A loss in the season finale is always disappointing.
To make matters worse, Wednesday afternoon was a must-win game for the Michigan women’s soccer team in order to advance to the Big Ten Tournament.
The Wolverines (3-4-4 Big Ten, 6-5-7 overall), however, couldn’t get the result they needed, falling to Rutgers (5-2-3, 11-2-4), in Piscataway with a final score of 1-0.
Because of the loss, Michigan’s season ended earlier than expected.
With a goal late in the first half by Scarlet Knights forward Alaysia Lane, Rutgers got out to a lead it would never relinquish. The Wolverines ended the first half scoreless with just three shot attempts.
Still, Michigan had a fighting chance the entire contest. With a victory last Saturday against Illinois, the Wolverines were hard-pressed for another win to keep their season alive.
“(Rutgers) is a very good defending team,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “…They don’t score a lot of goals, but they have a fantastic goalkeeper. She’s one of the U.S. National goalkeepers.”
Michigan had various attempts to score during the second half. With eight minutes left, freshman midfielder Sarah Stratigakis’ final attempt to tie the match was deflected by Rutgers goalkeeper Casey Murphy.
“In the second half, we created two or three great chances to score goals, but we didn’t capitalize on them,” Ryan said. “When you get those huge chances, and if you don’t take advantage of it, you’re not going get anymore because (Rutgers) is so solid defensively.”
Looking ahead to next year, Michigan’s main goal is to stay healthy, as this year’s team was riddled with injuries. Junior forward and leading scorer Reilly Martin — who ranks 10th in the conference and averages 1.06 goals per game — could only play the first half of the Rutgers match because of an undisclosed injury. Junior forward Taylor Timko had to leave the match early, as well, because of an injured knee.
“We just had one of those years,” Ryan said. “We had multiple key players out of our lineup for most of the fall season.… The last time we were healthy was early September. We had between 5-7 starters out (throughout the season).”
However, a glimmer of hope appeared through all the misfortunes. Because of the lack of seasoned players, the Wolverines were able to work with younger players and help them gain more experience.
“I think (the underclassmen) are going to be great next year,” Ryan said. “We trained a lot of our young players because they got a lot of time to play that they wouldn’t have gotten if all the veteran players were healthy.”
Despite a disappointing finish to the season, with that silver lining, Michigan will eagerly await the start of the next.