also providing a fresh, dynamic energy in a game where Michigan often fell flat.

In addition to Burrell, Lang demonstrated her impact on the field against the Cyclones. She tied the game for the Wolverines with 25 minutes left in the second half, scoring off a setpiece right outside the 18-yard box for her first career goal.

“If you look at the setpiece goal that Jenna Lang scored, that’s awesome,” Klein said. “You look at what Aniyah League is doing, what Kali Burrell is doing, what Vickie Jones is doing, and even the ones that maybe aren’t on the field, what they’re bringing every single day — the level, the intensity, their training habits.”

Although the freshmen proved their worth against Iowa State, Michigan needs more cohesion from the entire lineup.

If the Wolverines want to find consistent success, the team will need players of all ages to fill gaps together.