Sunday’s result – just like the young season for the Michigan women’s soccer team – was better than expected.
With four players listed as “doubtful” earlier this week and their leading scorer sidelined, the Wolverines (3-1-3) weren’t expected to be competitive against No. 17 Wake Forest and its prolific attack.
But as depleted as the team was, Michigan drew the Demon Deacons in a scoreless, double-overtime match at U-M Soccer Stadium.
“We were beat up going into this game,” said coach Greg Ryan. “I’m just proud of how the kids stayed in this match considering we were as shorthanded as we were all year long.”
In what Ryan called the “toughest” non-conference schedule the program has ever faced, the Wolverines lost only once.
For much of the match, the Wolverines looked like they were treading water – Wake Forest dominated the shot total and possession for the first 65 minutes of play.
Then the Michigan offense began to swim.
“We just clicked,” Ryan said. “When we started to do that, we got forward and started creating some really good chances.”
The Wolverines’ string of scoring chances began in the 66th minute with the foot of fifth-year senior forward Ani Sarkisian, who blasted a clean shot from the right flank — only to see a diving save keep her off the scoreboard.
Just 10 minutes later, sophomore midfielder Brooke Cilley blasted a shot off the cross bar, and junior forward Reilly Martin was inches away from converting a wide-angled shot from the left side.
In the final 35 minutes of regulation, Michigan attempted five shots – their best offensive stretch since the opening minutes of last week’s 2-1 loss to South Carolina – thanks to those solid chances off corners and free kicks.
“Our set plays again have been a strength for us all year long,” Ryan said. “I thought we were dangerous every time we had a restart.”
But that offensive pressure didn’t come without lapses on the defensive end.
In the 84th minute, Wake Forest forward Claudia Day clipped the post from six yards away and sent another shot just wide in regulation time’s closing moments.
That momentum would continue into the first overtime for the Demon Deacons, when a long crossing attempt met the head of forward Ryanne Brown – an attempt for the bottom corner of the net that slid just outside the post.
Wake Forest controlled both overtime periods with a 4-1 shot advantage, but senior goalkeeper Sarah Jackson nullified numerous chances by aggressively coming off the goal line and knocking away crossing attempts.
Jackson played the second half and both overtime periods after freshman Hillary Beall started the match. Ryan said the halftime switch was planned, as Jackson, Beall and senior Megan Hinz have all split time in goal this season.
“I thought Sarah (Jackson) did a great job behind the back line,” Ryan said. “She had to deal with more dangerous chances in the second half, so it’s great to have her because she kept us in the game several times. It was a great day for both goalkeepers.”
Sunday marks the third-consecutive game the Wolverines were held out of the win column. But it did prove Michigan can compete with the country’s best – even short-handed.
“It’s another great result for us,” Ryan said. “I feel really good about non-conference results, and how it’s prepared us for the Big Ten.”