After missing opportunity after opportunity, the No. 22 Michigan women’s soccer team found the back of the net when it mattered most Sunday.
Less than a minute into the second overtime period, junior forward Nkem Ezurike buried a short-range shot, propelling the Wolverines (4-0-1 Big Ten, 10-2-1 overall) over Nebraska, 2-1.
Ten minutes away from consecutive disappointing ties at home, Ezurike’s golden goal won the game for Michigan. Chasing a long ball into the Cornhuskers’ 18-yard box, the junior overpowered Nebraska defender Maritza Hayes and stripped her of the ball. Taking a quick look at net, Ezurike fired the ball past the charging goalkeeper for her sixth goal of the season.
“It wasn’t an easy win,” Ezurike said. “(The goal) means a lot.”
The victory helped Michigan maintain sole possession of second place in the Big Ten, behind No. 8 Penn State (5-0, 10-2-0).
Sophomore defender Chloe Sosensko’s goal put Michigan on the board in the 72nd minute. Pushing up for a corner kick, she fired a shot past Nebraska goalkeeper Emma Stevens. The ball screamed untouched past a maze of legs before finding the back of the net to give Michigan a 1-0 advantage.
But that lead didn’t last long. Just 41 seconds later, Nebraska forward Mayme Conroy did what few have done against Michigan this year — score.
Unmarked in the six-yard box, Conroy headed a rebound past fifth-year senior netminder Haley Kopmeyer, pulling the Cornhuskers even. The goal was the first surrendered by Kopmeyer and the Wolverines in more than 632 consecutive minutes of play, and only the second allowed at home all season.
Early on, Nebraska dictated the pace at the U-M Soccer Complex. The Cornhuskers exploited holes in the Michigan defense, forcing Kopmeyer into action. In the ninth minute, she made a diving save on a long-range shot. A minute later, Kopmeyer sprinted off her line to cut down the angle on a breakaway, forcing the Nebraska attacker to send a shot wide. Disappointed with the effort, Michigan coach Greg Ryan delivered a stern message to his team at halftime.
“We had to execute better,” he said.
For the remainder of the game, the Wolverines did just that.
In the 58th minute, fifth-year senior midfielder Clare Satchel got behind the defense for a breakaway, but Stevens made a sliding save. Minutes later, Ezurike pushed the ball past Stevens, but her off-balance effort was rejected by a defender at the goal line.
Because of Michigan’s numerous missed opportunities, Ryan was relieved to escape with a victory.
“It was a challenging performance,” he said. “We’re going to keep working on how to break down teams.”
For now, though, Ryan said he will take the result.
“We got better at breaking them down over the course of the game,” he said. “I’m pleased that they dug in and found a way to win.”