With five minutes remaining in a scoreless tie last night in women”s soccer action, it appeared that Michigan and Michigan State would be heading into overtime.
But when Michigan”s Abby Crumpton was suddenly presented with an empty net, things changed.
In the 86th minute, defender Amy Sullivant was awarded an indirect free kick. Her kick was headed by Carly Williamson before it landed in front of Crumpton six yards from a goal with a goalie placed on the opposite end. Crumpton tapped the ball in for her fifth score in her last four games.
Michigan scored two minutes later to finish off Michigan State, 2-0, in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in West Lafayette, Ind. The Wolverines face Illinois today with a berth in the Big Ten Championship game on Sunday at stake.
Sullivant scored the second goal and left a couple Spartans in her dust. After receiving the ball at midfield from goalie Suzie Grech, Sullivant took the ball from the midline all the way to the goalie box after beating three Spartan defenders. Michigan State goalie Stacy Heller came out to defend Sullivant but was beaten, leaving Sullivant with an easy shot for the score.
The goals resulted from a well-played second half for the Wolverines after a sloppy first half played in wet conditions. Michigan outshot Michigan State 9-0 in the second frame and controlled the tempo of the game.
“We played 100 times better (in the second half). We moved the ball around and kept possession,” assistant coach Carrie Maier said.
The Michigan defense made life easy for goalie Suzie Grech. She only made one save on her way to extending her school record for shutouts in a season to 10. Opponents haven”t netted a goal on Grech in 527:48, dating back to Oct. 6 against Penn State.
Today, Michigan has the opportunity to show Illinois how it has improved since the teams last faced each other on Sept. 21 in the Big Ten opener. The Wolverines lost the game in overtime despite leading the game with less than a minute left in regulation. The loss was the Wolverines” third blown lead in their first six games.
Maier and Crumpton agree that the Wolverines will be seeking revenge on the field today after this game that Maier said was “taken away from us.”
Michigan has gone 10-2-1 since their last meeting with Illinois, and Michigan thinks it is now playing its best soccer of the season.
“We are peaking at the right time,” Maier said. “We couldn”t ask our players to be more ready for each game.”
If Michigan is leading the game in the final minute again, the Illini shouldn”t count on another miracle like they had on Oct. 6. The Wolverines haven”t blown a lead since that game, and the players have learned to play while leading their opponents during this time.