In its final matchup before the Big Ten Tournament, the Michigan women’s soccer team lost to No. 10 Penn State, 3-1.
The Wolverines (6-3-3 Big Ten, 11-6-2 overall) struggled on offense for most of the night, and several critical breakdowns on defense allowed the Nittany Lions (8-2-1, 13-3-2) to score three goals in a two-and-a-half minute span near the end of the first half.
“They were a better team tonight,” said Michigan senior midfielder Corinne Harris. “We can learn from their performance.”
Michigan started off the game controlling possession. The Wolverines’ first scoring chance came when Harris was able to twist past a Penn State defender and quickly unleash a shot, but it was too high.
Despite the early advantage in possession, Michigan was unable to generate many other scoring opportunities. The wet field may have also contributed to the offensive struggles, as players fell down multiple times and many passes were unsuccessful.
“Those are moments in games where we need to step up,” Harris said.
Added Michigan coach Greg Ryan: “We played really well for the first part of the game and created some good goal-scoring chances in the first 20 minutes.”
As the first half progressed, the Nittany Lions began to take control on offense and almost scored 29 minutes into the game. Penn State forward Mallory Weber took a header off a free kick, and sophomore goalkeeper Megan Hinz was not able to corral the ball. Luckily for Michigan, Hinz fell on the rebound and saved a goal.
But Penn State scored just three minutes later.
A Michigan defender turned the ball over, and the Nittany Lions took advantage. Forward Raquel Rodriguez received the ball from a teammate and scored off a shot from the left side.
It was only the beginning of a scoring onslaught.
A minute later, the Wolverines turned the ball over once again on their side of the field, and Penn State forward Megan Schafer slid the ball past Hinz, making Michigan pay for another mistake.
Penn State wasn’t done, netting its third goal a minute later, when midfielder Nickolette Driesse scored from 30 yards out to beat Hinz.
When the onslaught ended in the 35th minute, the Nittany Lions had three goals in two and a half minutes. With that, a game that had been deadlocked at zero turned into a blowout.
“We’ve just got to defend better,” Ryan said. “We gave away three very unpressured goals.”
Despite the large deficit, Michigan didn’t go out without a fight.
In the 87th minute, the Wolverines got on the scoreboard when senior midfielder Cassie Collins hammered home a rebound opportunity.
But it was only one goal, and the Wolverines know they will have to make adjustments heading into postseason play.
“We have to get back to how we have been defending,” Ryan said. “We’re not going to win games with the way we played in the back today.”