Losing to Kentucky 1-0 last week left a bitter taste in the mouths of the players on the Michigan women’s soccer team.
Today, the Wolverines look to dissolve that bad taste with a victory in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. After finishing behind No. 11 Penn State in the final Big Ten regular season standings, the team earned the No. 2 seed and will face No. 7 seed Ohio State at 10 a.m..
In the teams’ only other meeting this year, Michigan won a hard fought game, 1-0 on a goal from defender Andrea Kayal. Coach Debbie Rademacher said that she expects today’s matchup to be a similar type of game.
“It’s definitely going to be a physical game,” Rademacher said. “We need to be up to the physical challenge. The first game was a hard hitting battle.”
If past history is indicative of future success, then the Wolverines should feel pretty confident. Three years ago, the Wolverines lost to Kentucky in the last game of the regular season and then went on to win the Big Ten Tournament.
But to repeat that feat, Michigan will also have to get by the likes of either Indiana or Purdue in the semifinal game, and then, possibly, beat the Nittany Lions in the final.
“Anybody we meet is a tough game for us,” Rademacher said.
The Big Ten Tournament is important to the Wolverines for several reasons. The first and most obvious is that winning will help gain momentum going into the NCAA Tournament. But there are other motivating factors that are going through the players’ heads right now.
“We just missed winning a Big Ten regular season championship,” Rademacher said. “(The Big Ten Tournament) is kind of a second chance to meet some of the teams that may have beat us. We have won two Big Ten championships, never in the regular season, but those Big Ten championships mean a lot to us.”
The Wolverines are an experienced squad, and this experience may ultimately determine how far they go. Rademacher stressed the importance that the seniors, in particular, will play in helping the team play well.
“We’re going to expect big things from (our seniors),” she said. “They’ve won a Big Ten Tournament Championship before. They know what it’s like to have to play three games in four days and the grueling physical toll that it takes on your body. We need to have them there mentally.”
Winning the championship would give the team an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. But even if the Wolverines do not win the Big Ten Tournament, they are virtually assured of an at-large berth.