It couldn’t have been better timing.

With several players unavailable this past weekend due to the flu, the Michigan women’s soccer team welcomed back junior forward Nkem Ezurike, junior defenseman Shelina Zadorsky and sophomore midfielder Christina Murillo from the under-20 women’s World Cup in Japan as the team headed to California for a two-game road swing.

Ezurike and Zadorsky, who played for Canada, appeared in Friday’s match, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Cal State-Northridge, and got their first start in Michigan’s 2-1 loss to Long Beach State on Sunday. Murillo, who played for Mexico, came off the bench to play 57 impressive minutes in Sunday’s match.

“Cristina Murillo — she got in at 8 a.m. on Saturday and played at 6 p.m. Sunday — I don’t think she gets jetlagged,” Michigan coach Greg Ryan said. “She was just fantastic.”

The trio made an instantaneous impact in their first weekend back in the lineup.

“We had to work them into the team because they were incredibly jetlagged, being 16 hours off schedule, but having them helped immediately,” senior midfielder Emily Jaffe said. “Shelina is a great leader from the back and she’s always talking. Christina adds a lot of creativity to the play. She’s a great distributor and makes awesome runs. And Nkem, everyone worries about marking Nkem, so even if she doesn’t get the ball she’s distracting teams.”

With the addition of the three players, Ryan will have the great challenge of redistributing playing time and figuring out which current starters will be the best fit to come off the bench.

Ryan, though, isn’t worried about playing time. Instead, he is encouraged over his surprising depth and the many lineup combinations he can put out onto the field.

“I think we are going to be able to run teams off the park because we’ve got so much talent and so much depth,” Ryan said. “We’re talented and fast and skillful at every position. Plus, the players coming in can play.”

A RECORD DOWNPLAYED

Three hundred twenty-three.

That’s the career save total by fifth-year senior Haley Kopmeyer who just became the program’s all-time saves leader with four saves on Sunday.

Kopmeyer’s last save in Michigan’s 2-1 loss to Long Beach State pushed her ahead of Megan Tuura, who set the previous record of 322 career saves in 2006.

Though the record is a significant achievement, it hasn’t been a big focal point amongst the team.

“Honestly, we’re just focused on the next game, and Haley’s the same,” Ryan said. “I’m sure she would have preferred to have it (happen) in a win than in a game that we lost, but she made some great saves to keep us in that game.”

The Troy, Mich. native also ranks second in the program’s history in save percentage (.830), third in shutouts (18), fourth in wins (27), and fifth in goals-against average (1.06).

“Haley’s been outstanding this year, she’s taken her game to a whole new level,” Ryan said. “She’s playing the best that I have ever seen.”

INJURY UPDATE

Though the Wolverines welcomed back three key players this past weekend in California, they’re still without midfielder Clare Stachel. The fifth-year senior, who was second on the team with five goals in 2011, has been battling a lingering leg injury since the beginning of the season. She has made only one appearance so far in 2012, playing 57 minutes in Michigan’s 1-0 victory against Detroit on Aug. 26.

“We talked with the medical staff and they thought to give it another two weeks off — so if she takes this weekend off that would be the two weeks — and see how she does from there,” Ryan said. “It’s possible she could play a little bit this weekend and just see how it feels, but I think it’s one of those things that we just have to manage day-to-day.”

Though Ryan has been careful not to push Stachel back into the lineup before she’s ready, he understands the significance of having her on the field.

“We just want to have her out there. She’s such a good player and she’s such a good leader for this team,” Ryan said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.