Sixty of the 64 teams had been named to participate in the NCAA
tournament, and the Michigan women’s soccer team still had
not been placed in the bracket. The Wolverines, a bubble team,
watched anxiously in Schembechler Hall as the final four teams were
named.

Mira Levitan
Sophomore Therese Heaton and the Wolverines will face Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (SETH LOWER/Daily)

Finally, just when it looked like Michigan (9-7-6) might be left
out of the NCAAs for the first time since 1996, the Wolverines got
the bid they had been working so hard for in the second half of the
season. They will play Oakland in the first round on tomorrow in
South Bend.

“I think we deserve to be in the tournament,” coach
Debbie Rademacher said. “We’ve been playing our best
soccer of late.”

No kidding. Michigan has won six of its last eight games
entering the tournament. During this streak, Michigan knocked off
an undefeated No. 2 Notre Dame team and made a run to the Big Ten
Tournament finals.

After advancing to the quarterfinals in the NCAA Tournament a
year ago, Michigan had high hopes coming into this season. The team
began the year ranked No. 17, but that would change quickly.
Michigan went winless in its first five games (0-3-2), including a
1-0 loss at the hands of Oakland. Even after their first eight
contests the Wolverines had managed just one win (1-4-3), but the
team managed to turn it around.

“We sorted out our defense,” Rademacher said.
“Then we kept working hard and became more and more
comfortable out there.”

Michigan played better toward the end of the season, but
Rademacher feels the turning point of the season was the win at
Notre Dame, Michigan’s final regular season game.

“We went down there with a .500 record,” Rademacher
said. “If we lost, we would have been under .500 and probably
would have had to win the Big Ten Tournament to get an NCAA bid.
After we won that game, it gave us the confidence we needed for the
Big Tens. I think the two wins at the Big Tens (over Ohio State and
Wisconsin) solidified our spot in the NCAAs.”

In Michigan’s home-opener this season, Oakland handed
Michigan a 1-0 loss despite getting outshot by the Wolverines,
21-4.

“That was back when we hadn’t figured ourselves out
yet,” Rademacher said. “I think that we’re a
totally different team now. That being said, we’re very
familiar with Oakland, and they’re a team that is very hard
to score on. They tend to get outshot by many of their opponents,
but they seem to find a way to win. To beat them, we’ll have
to be at our best.”

If the Wolverines can advance to the second round of the NCAAs,
a rematch with Notre Dame will most likely occur. The Fighting
Irish will take on Loyola of Illinois.

“We’re not going to focus on Notre Dame right
now,” Rademacher said. “We’ve got to get past
Oakland first.”

 

 

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