Freshmen again lead Michigan to first-half surge, rout of Oakland

For The Daily
Published August 25, 2013

Michigan’s freshman soccer players signed autographs after the game Sunday. And they did plenty during the game to earn the hype.

Three freshmen scored for No. 19 Michigan in the first half as the Wolverines rolled to a 6-1 rout of Oakland.

Michigan (2-0) suffered another slow start in the first 20 minutes, but the Wolverines exploded when coach Greg Ryan substituted in sophomore Corinne Harris and freshmen Madisson Lewis and Nicky Waldeck, all forwards.

“I think us coming off the bench and (Oakland’s starters) already being worn down makes it a lot easier for us,” Lewis said.

Michigan started in a 4-1-4-1 formation with senior Nkem Ezurike up top but struggled to push forward. The three extra forwards pushed the 4-1-4-1 into a 4-3-3 or 4-2-4 in the final third.

Lewis and Waldeck said the starters had worn down Oakland’s starters, so they were able to come in with fresh legs.

“If you have a team with depth as much as we have with fresh legs, they just can’t keep up,” Waldeck said. “Especially with their back line, we just had the speed.”

With four goals in the final 19 minutes, the move paid dividends. The first goal came when Lewis dribbled along the end line and whipped a pass to Waldeck inside the box. Waldeck now has the game-winning goal in both Michigan victories.

“We were really on the same page with a lot of the forwards today,” Waldeck said. “I think it just goes to show that we need to take more chances, because they’re going in.”

The two freshmen traded places when Waldeck fed Lewis in the box for her first career goal. Next, Michigan generated another quick passing sequence, from Lewis to Harris to freshman Anna Soccorsi for her first goal.

The extra forwards allowed Michigan to get inside gaps in the Oakland defense.

“We pushed our midfield up, and that made them stretch,” Lewis said. “We were able to get in behind them into the spaces out wide, and they weren’t ready for it. We would just cross it in and have a goal.”

Inside the two-minute mark before halftime, Harris assisted sophomore Cassie Collins on a strike from outside the box. At halftime, underclassmen had all four Michigan goals and five assists.

The Michigan offense continues to be paced by freshmen complementing Ezurike.

“A lot of freshmen come in, and they’re not ready to take on the mantle of, ‘I’m going to be the one to do it.’ This group has no problems with that,” Ryan said. “It helps complement our veteran players. I’m really excited about what they’re bringing to the team.

“They’re being aggressive because they’re very confident.”

Michigan began the second half with the same personnel. Within two minutes, it scored again, this time on a long through ball from Waldeck to Ezurike for the finish.

Despite Michigan’s plus-eight goal differential, Ryan said the Wolverines have to start faster. They took 32 minutes to score third first goal Sunday and scored their first goal in the 61st minute in the opener.

“If we start as slowly as we did in these last couple games against a good team in the Big Ten, or even Eastern Michigan, eventually, we’re going to get punished for it,” Ryan said. “In soccer, you go down one or two goals, the other team packs the defense, and you have a chance to lose a game you should never lose.”

Michigan freshman goalie Taylor Bucklin made her first two saves of the season. She nearly mishandled a dribble early on, but recovered well, later locking down a pair of short-range free-kick attempts. Sophomore Maddie Clarfield replaced Bucklin with 21 minutes left.

Michigan faces another in-state opponent, Eastern Michigan, on Friday. The schedule then tightens up with two perennial NCAA Tournament teams, No. 11 San Diego State and Pepperdine.