Michigan overcomes slow start, caps perfect homestand

Allison Farrand/Daily
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By Jake Lourim, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 12, 2013

Michigan started slowly again Thursday, going into halftime tied at zero with Detroit. But the Wolverines keep winning, making the finish all that matters.

Senior defender Shelina Zadorsky scored her first goal of the season to lead No. 11 Michigan to a 2-0 home win.

The Wolverines are now 6-0 on the season, the best start in program history. They also capped a perfect season-opening homestand heading into their first road game Sunday at Butler.

Before Zadorsky’s go-ahead goal, Michigan struggled to generate scoring opportunities early, as coach Greg Ryan noted earlier this season. It took until the 34th minute for freshman forward Nicky Waldeck to record the Wolverines’ first shot on goal.

Michigan lacked precision in the first half but kept the game scoreless with its defense.

“You’d see passes into (senior forward) Nkem (Ezurike) in the box, but they were just a foot away from her and she couldn’t get a foot on them,” Ryan said. “Normally, we’re making those passes to her feet, and she’s able to turn and get shots off. I felt like we were just a little bit off in terms of our accuracy.”

The Wolverines won the possession battle and kept the ball in the attacking half, but although Michigan moved the ball up and down the flanks, it couldn’t get opportunities in the box due to tight defense from Detroit (2-4-1).

“First half, we just didn’t seem to have that determination to really take it to the goal and put it away,” Ryan said. “We got in the box several times, but it just wasn’t the real commitment to put the ball in the net. Second half, I really felt like there was commitment throughout the half.”

In the 56th minute, Zadorsky moved over to the right half of the field from left back and hammered a shot inside the left post.

“It just bounced back to the right side,” Zadorsky said, “and I took a touch inside and hit it with my left.”

Ezurike added an insurance tally in the 89th minute by turning past a defender and hitting a shot off the cross bar and down.

“I think Nkem was really frustrated — things were just a little off,” Ryan said. “Boy, did she catch that last one. She almost ripped the net off.”

A lights-out defensive effort limited the Titans to only two shots — Michigan’s new season low — with none on goal and none in the first half. Senior Kayla Mannino started on defense for the second straight game, but Michigan’s biggest lineup change came at halftime, when Ryan moved Mannino to left midfield and put sophomore Sydney Raguse at center back.

Mannino fired a point-blank redirect at Detroit goalie Martha Dunbar in the 49th minute, and the Wolverines’ goal came minutes later.

Trying to reach the right combination, Ryan made seven substitutions in the first half. Still, senior defender Holly Hein, junior defender Chloe Sosenko, senior midfielder Meghan Toohey and Zadorsky each played 90 minutes as Michigan continued to move toward a permanent starting lineup.

The Wolverines finished with a season-high 27 shots, only eight of which were on goal. Ryan said he continues to emphasize more precise finishing.

“It’s just focus,” Ezurike said. “They weren’t off by much, so it’s just that little extra focus to get it on target.”

Now, Michigan travels on the road for the first time for a matchup with Butler (4-1-2).

After that, the Wolverines open their much-anticipated Big Ten schedule, when Zadorsky said the team will have to come out with more intensity.

“We can’t afford to lose a game like this tonight,” Zadorsky said. “We’ve got to focus for those 90 minutes, that specific game. We’re really looking forward to starting the Big Ten.”