Michigan knocks off Illinois, 2-1, in hard-fought win

James Coller/Daily
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By Isaiah Zeavin-Moss, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 26, 2014

As freshman forward Taylor Timko was setting up to take a free kick, the future of the Michigan women’s soccer team’s season was on the line.

With the game tied, the Wolverines couldn’t afford going a fourth straight game without a win.

Timko delivered a perfect ball into the attacking area, where freshman forward Nicky Waldeck was there to head it toward the net. Waldeck’s shot was saved, but sophomore midfielder Jessica Heifetz was there to finish the job with a winning goal. And just like that, Michigan was ahead of Illinois, 2-1 — a lead it never relinquished.

With the win, the Wolverines clinched third place in the Big Ten regular-season standings and boosted their NCAA Tournament résumé.

It was a competitive game for all 90 minutes, but it was the Fighting Illini (5-6-1 Big Ten, 10-7-1 overall) who dominated the opening portion of the match after scoring a quick goal.

But the Wolverines were equally as quick to respond. Less than two minutes later, freshman Ani Sarkisian served a corner kick to Timko, who knocked the ball past the Illinois goalkeeper.

The pace and possession of the match were even until Heifetz’s goal in the 60th minute. For the final minutes of the game, Illinois peppered Michigan’s defense, but the Wolverines held strong. Although the Illini outshot Michigan, they did not have any chances behind the Wolverines’ stingy defense. All of their shots were taken under pressure.

The end of the game was a big test for the Michigan defense, one it passed with flying colors.

Heifetz was impressed by her team’s strength in the final minutes.

“Late in the season, when everyone’s really tired – it just comes down to who is going to work the hardest,” Heifetz said. “We outworked them.”

Michigan coach Greg Ryan was equally as excited by his team’s gritty effort.

“We just keep fighting the same way every day,” Ryan said. “Finding ways to win – that’s what good teams do.”

With just one game to go before the Big Ten Tournament, Ryan took the chance to reflect on his team’s season as a whole and just how far they have come.

“We should have never been this good this year,” Ryan said. “I haven’t seen anything like it, where you change eight starters and you just put a lot of young kids out there on the field and they end up with this kind of a season. It’s phenomenal. I’m overjoyed.”

It’s wins like this one – tough, gritty and hard-fought – that define a team, and Michigan looks primed for a postseason run.