According to Michigan coach Greg Ryan, the Michigan women’s soccer team’s 1-0 loss against Akron during their home-opener on Friday wasn’t really due to a lack of effort. It was due to a lack of urgency.
Either way, controlling the ball for most of the game and taking 17 shots without scoring a goal couldn’t have felt very good, so it didn’t take long for the Wolverines to learn their lesson and fix the problem.
Michigan (1-1 overall) bounced back on Sunday afternoon to beat Oakland 3-1. Sophomore forward Nkem Ezurike notched a pair of goals, one during an unassisted breakaway at the 4:02 mark, and one off a free kick at 22:43 from freshman defender Chloe Sosenko after the Golden Grizzlies’ goalie mishandled the ball.
“We talked for a long time about the determination we showed in the second half against Akron on Friday,” Ryan said. “We had to start the game with energy, and I thought they really did today. They were pressuring well, going forward, and the counter-attack was very effective.
“Oakland is a good possession team, but when we won the ball and found Nkem up top, it was a problem for them.”
Sophomore forward Tori McCombs gave the Wolverines a permanent lead during an aggressive one-on-one play against an Akron defender in the air at the 16:24 mark. McCombs also drew a penalty kick during the first half that Ezurike wasn’t able to convert.
“We had a lot of anger built up before the game today,” McCombs said. “We wanted to set the tone in the first five minutes, and I think we were able to do that.”
That forceful mindset was what Michigan needed during the first half against Akron. The Wolverines had plenty of scoring chances, but their complacency led to poor decision-making and weak shots on goal. By the time they finally got the fire going, it was too late.
The Zips hunkered down on defense after they scored close to the end of the first half on a corner kick that Michigan misplayed, and the Wolverines weren’t able to find their way past the extra protection.
According to Ryan, Michigan played like the better team, but just couldn’t win.
Securing the victory against Oakland was critical for Michigan. Losing twice at home so early in the season would have made an NCAA run next to impossible for the Wolverines. The victory, however, keeps their hopes alive for the time being, and it also helps the young players to develop chemistry in a positive context.
“It’s huge,” Ryan said. “It keeps people feeling pretty good. There was good chemistry on and off the field, but a loss today would have been bad for us.”
Michigan faces another series of home games next weekend against Duquesne and DePaul.