Senior Night for the Michigan women’s soccer team started out differently than most games.
Freshman forward Amanda Bowery opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game, faster than the Wolverines have all year.
Bowery’s fifth tally of the season was just the sixth time in 18 games this season the Wolverines scored the game’s first goal, giving a much-needed early spark to Michigan’s much-maligned offense.
But the game, and effectively the season, had an all-too-familiar conclusion. Michigan surrendered a second-half goal and walked off the field without that elusive victory.
The Wolverines and Spartans tied 1-1 in double-overtime on Friday night in Ann Arbor, despite Michigan registering more than twice as many shots (24-11) and more than twice as many corners (7-3) as its intrastate rival.
The game quickly took on a high level of intensity complete with trash talking, extra-physical tie-ups and open-field collisions because of the bragging rights on the line and perhaps the frustration of both teams’ disappointing seasons.
During the first half, sophomore defenseman Amy Klippert was jockeying for position on an inbounds pass with Michigan State sophomore forward Lauren Hill. Klippert’s aggressive play angered Hill, who voiced her displeasure at Klippert while walking away to continue play.
Moments later, the two were involved in another physical battle for a soaring pass, only this time, Hill fell to the ground in pain. A defiant Klippert stood over the injured Hill and screamed some choice words of her own before the official and several players from each teams separated the two. Both were given yellow cards, but the two continued fighting each other for ball-possession throughout the next 15 minutes until Klippert twisted her ankle on an isolated play and was helped off the field. She did not return.
Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher believed the rivalry amplified the patented hard-nosed styles of Klippert and Hill.
“That’s their game,” Rademacher said.
Free from Klippert’s incessant pestering, Hill made the Wolverines’ defense pay on the Spartans’ first breakdown of the night. Sprinting past defenders into the box, Hill corralled a long pass and streaked toward junior goalie Madison Gates, who took over for senior Lindsay Yakel after halftime. As Gates charged and dove to block the shot, Hill fired the ball left and just out of Gates’ reach, knotting the game at the 50:05 mark.
Hill wasn’t finished dishing out aggression. Just five minutes after her goal, she picked up her second yellow card for being too physical while running alongside a Michigan player. The Spartans’ leading scorer was ejected from the game, and any offensive firepower the Spartans (1-8-1 Big Ten, 7-10-2 overall) would have had was gone.
The Wolverines (1-5-4 Big Ten, 3-9-6 overall) came inches away from ending the game several times during the last nine minutes of regulation. Bowery, who had five of Michigan’s 10 shots on net, sent a one-timer at point-blank range right into the chest of Spartan goalie Nicole Galas. With 1:35 remaining, senior Melissa Dobbyn darted into the box past Michigan State defenders and set herself up with a scoring chance of her own, but she overran the centering pass by mere inches, unable to get a shot off.
The inability to capitalize on scoring chances has been the Wolverines’ tragic flaw throughout the year, a problem of fundamentals that Rademacher vows to solve in the off-season.
“Those are opportunities that need to be converted,” Rademacher said. “In our best years, those were in every time. That’s execution and that’s composure. Those are things that you can train, and we’ll do that.”