Women's soccer jumps ahead early, holds off Michigan State

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Junior midfielder Christina Murillo put Michigan ahead with a 10th-minute goal. Buy this photo

By Jake Lourim, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 3, 2013

EAST LANSING — Fifteen years. It had been 15 years since the Michigan women’s soccer team won in East Lansing, since it sung “The Victors” on the Spartans’ field.

That changed Thursday afternoon as the Wolverines snapped the streak, winning 2-1.

After not scoring in its last two games, Michigan got on the board in the 10th minute with a goal by junior midfielder Christina Murillo.

Michigan coach Greg Ryan has talked for most of the season about starting fast, and the Wolverines did just that.

“When you’re not hitting the net, and you go through another half where you don’t score a goal, you’re like, ‘Oh, not again,’ ” Ryan said. “Again, it’s two players who scored besides (senior forward) Nkem (Ezurike), and that’s huge, because Nkem’s going to get on track, but our main theme has been the rest of you have got to be determined to score goals.”

The 21st-ranked Wolverines (2-1-1 Big Ten, 8-2-1 overall) came in needing a win after a 0-1-1 weekend. Michigan came out firing early on, putting its first shot on goal in the fifth minute before getting on the board.

Murillo lofted a high free kick into the box, and Michigan State goalie Courtney Clem backed into the net and watched it sail over her head for the Wolverines’ third-earliest goal of the season.

“I was just glad that finally, after a lot of time, I was the person to score,” Murillo said. “I wish I could say that it was intended as a shot, but honestly I was just trying to chip it to somebody. The wind carried it.”

Five minutes later, Murillo passed another free kick into the box, and senior defender Holly Hein deflected it off a defender. Senior midfielder Meghan Toohey then grabbed the redirect and hammered it inside the right post.

In 15 minutes, the Wolverines had scored more than they did all of last weekend.

“In our last few games, we haven’t really gotten a lot of scoring opportunities,” Murillo said. “Coming into this game, we wanted to get as many chances, and I think you see that in the stats.”

Michigan came out in an attack-minded 4-3-3 formation, as opposed to its usual 4-1-4-1.

“We had a couple more players up there supporting Nkem, which I think is always helpful for her,” Hein said. “She’s awesome on her own, and she must have spun 30 players on her own today. We were just able to get a lot of movement off the ball.”

The Spartans (1-3-0, 7-3-2) cut the deficit to one in the 74th minute. Forward Alyson Krause served a long free kick into the box to defender Mary-Kathryn Fiebernitz, who ran onto the ball and headed it inside the far post.

Ryan was pleased with the overall defensive effort, but he was not happy Michigan let Michigan State back into the game.

“For us to give up that set-piece goal and bring them back to within one goal on a day like today where we dominated this game, there were some mental mistakes by our players,” Ryan said. “This is a team that wants to do big things. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes and do big things. It’s going to beat you. Maybe it didn’t beat you today, but it’s going to beat you. … That’s unacceptable.”

The Spartans never truly threatened to tie it up. The successful set piece was the only shot on goal they managed despite nine shots.

“We were beating them constantly,” Murillo said. “But we just lose our focus on certain plays, and I think as the season goes on we’re going to see less of those errors.”

The Wolverines couldn’t score on any of their 31 of their shots against Wisconsin and Minnesota but improved Thursday. They missed on a couple other opportunities in the second half. Freshman forward Madisson Lewis and senior midfielder Tori McCombs each mishandled crosses into the box that could have put the game out of reach.

Ryan said his team will continue to work on finishing opportunities as it heads into two showdowns against ranked teams. The Wolverines play at No. 23 Nebraska on Sunday.

“We’ve got to keep working on our finishing,” Ryan said. “Those scrappy goals will win you games, and we’ve got to keep scrapping.”