Last year, the Michigan women’s soccer team defied expectations
and marched through the NCAA Tournament all the way to the
quarterfinals. The collegiate soccer world took notice, and this
year, the Wolverines began the season ranked No. 17 in the nation.
But last weekend, Michigan discovered it needed something more than
just acclaim to win, losing both matches and dropping to 0-3-1.

Janna Hutz
Michigan controlled the possession but not the scoreboard against Oakland Friday. (RYAN WEINER/Daily)

“I think as a team, we need to develop a bit more of a bite,”
Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher said. “We need to be more
aggressive, we need to be a little meaner – we need to be a lot
meaner. Scoring goals is a mentality … it’ll come, but we have to
make that happen.”

A young Michigan team experienced two physical matches as it
took on Southern Cal. and Oakland at home as part of the Nike
Challenge. Several freshmen from a talented recruiting class
started one or both games, but errors on defense and a frustrated
offense that struggled to score kept the Wolverines from breaking
through and getting their first win of the season. Michigan fell to
Southern Cal 2-1 yesterday, scoring their lone goal on a penalty
kick. Friday, Oakland held the Wolverines scoreless and won
1-0.

“We’re making minimal defensive lapses, and we’re getting
capitalized on,” Rademacher said. “The amount of opportunities
we’ve had in the past three games – we should have gotten a win out
of one of those games.”

Against No. 15 Southern Cal. yesterday, Michigan was unable to
recover after the Trojans notched an early goal just minutes into
the first half.

At times, the Wolverines challenged fiercely for possession
against a larger, speedier Southern Cal. team. But at other times,
they seemed to be a step behind. Freshman keeper Megan Tuura
started for Michigan, and her fellow classmates Brenna Mullholland,
Katelin Spencer and Lindsay Cottrell also saw significant playing
time on defense and in the midfield. Rademacher admitted that her
team lacks experience, but praised her young players
nonetheless.

“I would say the freshmen that are out there are not playing
scared, they’re just learning,” she said. “So we’re
inexperienced.”

The coach referred to the fact that even though Michigan started
slow in 2000 and 2001 – and fielded a similarly inexperienced team
– the Wolverines made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament
both of those years.

Senior forward Therese Heaton agreed that no one is giving up
yet.

“We’re working hard, and we’re doing everything we can. I think
it’s just going to take time,” Heaton said. “Yeah, it’s
frustrating, but we’re not going to let it get us down. We’re just
going to keep on persevering through it.”

Frustration was a key word for the offense last weekend,
beginning on Friday when Michigan outshot Oakland 21-4 but was shut
out. It continued yesterday, as Southern Cal twice narrowly escaped
giving up a goal when Michigan’s shots clanged off the
goalposts.

“I think once we get a consistent flow and hit the back of the
net more than one time in a game, then we’ll be off and running for
the season,” Heaton said.

“Everybody’s been stepping up big and trying to fill the role as
best they can, and what it comes down to is inexperience. It takes
time for everybody to get used to playing with people.”

Rademacher said another way Michigan can work toward that
offensive breakthrough is to step up physically.

As the upcoming Big Ten season unfolds for the Wolverines, the
key will be how quickly they can gel together to form a cohesive
unit. Despite the team’s youth, Michigan players are confident they
will be able to improve.

“Nobody has given up. Nobody’s ready to throw in the towel for
the season,” Heaton said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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