The Michigan women’s soccer team is living out one of its dreams.
The Wolverines won 2-0 on Saturday, stunning No. 3 seed Pepperdine in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. After the game, Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher put the teams’ feelings in perspective.
“Obviously we’re ecstatic to be still playing,” she said. ” (Doing well in the NCAA Tournament is) something that we’ve been shooting for all season.”
As has been the case for a couple of weeks, the Wolverines started out slow. Pepperdine controlled the flow for much of the first half, putting together many strings of passes and keeping the ball in Michigan’s zone for nearly 20 minutes. But it was all for naught because the Waves came up empty-handed.
“Early on, I thought we had the majority of the possession,” Pepperdine coach Tim Ward said. “But that possession did not really translate into any good opportunities on goal for us.”
As the half wore on, the Wolverines began to take command of the game. The shots began to pile up, and it became clear that it was only a matter of time before the Wolverines would break the tie.
Freshman forward Therese Heaton did just that. With 18:03 remaining in the half, Heaton snatched up a loose ball in Pepperdine’s defensive third of the field and then beat Waves’ goalkeeper Anna Piccarelli with a low shot into the left corner of the net.
Pepperdine began to show frustration after the goal, receiving a yellow card before the end of the half and one more three minutes into the second half.
Michigan continued to dominate the game in the second half, keeping the ball in Pepperdine’s third of the field for most of the time. With 33:12 remaining in the contest, Michele Perisi put the Wolverines up 2-0. Michigan won a free kick at midfield, and senior defender Andrea Kayal sent the ball into the Pepperdine box. Abby Crumpton deflected the ball to Perisi, who finished the play with a nice strike into the left side of the net. Perisi was pleased to be able to help the team out with the goal.
“(The goal) was great,” Perisi said. “I usually don’t score. I don’t really care who scores though, as long as someone scores and we keep going.”
Although the goal was huge in that it made a Pepperdine comeback seem much less likely, it was marred by what happened three minutes later.
Heaton, looking for another goal, injured her shoulder with 30:21 remaining when she collided with a Pepperdine defender. She did not return to the game.
“She dislocated her shoulder,” Rademacher said. “There’s a chance she’ll play next week. So we’ll do everything possible to get her on that field. She’s most likely not finished with season.”
The Wolverines held on for the rest of the half and helped junior goalkeeper Suzie Grech get her third straight shutout and 10th overall.
Next up for the Wolverines is defending national champion Santa Clara. The game, which will be played on Santa Clara’s home field, will undoubtedly be a challenge. But the Wolverines aren’t sweating it.
“There is no pressure on us,” Rademacher said. “We got that pressure off of getting past the second round, so now we can just go out and play.”