After suffering through four consecutive losses, the Michigan
women’s soccer team desperately needed to stop the bleeding.
On Saturday, they did just that.

Playing with a sense of urgency, the Wolverines outplayed a
tough Western Michigan squad and finished their regular season with
a crucial 2-1 victory.

“(The win) was huge,” Michigan coach Debbie
Rademacher said. “We pretty much had to do that, mentally,
for the confidence to jump-start us into the (Big Ten)
tournament.”

For the first time in nine games, Michigan (6-3-1 Big Ten,
10-7-2 overall) put multiple goals on the scoreboard. The
Wolverines struck first, 15 minutes into the first half. Taking a
pass from sophomore Brenna Mulholland, junior Therese Heaton took
the ball down the right side of the field. Heaton crossed the ball
to redshirt sophomore Katie Kramer, who one-timed it home and gave
Michigan a much-needed 1-0 advantage.

Michigan continued to pour it on the Broncos (5-3-3 MAC, 11-5-3)
for the remainder of the half, outshooting them 8-1. But four
first-half saves from Western Michigan goalkeeper Lea Perz kept the
game close.

Ten minutes into the second half, the Wolverines struck again.
Senior Kate Morgan scored her first goal in her first game back
after missing seven games with a knee injury, connecting on a
penalty kick to give Michigan a 2-0 advantage.

“(Morgan’s return) comes at a great time, and we
could use her leadership,” Rademacher said. “She brings
something different to the field. She played well out there.
She’ll help us out a lot in the tournament.”

The insurance goal proved crucial, as Western Michigan’s
Sara Cultra scored eight minutes later to bring the Broncos within
one. With the game on the line, the Wolverine defense held tight
until the final whistle, allowing Michigan to celebrate its first
victory in two weeks.

“We knew we had to win this game,” freshman Jamie
Artsis said. “Not only for our record, but for our pride.
There was so much intensity.”

The weather proved to be the X-factor. With nasty winds whipping
across the field, passing and shooting became trickier than
usual.

“The conditions were tough because of the wind,”
Rademacher said. “But it was perfect for us because it was
physical. We needed to get back our physical game.”

Finally back in a winning mindset, the team will head to
Columbus on Thursday to play in the first round of the Big Ten
tournament. Michigan earned a No. 3 seed thanks to its conference
record, but there are no cakewalks in store. The Wolverines must
face Wisconsin, who beat Michigan 3-1 two weeks ago in Madison.
Needless to say, the players are looking forward to a shot at
redemption against the Badgers.

As if the Big Ten Championship wasn’t motivation enough,
Michigan finds itself on the bubble for a NCAA Tournament bid.
Considered a lock for the tourney just a few weeks ago, the
Wolverines probably need at least one Big Ten Tournament victory to
be considered for an NCAA berth. And even then, nothing is
guaranteed.

“We’ve never lost four in a row at the end of the
season,” Rademacher said. “I look around the country,
it’s hard to say — it depends a lot on what other teams
do.”

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