In the Michigan women’s soccer team’s last match, it allowed its first goal in 39 seconds to rival Michigan State. In Thursday’s match against Maryland, though, the defense led the way, making it difficult for the Terrapins to score.
The Wolverines (3-1 Big Ten, 8-4 overall) put last week’s loss behind them, shutting out Maryland (0-4, 5-7) to win, 1-0, in College Park.
Michigan coach Greg Ryan said the Terrapin attack might be better than that of the Spartans. He knew the performance against Michigan State was not indicative of his team’s ability. With a relentless offensive attack and a defense that might as well have been a stone wall, the Wolverines outplayed Maryland throughout the game.
Michigan came close to scoring in the 10th minute of the game on its third corner kick. Senior midfielder Christina Murillo crossed it to the right side of the six-yard box, and after two deflections, junior forward Madisson Lewis had a chance to put the ball into the net at the left post. But her header sailed harmlessly over the goal.
Lewis had another shot on goal in the 17th minute off of a counterattack. After the Wolverines cut through the defense with an advantage, Lewis blasted a shot, but it was saved by Maryland goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands.
“In the first half, we just continually attacked,” Ryan said. “The attack pressure we created was fantastic. We controlled the game because we had the ball more than they did.”
Finally, the Wolverines’ attack paid off in the 35th minute. A cross outside the 18-yard box deflected off of a Terrapin defender, and freshman midfielder Abby Kastroll was in the right place at the most opportune time. Kastroll ended up with the ball at her feet and nobody but the goalkeeper in front of her, and she easily scored from six yards out, giving Michigan a 1-0 lead.
“(Kastroll) just dominated Maryland’s players when she was attacking throughout the game,” Ryan said. “Defensively, she was outstanding as well.”
Despite a couple of Maryland scoring opportunities, the Wolverines’ lead was intact at halftime, and with seven corner kick opportunities to boot. For comparison, before Thursday’s match, Michigan averaged 8.5 corner kicks per game.
The Wolverines continued to make the most of their chances after a Terrapins mistake. Two minutes into the second half, Waldeck passed to redshirt sophomore forward Ani Sarkisian, but Sarkisian shot wide left with only the goalkeeper to beat. Murillo whipped in another corner three minutes later, leading once again to two headers, with the last one just missing the frame. The flight of the cross was more of a line drive compared to the more aerial lobs Murillo used in the first half.
Maryland had limited opportunities for the equalizer due to Michigan’s stifling defense, which switched to a five-player back line in the second half. The Terrapins had a corner kick with 12 minutes left in the game, but the service hit the outside of the net. The Wolverine defense continued to be nearly impenetrable for the rest of the contest, as it earned its fifth shutout of the season.
“(Compared to the match against Michigan State), our focus, our concentration and the energy we brought to the game (were) what was really different,” Ryan said.
While the defense played virtually mistake-free ball, the offense had many opportunities to score, but failed to capitalize numerous times. Still, the sign of a more aggressive offense is promising as Michigan gets deeper into Big Ten conference play.
“I told them after the game, ‘You guys have found yourselves again,’ ” Ryan said. “ ‘(How you played tonight) is what you have to bring into every game.’ ”