After all of the excitement following a Friday night thriller, it was hard to imagine a scenario where the Michigan women’s soccer team could outdo itself on Sunday. But it did just that.
Just two days after a back-and-forth 3-2 win over the visiting Texas Longhorns (2-1-0), the unranked Wolverines topped themselves with a comeback against a top-tier team, eventually tying No. 6 Texas A&M 1-1 in a double-overtime game that was not for the faint of heart.
“It was exciting. It was end to end,” Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher said. “The girls fought really hard. It was a tie, but it was a positive result. We came back, so it’s a positive.”
After a first half where they were visibly outmatched and outhustled by the favored Aggies (2-1-1), the Wolverines (1-0-2) finally got the spark they needed in the 62nd minute. Senior forward Therese Heaton capitalized on a rebound on Michigan’s sixth corner kick of the match to score the tying goal. Junior midfielder Judy Coffman took the kick, serving a left-footed ball to the head of sophomore midfielder Jamie Artsis. Artsis’s shot was saved by Aggie keeper Julie Spearink. But Spearink couldn’t cleanly save the ball, resulting in a rebound. The carom was quickly corralled by Heaton, who finished the ball into the open part of the net.
“(That was a) Therese Heaton-type of goal,” Rademacher said. “She seems to be in the right place at the right time. She gets in physically and knocks balls in.”
Physical play and aggression were certainly major components in Sunday’s contest. Texas A&M (2-1-1), which had only allowed one goal in its previous three games, came out with a very aggressive gameplan. The Aggies grabbed an early lead in the fourth minute when Madison Gates — Michigan’s freshman keeper who was making her collegiate debut — failed to secure a high ball in the box. The ball proceeded to roll around in the box where Texas A&M players fought for possession and fired it into the open net. Gates saved the first two attempts, but it was Aggie forward Ashley Pistorius who broke the tie, making their third shot the charm.
By taking the lead, the Aggies were also able to take control of the pace of play early on. The larger and much more physical Texas A&M squad — which collected seven yellow cards and one red card during the contest — seemed to overmatch the smaller Michigan team. But after Heaton’s goal, everything changed.
“They are very physical, and we don’t play like that,” Artsis said. “We are more of a connect and possession type of team. We just tried to stay calm, stay composed and play our game and play around their physicality.”
The remainder of the game was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams’ keepers making big saves to keep their respective teams in the game. Gates — who didn’t allow a goal in the final 106 minutes of the game — made back-to-back reflex saves in the second overtime to keep her team alive in sudden death overtime. She finished the game with five saves, and the defense grabbed two more saves of its own for a total of seven.
“(Gates) really held strong,” Rademacher said. “To get scored on early, as a freshman, it is easy to get shaken and have your confidence get waned. But she held tough.”
It was junior keeper Megan Tuura who got the win in Friday’s contest, as a record 1817 fans packed Varsity Field for the first night game in school history. Sophomore forward Melissa Dobbyn grabbed three points on the night with a goal and an assist. She scored the first goal of the game and assisted on a Heaton goal, adding to her impressive early-season point total, which now stands at five. Freshman midfielder Danelle Underwood scored the game-winning goal — her first collegiate score — a finish inside the box off a pass from Artsis to seal the deal for Michigan.