The Michigan women”s soccer team came in second place for the Big Ten title this season. The Wolverines lost two games during the regular season. One to Illinois, and to eventual champions Penn State.
While Michigan does not get any special recognition for being a runner-up, the first step towards redemption is the quarterfinal game of the Big Ten Tournament, against Michigan State today at 1:45 p.m. in West Lafayette.
“Any team would love to win the tournament because it is an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament,” assistant coach Scott Forrester said. “There is also some nice hardware involved. We would love to put that championship plaque in our trophy case.”
The vacant spot in the trophy case will remain covered with dust if Michigan does not win all three games of the tournament. Penn State is the favorite and defeating the Nittany Lions for the tournament crown would be the sweetest victory the Wolverines must first deal with the Spartans.
“I don”t think there is a comfort level, despite the fact that we have faced Michigan State earlier this season,” Forrester said. “The stakes are much higher one game and you are out so it”s almost like a whole new season.”
The first matchup between Michigan and Michigan State ended in a 2-1 Michigan victory. But the game was close throughout, as Michigan came from behind in the second half with the wind in its face on a bitter autumn day.
Abby Crumpton scored both goals in that game. She is looking to continue a three-game scoring streak that started with those two goals.
Michigan State goalie Stacy Heller has kept most shots from hitting the back of the net with her tremendous saves. She earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors this past Monday after shutouts against Toledo and Kent State.
Michigan goalkeeper Suzie Grech also earned a shutout last weekend against Western Michigan, her 10th of the season.
Sophomore Bre Bennett has started in four games and has only had 10 goals against in 461:27 minutes of play. Since the players split time, it is uncertain which keeper will start in today”s game.
Just two games ago, the Wolverines suffered a 2-1 loss at Notre Dame, but Forrester does not think it will hurt Michigan”s chances at all.
“The goal is not to peak right before you start tournament play,” Forrester said. “You want to continue the trend of winning and hopefully get a bid to the NCAA Tournament. If things go our way, we could have a chance of making the Final Four.”