After almost a whole season of waiting, the Michigan women’s soccer team is ready to play a home game in Ann Arbor.

Due to ongoing construction at the new U-M Soccer Complex on South State Street, the Wolverines have played their home games in Ypsilanti and Canton this season. They will finally get a home field Friday, when the West Practice Field will be ready to host Penn State.

“Being at home allows you to manage your energy a lot better,” Michigan coach Greg Ryan said. “You’re home, you’re not traveling. You’re sleeping in your own bed.”

That energy will be crucial in two critical games this weekend. Friday’s game is against the 25th-ranked Nittany Lions, and the Wolverines will face Ohio State, which has won six straight, on Sunday.

“I think the new field will definitely help a lot with the momentum and the spirit,” freshman Natalie Horner said. “We should come out real strong against our opponents.”

Horner has helped contribute to the outstanding performance of the team’s first-year players, named the top freshman recruiting class in the Big Ten by Soccer Buzz Magazine. While this weekend will be the first time Horner and her fellow freshmen play at home, it will be the last oppurtunity for the team’s seniors. Before Sunday’s game, the Wolverines will honor their five seniors.

“We’re obviously thrilled to have a home weekend,” senior captain Kristin Thomas said. “But at the same time, it’s our last home weekend, so it’s definitely going to be bittersweet.”

The season on the road has been a strange one for Thomas, whose senior year was “definitely not what I expected.” She said the team has had to overcome many challenges so far.

And those challenges won’t stop just because the traveling temporarily has.

“The difficult thing is that without lights, you have to play a 4 p.m. game,” Ryan said. “It’s usually the disadvantage to the traveling team, but I would rather travel than play a game at 4 p.m. Most of our kids aren’t even going to be able to make it to the pregame meal.”

But Michigan is ready to make the adjustments necessary to succeed.

“I’m just happy that we’re playing in Ann Arbor,” Ryan said.

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