The No. 17 Michigan women’s soccer team arrived in Columbus knowing that it needed a victory to remain in the hunt for a Big Ten regular-season championship. Instead, the Wolverines (7-1-1 Big Ten, 13-3-1 overall) likely saw their title aspirations and a 10-game unbeaten streak, end abruptly as they fell, 3-1, to Ohio State on Thursday night.

Michigan dominated the first quarter of action against the Buckeyes (6-2-1, 11-4-1) at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. In the first half, it fired three shots on goal, took nine corner kicks and maintained pressure on Ohio State’s platooning goalkeepers. The fast-paced Wolverine attack struck first and silenced a raucous crowd thanks to a creative tally by junior forward Nkem Ezurike.

In the 18th minute, sophomore midfielder Christina Murillo lifted a corner kick into the 18-yard box. The ball deflected off of a Buckeye defender and the head of freshman forward Corinne Harris before bouncing at Ezurike’s feet. Ezurike had her back facing goal, but flicked an arching effort over her body on net. The Ohio State goalkeeper couldn’t punch the ball over the crossbar, and Michigan grabbed an early lead.

“I just wanted to get it on goal,” Ezurike said. “There wasn’t a whole lot I could do.”

Because the game was televised, the match was halted for a commercial break with 20 minutes remaining in the first half. When play resumed, the Buckeyes took advantage of their strength and speed to suddenly shift momentum in their favor.

Only a minute after the unusual break, Ohio State struck. Forward Tiffany Cameron got behind the Michigan defense and caught up to a long through ball by teammate Lauren Granberg. Cameron’s low shot between the legs of fifth-year senior goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer pulled the Buckeyes even.

In the 32nd minute, Samantha Lewis gave Ohio State the lead. Streaking in behind Ezurike on a long corner kick, Lewis headed a powerful strike on target. Kopmeyer had no time to react, and the Buckeyes never trailed again.

After the halftime break, Michigan once again controlled the game. Within seconds of the opening whistle, Ezurike blasted a left-footed effort on goal that was corralled by the Buckeye keeper. But minutes later, the Wolverines were on the wrong end of a missed call that put the game out of reach.

When an Ohio State corner kick hit Cameron in the back and deflected toward the net, Michigan’s defense was quick to clear it away. But the line ref ruled that the entire ball had crossed the goal plane and awarded the Buckeyes a crucial tally. Because soccer does not utilize instant replay, Michigan coach Greg Ryan knew he could do little to argue the call.

“The third goal never crossed the line,” Ryan said. “But at that point there was nothing I could do about it. Being down 3-1 certainly took some momentum away from us.”

Despite trailing by two goals on the road, the Wolverines continued to create offensive opportunities. In the 75th minute, junior midfielder Tori McCombs first-timed a bouncing cross, but her low effort missed wide. Later, freshman midfielder Lulu Haidar fired a shot that narrowly sailed past the upper corner of the goal.

Though Michigan’s loss did not mathematically eliminate it from a regular-season conference championship, it must win its remaining games at No. 4 Penn State and against Illinois to have a shot at finishing first. In addition, the Nittany Lions (8-0, 14-2) have to drop a contest to either Michigan State or Purdue.

But because Northwestern beat Illinois on Thursday night, the Wolverines are guaranteed at least a top-three finish in the Big Ten, which would be their best result since 2004. And for a team that finished eighth in the Big Ten last year, that consolation is quite an achievement.

“We were fortunate to get some help (from Northwestern),” Ryan said. “But we still have a lot to play for.”

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