Ryan has high hopes against Michigan State despite weekend loss

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Senior defender Shelina Zadorsky said the offense must focus on finishing shots. Buy this photo

By Brad Whipple, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 2, 2013

After ending the weekend with its first tie and Big Ten loss, the Michigan women’s soccer team dropped eight spots in the NSCAA coaches' poll to No. 21. The Wolverines now look to rebound in East Lansing, focusing their efforts on ending scoring droughts that have plagued the team over the last two weeks.

“We definitely have high hopes,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “We’re determined to go into Lansing and try to get a win out of that game. Last year was our first win over them in a long time. We know it’s going to be a very, very tough game, but we’re also very confident that we’ve got a great game plan.”

Thursday, the Wolverines (1-1-1 Big Ten, 7-2-1 overall) will contest their in-state rival Michigan State (1-2, 7-2-2) at the Spartans’ DeMartin Soccer Complex at 3 p.m. Over the weekend, both teams hosted their first conference opponents. Michigan had a winless weekend with a tie. Meanwhile, Michigan State had a win against Minnesota (1-2, 8-3) followed by a loss to Wisconsin (2-0-1, 7-1-2).

The last time Michigan won in East Lansing was Oct. 16, 1998.

“(Michigan State is) very good in the counter attack,” Ryan said. “If we give away the ball in the midfield, they’re gonna be running down our throats very quickly. That’s how they created numerous chances against Wisconsin. For us, it’s making sure we’re playing the well, keeping the ball (and) not giving the ball (up) in our own end because if we do, they’re gonna get great chances.”

The Wolverines played to their first tie of the season against the Badgers on Friday night, followed by their second loss Sunday against the Gophers.

Michigan’s defense played excellent against both teams. It kept opponents to the outside of the field and made it difficult to cut inside to get a shot opportunity. Freshman goalie Taylor Bucklin had a career high seven saves against Wisconsin, as well as two more against Minnesota. Senior midfielder Meghan Toohey was also one of the most productive players of the game, putting pressure on the opposing teams’ most aggressive players.

“I think defensively we do have the right mentality,” said senior defender Shelina Zadorsky. “Even on attacking players, we know how to defend well.”

Though the defense stood its ground, the offense was lackluster. The Wolverines continued to struggle with their shot accuracy, and despite outshooting Minnesota 5-3 in shots on goal, they came up with nothing.

“Well, we’ve been working a lot on finishing,” Ryan said. “We’ve done all sorts of finishing exercises and training, training under pressure so it’s not just shooting the ball at the goal with nobody putting you under pressure.”

Added Zadorsky: “We talk about the mentality that you need to have in front of the goal. You need to be able to focus in the final moments just to get that quality finish or that quality final pass.”

Meanwhile; Michigan State pulled off a 3-0 victory against Minnesota on Friday but was shut out by the Badgers 2-0 on Sunday.

Michigan State junior goalie Courtney Clem also set a career high in saves with 12 against the Gophers. Clem is a very sharp goalie, and it will be difficult for the Wolverines’ attack to get one past her.

The Spartans’ offense has also proved difficult to defend with 12 different players scoring at least one goal this season. Michigan will have to keep an eye on sophomore defender Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz. She headed one into the net off of a corner kick with three minutes left in the first half against Minnesota and leads the team in scoring with four goals. Sophomore midfielder Allyson Krause leads the team with 10 points, coming from three goals and four assists.

“The main thing to take away is Michigan State is a very, very good team,” Ryan said. “A key player for them (is) Allyson Krause, who plays on top. She’s very good at running in, behind the back line, very good in the one-on-one (and very good at) getting her shot off.”

Another thing to look for in this week’s matchup is the physicality that comes with the Big Ten conference. The Wolverines saw new levels of intensity with numerous slide tackles and a number of moments where players struggled to recover from hard hits. This week’s competition should exhibit even more of this type of brutal play.

“Every single Big Ten game is going to be a difficult matchup,” Zadorsky said. “I think this one especially because there is so much on the line. There’s a lot of pride and history and we want to win again just like we were able to last year.”

The last time these teams played was last October in Ann Arbor. The game was decided in the 99th minute when Zadorsky launched one from the corner to former Michigan midfielder Emily Jaffe. Jaffe had only been in the game for nine minutes, but she made the most of them by heading a game-winning goal past the Spartans’ goalkeeper to lead the team to a 2-1 victory.

Last year’s victory was the Wolverines’ first over the Spartans since 2003, which was a 2-1 overtime win. With the 2012 win, Michigan improved its all-time record over the Spartans to 9-5-7.

Coach Ryan is looking for win No. 10.

“You go one game at a time,” Ryan said. “You get ready for Michigan State. We go after that one to win just like we went after (the win against Wisconsin and Minnesota).”