Senior Danelle Underwood would like to forget the last two years of her soccer career.
After ACL surgery ended her sophomore year, Underwood didn’t score a single goal her junior year.
“I kind of felt like I was in a slump,” Underwood said.
But thanks to a coaching change and a new outlook on the game, she has returned to form.
“I feel like I’m a freshman again,” Underwood said. “I’m enjoying soccer. I’m enjoying my team. I feel fit. I feel like finally I’m back from my sophomore and junior year slumps.”
In her first season, Underwood was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, and contributed 14 points, including five goals, to the team. But the struggles that began in her sophomore year carried over into junior year.
“The first time I played (last season) was the first practice,” Underwood said. “Even that sophomore year coming back from an ACL, which is one of the worst things you can do, and not playing for six months is really hard.”
Underwood scored her first goal since her sophomore year Sept. 5th against Dayton. She seemed happy about getting the goal out of the way, even though it came in a 3-2 loss.
“You know, you go through ups and downs in soccer, and so it felt really good to score a goal,” Underwood said.
Michigan coach Greg Ryan, in his first year with the Wolverines, praised Underwood and her game.
“Danny is just one of these kids that’s full of life,” Ryan said. “And she leads by example. She steps on the field with tremendous energy, and she has that same bubbly energy off the field.”
There’s no doubt Underwood is focused and on the right track for the rest of her senior season.
“She’s just one of those people who makes the whole thing work,” Ryan said.
Underwood and the rest of the women’s soccer team have had a rough time in recent years. But with Ryan’s arrival, the team has taken a more positive approach. That attitude is allowing the players to turn past troubles into success this season.
During her turnaround, Underwood saw a change in how she and her teammates were treated as players. That’s helped the team have fun playing soccer again, she said.
“He shows that he cares about us individually,” Underwood said. “He shows concern for us.”
Ryan said he was proud his philosophy was getting to the players.
“In terms of having fun, that was one of my main goals for this team,” Ryan said. “That they would enjoy playing again, they would enjoy the training sessions, they would have good team chemistry off the field and on the field.”
Ryan has the team thinking positively and ready to peak at the right time this season, during Big Ten play. Though the Wolverines have just three wins so far, Underwood sees an improved team.
“Last year, our highlight was tying Notre Dame,” Underwood said. “That was our first game of the season, and that was our peak. And so I think peaking later is going to be better for us.”