Last Tuesday, junior midfielder Emily Jaffe was trying to earn a midseason roster spot with the Michigan women’s soccer team as a walk-on.
This weekend, she was in the starting lineup playing her first Division-I soccer game in roughly two years.
Although Jaffe admitted to being nervous entering the weekend, her play indicated otherwise. In her first game as a Wolverine against Minnesota, she displayed poise and confidence and attacked aggressively.
“Emily had a great game,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan after the 3-2 loss to Minnesota. “You could see early on that she cracked one off the underneath of the crossbar and then she had a shot where the keeper had to touch it over the bar. She’s very skillful and she’s a very good player and we’re just so thankful to have her.”
An Ann Arbor native, Jaffe was a standout at Pioneer High School and caught the eye of Ryan as a senior. Unfortunately for Ryan, she had already committed to Iowa by the time he was hired three years ago.
After playing eight games for Iowa during her freshman year, Jaffe wanted to come back home. She decided to transfer to Michigan in January 2010. She played club soccer last fall, but after two weeks with the team this school year, she realized that she missed the competition at the varsity level and decided to contact the coaches for a tryout.
After signing the papers to allow her to participate as a member of the Michigan women’s soccer team on Wednesday, Jaffe didn’t expect to play so quickly, let alone be in the starting lineup against two of the tougher teams in the Big Ten. But Ryan had other ideas.
“She just called us up and said, ‘Hey, I want to give it a go,’” Ryan said. “And then we looked at her in training and said, ‘not only are you going to give it a go, but you are going to be in our starting team.’”
With junior Holly Hein out for the year with a medical condition, Ryan was frantic to fill the huge void left by his steady midfielder.
Though Jaffe and Hein are two completely different players, Jaffe will try to help ease the loss of Hein while bringing her own style of play to the team.
“We really needed Emily because we needed a third midfielder that is calm with the ball, skillful and one that can not only connect us but can also defend well,” Ryan said.
Although Jaffe played well in her first appearance as a Wolverine, it’s obvious she still needs a lot of work to get back in varsity shape.
After playing 64 minutes against the Golden Gophers, she appeared fatigued battling against the much bigger and tougher Wisconsin midfield. Starting her second game of the weekend, she was only able to play 38 minutes before her legs tired.
“I was pretty nervous coming in and having my first game be a Big Ten game,” Jaffe said. “I just tried to go for every tackle and do the best I could. I definitely need to work on my endurance and being more comfortable with the ball so I can receive it quickly and distribute it to the forwards.”
Even though Jaffe has only been with the team for less than a week, Michigan has welcomed her with open arms and has tried to integrate her as seamlessly as possible.
For Jaffe, her addition to the team has happened faster than she expected and she hopes to build upon her first weekend as a Wolverine.
“It’s been really fast,” Jaffe said. “I was very excited but everything happened so fast so I didn’t think I was going to be on the team so quickly and I didn’t think I was going to be playing so quickly, but I’m really happy with how everything turned out. I just hope to improve from here.”