In the 89th minute of its Sunday afternoon game, a 0-0 tie looked inevitable for the Michigan’s women’s soccer team.
After dominating Iowa (0-2 Big Ten, 6-3 overall) in all aspects of the game, a failure to convert on scoring chances appeared to have doomed the Wolverines in a game that should have gone in the win column.
But with a minute remaining, senior defender Christina Murillo launched a cross from the left side of the box to the back post. It was a routine play that Michigan had tried countless times in the previous 89 minutes, never successfully.
This time, senior forward Lulu Haidar got her head on the ball, sending it just over the Iowa goalkeeper’s hands. It gave Michigan the lead and, a minute later, the win. The victory sealed a weekend sweep for the Wolverines after they defeated Nebraska 2-0 on Friday.
“We need to finish our chances earlier in the game,” said sophomore forward Taylor Timko. “We should have had finished earlier. But we stayed composed, kept playing and thank God for Lulu.”
For the previous 89 minutes, Michigan (2-0, 7-3) controlled the play, racking up 27 shots and 12 corner kicks. By contrast, Iowa attempted just three shots and one corner.
But as much as they controlled the ball, the Wolverines had a hard time finding the back of the net.
In the 52nd minute, Timko sprung loose in the Iowa box, beating her defender down the left side. Her shot flew just wide of the near post. Of Michigan’s seven shots on goal, four were straight at the Iowa goalkeeper’s chest.
In the 87th minute, sophomore forward Ani Sarkisian sent a hard shot from the top of the box just over the right corner of the goal.
“I’m disappointed in the way we took our chances,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “We won’t win much in the Big Ten without scoring. We’re lucky we finally found one.”
Set pieces were no different for the Wolverines, who failed to score on a corner or free kick all weekend, despite the high number of chances. Michigan tried a variety of different plays on corner kicks, but none provided any change in result.
“We’ll do a lot of work on finishing (in practice),” Ryan said. “We created the opportunities, and when we’re getting the kicks and headers, they’ve gotta go in.”
In Friday night’s game against Nebraska (0-1, 4-3), the Wolverines once again controlled possession, winning the shots battle 24-8 and attempting 12 corners to the Cornhuskers’ two.
Unlike Sunday, they found the back of the net early. It took just six minutes to score, as Timko got behind the Nebraska defense, received a pass from Murillo on the left side of the goal and placed a shot to the far side of the net for the early lead.
One minute later, Michigan struck again. Murillo cleared the ball from the Michigan half, and a fortuitous bounce off a Nebraska defender put the ball on Sarkisian’s foot directly in front of the goal. She knocked it under the goalkeeper, and suddenly the Wolverines were up, 2-0.
The score held for the rest of the game, as Michigan let off the gas offensively and stifled the Cornhuskers. Strong team defense kept the ball in the Nebraska half, and when the Cornhuskers did get their chances, freshman goalie Sarah Jackson was up to the task.
“I thought our whole team defending was fantastic,” said Ryan. “We’re rock solid in the defending category and had some outstanding plays on that side.”
Despite the issues with putting the ball in the net, the Wolverines escaped with a weekend sweep and dominated in all other aspects of play.