For Greg Ryan, it’s important to see the glass as half full.

It would be only natural for the Michigan women’s soccer coach to voice some concern during the preseason about the unavailability of three of his best players during the opening weeks of the season, but Ryan has remained optimistic as the Wolverines prepare for the start of the season without junior forward Nkem Ezurike, junior defenseman Shelina Zadorsky and sophomore midfielder Christina Murillo.

The three starters will be participating in the Under-20 World Cup in Japan beginning on Aug. 19 — the season-opening weekend for the Wolverines — and could possibly miss all eight of Michigan’s nonconference contests depending on how well their respective teams perform in the international tournament.

“I’m not looking at it like ‘Wow, we’re in trouble,’ ” Ryan said. “I’m looking at it like ‘We need to manage this as best we can knowing that we’re missing three key elements to this team.’

“It provides a great opportunity for players to step up, and that’s the way we’re looking at it. This is a chance to do something really extraordinary, because when you take the top three players off of any team, it definitely raises the challenge.”

Though the Wolverines will miss the veteran leadership and experience of the three players, Ryan views the situation as a wonderful opportunity to provide some of his new rotation players, especially the freshman, with valuable playing experience. He said he’s excited to get some of the underclassmen more playing time and intends to fill the empty starting spots with three freshmen: defenseman Sydney Raguse, midfielder Lulu Haidar and forward Corinne Harris.

“I think we’re excited to see where our team can be without such impactful players,” said junior midfielder Tori McCombs. “It’s exciting to see some of the newcomers step up and see what we can do without those three players, but at the same time, they’re going to be greatly missed.”

Ezurike will leave the biggest void by far during the first several weeks of the schedule. The junior has led Michigan in scoring each of the past two years and has knocked in 20 career goals. She has consistently played as a one-man attack, allowing the Wolverines to execute a more defensive-minded style of play. At one point in 2011, she was the only Wolverine to score during an eight-game stretch late in the season, tallying seven consecutive goals.

Though Harris appears likely to produce scoring opportunities immediately — she scored twice in Michigan’s exhibition matchup against Cleveland State last week — Ryan will look all over the field for offensive firepower while Ezurike is still unavailable.

“We’re looking for all of our strikers and our midfielders to look forward,” Ryan said. “We’re even encouraging our defenders to get forward, trying to create more pressure on the opponent. The key is you’re going to have to keep them from scoring and find a way to score more goals without Nkem.”

With Murillo absent from the team, the Wolverines have also lost their best midfield playmaker. The creative sophomore started every game as a freshman in 2011, and often orchestrated scoring opportunities, ranking second on the team — behind Ezurike — with five assists.

Despite the integration of new players and a transition to a slightly different strategy during the beginning of the season, fifth-year senior midfielder Clare Stachel is confident that the squad will not suffer from the trio’s absence.

“I think we’re very much able to stand on our own two feet without them,” Stachel said. “We’re still going to be a competitive team, and it’s going to be a bonus when we get them back.”

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