Against the wind.

That was the theme for the Michigan women’s soccer team in the Big Ten Tournament at U-M Soccer Field this weekend.

Facing undefeated No. 1 Penn State in the opening round, the eighth-seeded Wolverines knew they were in for an uphill battle. They overcame a 2-1 deficit at halftime to win the game in penalty kicks, and then topped fourth-seeded Illinois to advance to yesterday’s championship game against seventh-seeded Wisconsin.

But, the final challenge proved too much as Michigan found themselves tied 1-1 with the Badgers at halftime and playing into the wind, yesterday. In the end, the Wolverines fell 3-1 to Wisconsin (4-6-2 Big Ten, 13-8-2 overall), losing both the Big Ten Tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The loss ends their season, and, because Michigan (3-6-1, 8-9-4) is ineligible for an at-large bid due to a sub-.500 record, it will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996.

“(The wind) was a huge factor,” Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher said. “We didn’t manage it very well in the first half, in terms of keeping them off the board and us getting some more shots. So, in the second half, we basically had to go against 40-mile-an-hour winds.”

With the wind at their backs, the Badgers jumped out early in the second half. Just under three minutes in, Wisconsin senior Amy Vermeulen sent a cross from the far sideline. After Michigan goalie Megan Tuura made the initial save on senior midfielder Marisa Brown, Wisconsin junior Katy Lindemuth picked up the loose ball and sent it to the back of the net, giving the Badgers the 2-1 lead.

The Wolverines just couldn’t get anything going after that. The wind proved to be too much of a factor. Tuura, who usually has no trouble clearing the ball out of her end, couldn’t get it past midfield – the ball would just stall in midair.

At 61:34, Vermeulen solidified the win with a goal from 30 yards out on a pass from Lindenmuth.

Facing a two-goal deficit, the Wolverines came together, looking for someone to spark some offense.

“The game’s on the line, and, if we give it all we’ve got here, we can walk away with our heads held high,” senior captain Stephanie Boyles told her team after Wisconsin’s second goal. “We’ve got to get it done.”

But the Wolverines couldn’t get the offense going, notching just six total shots compared to Wisconsin’s 25.

Michigan started the game with the wind at its back, but it couldn’t contain the Badgers.

Wisconsin took the lead in the middle of the first half when midfielder Kara Kabellis passed it in to Brown, who found Vermeulen breaking in behind the Michigan defense. Vermeulen scored to give the Badgers the lead 1-0.

The Wolverines didn’t let up and answered at 43:06.

Sophomore forward Melissa Dobbyn worked her way across the middle of the field, fighting her defender for every inch. She broke through but got pulled down from behind, drawing the foul. Freshman Danelle Underwood sent the free kick flying to the right side of the box where senior defender Whitney Kjar waited to head the ball into the bottom-left corner of the net, tying the game at one.

The 3-1 loss capped off a well-played tournament for the Wolverines. Tough play earned junior Katelin Spencer and Dobbyn spots on the all-tournament team. But the entire Michigan team accomplished a lot, despite missing out on the tournament win.

“We fought until the very end and played an awesome tournament,” Boyles said. “I haven’t seen us play with so much heart and such passion. We needed to pull out the wins we did earlier this week, and we did and we did that with heart. And, today, you know, it just wasn’t our day. Everybody gave all they’ve got, and that’s all that we can ask for.”

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