Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Women's soccer loses shootout to Michigan for 4th loss in a row

March 12, 2021
<p>University of Michigan&#x27;s Meredith Haakenson (7) scores a goal against the Spartans on March 12, 2021.</p>

University of Michigan's Meredith Haakenson (7) scores a goal against the Spartans on March 12, 2021.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

Michigan and Michigan State were in a tightly contested game Friday morning when it was 2-1 at the half.

Then the Wolverines heated up and blitzed the MSU defense with five second-half goals in a 7-3 defeat of the Spartans.

MSU women’s soccer team falls to 1-4-1 on the season after the loss. It is the fourth loss in a row for the Spartans and the game was played indoors at the Legacy Center in Brighton, an alternate home field for Michigan this year. 

The Spartans fell apart in the final 30 minutes of the game, allowing five unanswered goals by the Wolverines in between the 65th and 82nd minute, extending its lead to 7-2 after the game was tied entering the final half-hour. 

“It is heartbreaking for us as a staff because they are showing so much courage, working through pain and continuing to try to bounce back. No one showed any sign of quit out there. At the end of the day, physically it got the best of them. We have to stay right mentally and that is what we have to focus on, we will continue to look for moves we can make to sure things up,” Michigan State Head Coach Tom Saxton said.

Michigan’s Nicki Hernandez and Meredith Haakenson could not be contained in the midfield by MSU, as they were able to dictate the pace of the game and beat MSU's backline on the dribble at will. Hernandez and Haakenson both had two goals and an assist and it could have been more if not for MSU goalkeeper Lauren Kozal.

Hernandez was the star of the show for Michigan, accounting for six of Michigan’s 14 shots on goal and being directly involved in five of the seven goals. 

Saxton said the fight from the team was encouraging, but Michigan State's depleted backline could not keep up with Michigan's attack.

"We continue to scratch and claw all the way until the end. We are just pretty decimated with injuries in our backline, and Michigan has a very good attacking team. While we had moments where we were doing what we needed to be doing to keep the pressure off our backline, we weren’t able to sustain it, and it is really that simple,” Saxton said.

Both teams came out in a 4-3-3 formation and the difference in the game was the play of Michigan’s midfield in comparison to Michigan State’s. Michigan moved the ball downfield with short passes and incisive runs from its wings and forwards. 

Michigan State was on its heels the whole game, defending from the shadow of its own goal. The team largely relied on long passes out of the back, which made it tough for them to maintain possession and get the ball out of its half of the field and set Michigan up with easy counter-attacks. 

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MSU was able to score two goals for the first time in three games, but they could not generate enough scoring opportunities to keep up with Michigan. They outshot MSU 14-3 in shots on goal and 7-1 in the first half.

Kozal was solid in the net once again for MSU, despite giving up seven goals, saving seven of the 14 shots she faced on goal. Kozal was under constant pressure all game from Michigan’s strong attack, who were able to dissect the Spartan defense with possession and runs from the midfield.  

Michigan opened up the scoring 15 minutes into the game on a corner kick. Center back Sydney Shepard made a delayed run at the back post and found a pocket of space near the penalty spot and headed the ball past Kozal’s outstretched arms to give Michigan the early lead.

The goal was set up by the aggression by Hernandez, who was able to get past the defense for a one-on-one with Kozal, who saved the point-blank shot for a corner kick. 

The Spartans tied it up in the 26th minute when forward Camryn Evans stole the ball from Shepard in the backline and slotted across to right-winger Paige Webber, who was able to easily put it past Michigan goalkeeper Hillary Beall. 

The Wolverines were able to answer quickly off the kickoff, scoring just a minute later. Hernandez was the catalyst for this goal as well. She hit a hard shot that was stopped with a diving save by Kozal, setting up a rebound for left-winger Sammi Woods, who hit the post then scored on her second rebound. Michigan held the 2-1 lead into the half.  

Michigan State came out strong in the second half. The first 20 minutes of the second half were back-and-forth, with both teams holding possession for periods of time. The second-half frenzy of goals was started by MSU. Zivana Labovic scored her second goal of the year, converting a header on a corner kick in the 61st minute to tie the game at two.

Labovic leaped over a defender and smashed the ball past Beall with her forehead, causing an eruption out of the Michigan State bench and silencing the small crowd of Michigan fans in attendance. 

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MSU was not able to keep the game level for long though. Michigan aggressively attacked on the ensuing kickoff, drawing a corner kick 30 seconds after MSU scored. Michigan State could not clear the ball on the corner, leading to three shots on goal and a goal on a beautiful scissor-kick volley from freshman Kacey Lawrence in the 62nd minute making the game 3-2.

The Wolverines began to dominate the game again following its third goal, controlling the ball in the Spartan’s third of the field and using suffocating pressure to keep the ball there. 

Haakenson got on the scoreboard for the first time in the 70th minute after being set up by a penetrating run from Hernandez down the left side of the field, who crossed it across the box. Haakenson ran unmarked to the back post and calmly passed the ball past the diving Kozal to put Michigan up by two goals.

Hernandez got in on the scoring action a minute later after being the reason why Michigan had scored throughout the game. This time, she was on the receiving end of a cross from Jayde Riviere and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner past Koval, making it 5-2 in the 71st minute, making the game all but over at that point.

Michigan kept its foot on the pedal though. Hernandez and Haakenson each scored again in the next ten minutes, turning the game into the blowout that it looked like throughout the game.

Michigan State added a third goal in the waning moments of the game on a penalty kick by substitute Alexandra Thomas, who only played the final five minutes.

MSU will look to end its four-game losing streak on Wednesday, March 17 when they travel to Bloomington to take on Indiana.

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