That’s what the Michigan women’s soccer team (10-3-3 overall, 4-2-2 Big Ten) felt on Sunday afternoon, as they found the unfavorable end of a late penalty kick, ultimately losing to Ohio State (8-7-1, 3-4-1), 2-1.
Though the physicality and momentum-changing officiating wasn’t yet visible early on, the tone of a close-score battle was firmly set as the teams split a combined 17 shots in the first half.
The backfield granted the Wolverines the 9-8 edge in that statistic, as junior defender Jayde Riviere alongside fifth-year midfielder Nicki Hernandez took many of those early chances. Making an immediate impact upon entering the game in the 27th minute, junior forward Lily Farkas gave Michigan its closest opportunity yet, forcing a corner that would end up rolling just a hair wide right off of junior forward Hannah Blake’s foot.
The effort actually in the backfield, however, ultimately claimed centerstage going into the half, containing early threats from the likes of Buckeyes midfielder Brittany Duncan and forward Kayla Fischer. On the select occasions they got through, fifth-year goalkeeper Hillary Beal was there for the save.
The Wolverines’ second half adjustments built on this defensive prowess and traded quantity for quality with their offensive chances.
The payoff came seven minutes into the half, when sophomore midfielder Kacey Lawrence forced a save out of bounds, and sophomore forward Sammi Woods received the corner kick and punched the ball into the back of the net.
“Going into the second half, we wanted to put them under a bit more pressure and take away their ability to find their high option early, and we just needed to be a bit more aggressive within our possession,” Klein said. “I thought in the second half we started to do that.”
In the back-and-forth contest, it didn’t take long until the Buckeyes evened the score. After saving a point-blank shot from forward Kailyn Dudokovich, Beall couldn’t corral the rebound from forward Chloe Delyser.
At 1-1, Michigan seemed to assume control on both ends, with shots from Hernandez and Blake and a strong defensive performance from senior defender Sydney Shepard.
But it was all overshadowed by the rising physicality down the stretch and the responses it generated. Both teams committed eight second half fouls by the 72nd minute with Hernandez receiving a yellow card and Ohio State coach Lori Walker-Hock audibly calling for more.
In the final minutes of the game, her wish was granted on an unusual note – and with next to game-ending consequences. Midfielder Sarah Bridenstine was issued a yellow card for fouling Dudokovich, awarding the Buckeyes a penalty kick after a long review to the immediate protest of the Wolverine bench.
“I never really got an explanation, I kept asking for it,” Klein said. “Apparently, we fouled her before she literally took our player out cleat studs up. They never really gave me much clarification on it, but apparently, in their opinion, our player fouled their player.”
On the penalty kick came the game-winner, as Dudokovich’s lower-right attempt got past Beal to give Ohio State the 2-1 lead. Michigan fought hard to even the score, but freshman midfielder Avery Kalitta’s attempt that flew over the net was all that time allowed.
“I think that they gave it everything that they had,” Klein said. “I disagree with the penalty and disagree with some of the calls that were made. Unfortunately, that’s our game, but I think it shifted momentum and made the game difficult for us – we were playing against two teams.”
This game marks the final road trip of Michigan’s regular season, and there is no doubt that the emotions that still sting from a hard-fought Sunday afternoon can make for a more focused home stretch.
“All of the feelings that we have from this game: the disappointment, the frustration, the anger. … It is unfortunate, but we can use this feeling we have to finish strong in the regular season so we can have good momentum going into postseason,” Klein said.