Following victories over Wake Forest (16-6) and No. 6 Tennessee (20-3), the No. 9 Michigan women’s soccer team (17-3-3 overall, 6-2-2 Big Ten) has punched its ticket to its first Elite Eight since 2013. With the weekend’s victories, the Wolverines now stand at an eight-game win streak and have outscored their opponents 20-3 during that stretch.
“We’re on a really fun stretch right now,” Michigan coach Jennifer Klein said. “If we can keep the focus and stay consistent, we’re in a really good spot.”
From kickoff, the Demon Deacons’ attackers put pressure on Michigan’s back line. While Michigan forced pressure of its own in the 15th minute, the day’s scoring started on a mistake, as a shot by senior midfielder Meredith Haakenson was poorly headed by Wake Forest defender Zara Chavoshi, resulting in an own goal.
The rest of the first half saw a couple just-misses for both sides; Michigan had several of its pushes end prematurely with offside calls, while the Demon Deacons forced the only save of the half from senior goalkeeper Hillary Beall in the 42nd minute.
In the second half of action, Wake Forest’s frustration became more and more evident. The most decisive foul of the game came in the 65th minute, when a tackle inside the box by Chavoshi gave Michigan a penalty shot. With relative ease, Haakenson tricked goalkeeper Kaitlyn Parks, tapping the ball into the left corner of the net as Parks dove to the right side.
After the penalty shot, the Demon Deacons played desperate for a goal, firing everything they could at the Michigan net. Following a hit crossbar and three saves by Beall, however, they came away empty handed.
“Wake really tested me tonight,” Beall said. “I was ready for it, though.”
On paper, Sunday’s game was presumed to be a tight one for the Wolverines. Not only was Tennessee ranked higher in the latest Coaches’ Poll, it had also shut out every out-of-conference opponent it faced this season, including both of its NCAA Tournament opponents.
On the pitch, however, Michigan showed why it had earned the higher seed, as it blanked the Volunteers, 3-0, to advance to the Elite Eight.
The Wolverines controlled the match from the start, giving Tennessee only a single minute of possession before pouncing and going on the offensive. After a string of shots by the Wolverines, fifth-year midfielder Sarah Stratigakis finally put one in the back of the net in the 15th minute.
Ten minutes later, Haakenson capitalized on a corner shot to put Michigan up two goals before Tennessee had even forced a save from Beall.
Though the match had largely been put away entering the second half, the Wolverines continued to pursue one last goal to cement the victory. Ultimately sophomore forward Sammi Woods found the dagger after juking out goalkeeper Lindsey Romig inside the box and passing into an empty net.
As the final buzzer rang, the Michigan bench was quick to flood the field, celebrating a standout performance and the opportunity to play in the quarterfinals.
“Everyone on the field or off the bench is bringing something right now,” Stratigakis said. “We’re very confident in our play.”
Daily sports writer David Woelkers can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @dawjr98