By Brad Whipple, For the Daily
Published September 15, 2013
Riding a 6-0 start to the season — the best in the program’s 20-year history — the No. 11 Michigan women’s soccer team went on the road to Indianapolis to face Butler in its last non-conference game of the season. The Wolverines’ continued shortcomings on offense finally caught up with them, resulting in a 1-0 loss, their first of the season.
Michigan entered the contest having won against Detroit on Thursday night, while the Bulldogs (4-1-2) had not lost since they played at Louisville in late August.
As soon as the players took the field, the physicality of the game was undeniable. Michigan kept the Bulldogs on the flanks and did not allow them to get inside the box for the majority of the first half.
“Our focus was (to) keep them in front of us,” said senior defender Holly Hein. “We wanted to exploit the wide spaces because that was where they should be. That was the plan to start, (and it) changed quickly into the game.”
Although the Wolverines’ back line looked strong — similar to last week’s game against Detroit — things took a turn in the 29th minute. Butler midfielder McKenzie Muchow got behind Michigan’s defense to rifle one past freshman goalie Taylor Bucklin, marking Muchow’s first goal of the season.
“Most teams play with four defenders,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “They played with five defenders, they played with two defensive midfielders and a goalie (so) that makes eight. So they only played with three players that were trying to attack and come forward, and they came forward and tried to counter attack, and for them fortunately it worked out.”
This one-goal lead for Butler posed a problem for an offense that has struggled converting goals of late. Against Detroit, Michigan had 27 shots, with just two of them finding the net. Ryan has said that making more accurate passes and passing to players in scoring position will help the team convert more opportunities.
It wasn’t until the second half that the Wolverines began to make adjustments to their offensive strategy to attack the Bulldogs’ defense. Michigan maintained possession for almost the entire half, allowing itself scoring chances and taking five shots on goal. Butler rarely broke midfield back towards the Wolverines’ zone.
“We were at them the whole time,” Hein said. “I think they maybe got into our half once.”
Michigan’s pressure on Butler’s offense became ineffective. As the Wolverines pushed more players forward, the Bulldogs kept all their defenders back. This made it very difficult for Michigan to get a good look at the goal.
While this Michigan offense looked strong at times, it was still goalless when the clock hit zero, despite outshooting the Bulldogs 19-8. The closest chance the Wolverines had to score was in the 89th minute, when freshman forward Madisson Lewis’s shot to the side net was saved by Butler goalie Julie Burton.
“I don’t think we need to change anything in terms of the way we play,” Ryan said. “I think what we need to change today was we needed to put more into the game. I don’t think that’s gonna be a question against Iowa. I think against Iowa, we know it’s a good Big Ten team. It’s our first Big Ten game. I think the effort is going to be there, and then it’s just a question of can we execute tactically and create the goals we need to create to win the game.”