Must win. That’s the attitude the No. 9 Michigan women’s soccer team is taking into today’s game against No. 20 Purdue. The Wolverines took the lead in the Big Ten after two huge conference wins this past week against former top-runner Penn State and Ohio State.
The Boilermakers are hot on Michigan’s tail after jumping out to the best start in the program’s five-year history. Purdue is coming off a 3-1 win in South Bend, Ind. against Notre Dame. The win was only the second time in 10 years that Purdue has won against the Irish on their turf.
And the Michigan staff is well aware of the pressure that comes with its first place standing in the Big Ten.
“Our motivation is that every win we get, we’re one step closer to that Big Ten title,” said Michigan head coach Debbie Rademacher. “We know we can’t afford to lose one more in the conference.”
The Purdue team that Michigan (5-1 Big Ten, 10-2 overall) will face this weekend is deep. Offensive production on the Boilermakers (3-1-1, 8-2-1) has been balanced, with junior forwards Jenni Moppert and Annette Kent leading the way. While Purdue’s leading scorers may pale in statistical comparison to Michigan forward Abby Crumpton’s nine goals this season, but don’t be mistaken. The Boilermakers may not score many goals, but they don’t let that many in either – Purdue’s opponents have managed a mere nine goals in 10 games. Much of the credit for that solid defense should be given to Purdue’s senior goalkeeper, Jocelyn Cavalier, who has allowed only five of the team’s nine goals. Purdue’s depth, and its ability to keep fresh players on the field should give Michigan some problems.
“We’re really going to have to put a lot of pressure on them,” Rademacher said. “They’re a hardworking, solid team. They are also very high-tempo team. They make lots of substitutions. We have to match their tempo with enthusiasm.”
Michigan’s offensive leaders – Crumpton, Therese Heaton and Amy Sullivant – got some unlikely help this past weekend from defender Andrea Kayal. Kayal is coming off a dazzling week in which she was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week because of her two game-winning goals against Penn State and Ohio State.
“Andrea had a great weekend. She had those two big goals, and didn’t make any mistakes,” Rademacher said.
Michigan goalie Suzie Grech earned the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award with two shutouts over the weekend.
After Friday’s game at Purdue, Michigan will stay in Indiana and travel to Bloomington to face the Hoosiers on Sunday at 4 p.m.