A lot is at stake for the Michigan women’s soccer team this Saturday.

The result of the Wolverines’ game against No. 20 Illinois in Champaign will be a huge determinant in whether Michigan will advance into the Big Ten Tournament starting Nov. 2 in Evanston.

“It’s been a weird Big Ten season,” said senior captain Courtney Mercier. “There are six teams currently all within one point of each other. The only control we have on the selection is by assuring a victory against Illinois this weekend.”

The six teams that will by vying for a spot in the Big Ten Tournament include Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Purdue.

No. 1 Penn State, Wisconsin Illinois, Michigan State and Northwestern (by default of hosting) have ensured themselves spots in the tournament. But the teams who will fill the remaining three spots are still undetermined.

“As of now, Iowa is ahead of us and Nebraska is behind us,” said Michigan coach Greg Ryan. “We will know what we need to do based upon the result of that game, in terms of needing a win or a tie. But either way, we are going to play like we need a win.”

The Wolverines (4-5-1 Big Ten, 9-7-2 overall) hope to bounce back against Illinois after coming off of two tough losses last weekend against Ohio State and Penn State.

“In the losses last week, it was a matter of breaks,” Ryan said. “Even if it’s a good shot, if the linesman gets it wrong it doesn’t count. It’s a matter of execution. If we score, we will win.”

Michigan has an all-time record of 11-6-1 against Illinois and has won five of the last eight meetings. Luckily for Michigan, they have redshirt junior goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer, who has totaled a record of 287 saves in her career as a Wolverine.

Kopmeyer is one of the five upperclassmen this year, with 18 underclassmen comprising the rest of the team. These upperclassmen have been playing for Ryan since he started coaching Michigan in 2008, and they have yet to make it past the first round in the NCAA tournament. Yet even with such an unbalanced distribution this year, nine different players have scored at least one goal this season.

“The success of this season has been so contingent on the performance of the upperclassmen,” Mercier said. “Our attitudes and actions influence all of the younger players. It’s a pressure we love having. Especially this weekend, we must take care of our jobs and set the example.”

Even with the team being hit by several different season-ending illnesses and injuries, the Wolverines are only one game away from having their second double-digit winning season in a row.

“This team is special,” Ryan said. “They have represented Michigan in the very best way, and they have given everything to do so. While the future of this program is hugely bright, we don’t want to give up today just yet. ”

Added Mercier: “The key will be executing it all on the field this weekend. It comes down to us winning. No ifs, ands, or buts.”

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