The odds are against the Michigan women’s soccer team. The Wolverines will be underdogs in every sense of the word today when they take on second-ranked Notre Dame.
The Wolverines’ hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament will be riding on a match against a team they have never beaten in the nine-year history of the program. On top of that, Michigan (4-2-4 Big Ten, 6-6-6 overall) has struggled offensively this year, scoring just 17 goals, while Notre Dame already has 63 goals. Notre Dame (6-0-0 Big East, 18-0-1) is also undefeated at home and currently holds a 10-game shutout streak.
But coach Debbie Rademacher doesn’t mind.
“We’re clearly the underdogs,” Rademacher said. “But that’s good. That’s okay. We can go in and maybe surprise them.”
Notre Dame is an annual soccer powerhouse, but this year it is tearing through the competition. The Fighting Irish have beaten almost every team they played by more than one goal, and their only tie was against then-No. 16 Stanford.
“This year they’re just deep. They have players coming off the bench that would be starting at other programs,” Rademacher said. “They’re stronger than they’ve been in a couple years.”
Even though Michigan has never beaten Notre Dame, it has come close. Last year, the Fighting Irish eked out a one-goal win at the Varsity Soccer Field and the year before, they needed overtime to top the Wolverines, 2-1.
This year, though, because of Michigan’s plague of ties during the regular season, a lot more than rivalry is resting on the Notre Dame contest.
“Obviously this (game) could be a season-changer and a program changer,” Rademacher said. “If we beat them that’s going to take us a long way.”
Beating Notre Dame would keep Michigan above .500 for the season and give it an almost certain bid to the NCAA Tournament. A loss would mean that Michigan would have to win at least two games at the Big Ten Tournament to earn an NCAA berth. A Big Ten championship would give Michigan an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Surprise will probably be Michigan’s best bet to pull off the upset tonight.
“I don’t think they know our personnel as well as they have in the past,” Rademacher said. “We just need to be sharp. I think the biggest thing for us is to come out ready to play and not be intimidated.”