Daily Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Something was in the air for the Michigan women’s soccer team last night when it took on No. 2 Notre Dame (18-1-1 overall) in South Bend. Maybe it was the Wolverines’ need to improve their spooky 6-6-6 overall record in order to gain an NCAA Tournament berth. Maybe it was just time for the Fighting Irish’s yearly dominance of Michigan to die an ugly death. Whatever the case may be, it was the Wolverines who did the tricking and who came out with the treat — a 3-2 upset of the nation’s second-best team.

“This means everything,” Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher said of the win’s importance to the now 7-6-6 Wolverines. “This puts us above .500, which is the first criteria of the NCAA Tournament.”

But the faces of the Wolverines at the end of the game weren’t just beaming about a probable NCAA berth. Yesterday’s win broke Michigan’s eight-game losing streak against the Fighting Irish, a team it has never beaten. And the three-goal outburst was the most Michigan has scored in a game since its 4-2 win over Iowa State in early September.

“It’s amazing,” freshman goalkeeper Megan Tuura said. “We had nothing to lose, and we came out as hard as we could. Everything fell into place tonight.”

Tuura was even feeling happy enough to joke about the Wolverines’ record.

“Now we don’t have to worry about being 6-6-6 anymore,” she said, laughing.

Michigan made the most of what scoring opportunities it had, converting three of six shots. The Wolverines struck first and broke the Irish’s 10-game shutout streak when freshman forward Katie Kramer collected the ball on the left side of the box and lifted it over the Notre Dame keeper.

“It was huge,” Rademacher said of scoring first in the game. “We knew if we could surprise (them) and get an early one in, then we could get comfortable and maybe not be so nervous.”

The nerves seemed to disappear after that first goal and didn’t come back even after Notre Dame notched an equalizer one minute later. Before the half was over, sophomore forward Therese Heaton had knocked home a corner kick that was served up perfectly by junior defender Robyn Vince. The Wolverines took the unexpected one-goal lead into halftime.

“Most of our goals in the last half of the season came on set plays,” Rademacher said. “We’ve been having trouble scoring, so we said, ‘We don’t care (where the goals come from).’ We’ve just been making the most of it.”

Michigan stretched its lead early in the second half on another corner kick. Freshman Katelin Spencer headed a hard ball toward goal that Notre Dame keeper Erika Bohn deflected into the crossbar, and senior forward Stephanie Chavez, who has made a habit of being in the right place at the right time, knocked in the rebound.

Even though the Fighting Irish slipped a second goal past Michigan’s defense with about 20 minutes left in the second half, they were unable to take the lead at any point in the game. Tuura — who played the whole game instead of splitting time with Suzie Grech as she usually does — made eight saves, including important breakaway saves that shut down Notre Dame’s speedy attack. The defensive line helped fend off the 19 shots that Notre Dame mustered.

The defense “was solid,” Tuura said. “They had so much heart and were so intense the whole game. I’m so proud of them.”

Notre Dame had trouble putting together a cohesive attack at times and was caught offside seven times as a result of the Wolverines’ quick-moving defense.

“I thought we played poorly in all phases of the game today,” Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said. “But all credit to Michigan. I thought they played very well today.”

The win could be the key to Michigan’s postseason hopes. The Wolverines can use the momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament. And by staying above .500 and defeating a No. 2 team late in the season, Michigan may be able to get off the bubble and gain a definite bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“When it came down to the wire, we didn’t give up,” Rademacher said. “We held it. That just gives us confidence, and we’re feeling good.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.