Nicki Hernandez dribbled near midfield 20 minutes into the game. At the moment, there were no defenders between the junior midfielder and the goal. Nebraska goalkeeper Aubrei Corder saved her shot, but the breakaway provided the first hint of how the Michigan women’s soccer team would win the game.
Sophomore midfielder Meredith Haakenson scored on the ensuing corner, en route to a 4-1 Wolverine victory in a game that was characterized by the Cornhuskers’ high pressure leaving them exposed at the back.
The pressure from Nebraska caused problems for Michigan throughout the game, as the Wolverines tried to maintain possession of the ball in their own defensive third. They continually tried to pass out of the pressure from Nebraska, looking to play quick passes to their center midfielders to get the ball out of congested areas. But Michigan couldn’t always do so successfully, turning the ball over in dangerous areas and providing good opportunities for Nebraska’s attack.
“It’s an area that we need to continue to get better at and be comfortable possessing with pressure,” said Michigan coach Jennifer Klein. “I think we’re very capable of doing it.”
The Wolverines demonstrated that capability in a few key moments, leading them to breakaways similar to Hernandez’s. 14 minutes after her initial breakaway, Hernandez scored by getting behind the Nebraska backline again, while fifth-year senior defender Sura Yekka scored her first goal as a Wolverine on a breakaway of her own in the second half.
The relatively easy breakaway goals came from Michigan’s ability to break out of initial pressure from the Cornhuskers – once the first line of defenders was broken, the Wolverines always had a numbers advantage.
Even with these goals, the Wolverines want to increase the number of times they successfully escape pressure and decrease the number of dangerous turnovers. However, it is not easy to maintain the composure needed to find the right pass.
“The more we talk and communicate, the easier it is,” said sophomore defender Janiece Joyner. “That’s mostly what we try to focus on, to not panic in those situations, but embrace the challenge and work through it together.”